Citation needed

Standard wikipedia joke. See how the meme spreads. Anyway:

I was listening to the renta-Odone, followed by the renta-Bishop, on R4 this morning after C4 last night broadcast a programme on assisted suicide. Everyone said all the obvious things all over again so it was a bit dull, but what I was struck by was the Bish’s words were all his personal opinion, and social conventions. There was no religious grounding there at all. At no point did he say “well our source text, chapter X, verse Y, specifically states that…”, and I presume thats (a) because his source text is (entirely?) silent on the issue, and perhaps (b) because he doesn’t much care what his source text says; thats not really where the C of E comes from in these days. As I understand it, the prohibition on suicide in christianity largely arises from the problem that life here on earth can be pretty grim (and was far far grimmer for a peasant in the old days), whereas those who believe get to live in paradise after death; so obviously you need a rule to stop people topping themselves (some extreme radical muslims seem to have solved that one recently, to our cost). Naturally enough the Bish can’t say that, so he is reduced to waffle.

A certain loss

Via Steinn, who got it from CR, this delightful story of how people are now so scared of losing unknown amounts of money they are prepared to sign up to a certain but small absolute loss (and thats neglecting inflation).

They should buy our shares, like I did earlier this week, and they actually went up! Mind you I don’t think we could absorb $57B input.
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Adrakhonic Theorem

[Anathem review]

There is an Anathem wikia (inevitable I suppose and quite useful for my purpose) but unfortunately it doesn’t have a picture of the proof of Pythagoras’s theorem that the aliens put on the outside of their spaceship. So here it is:


[Note: the colours are mine; and I have reconstructed the picture from memory of the book and working out what it is trying to prove; hopefully I’ve got it right.I mean, I know I’ve got the proof-picture right; I’m less sure that this is exactly whats in the book. The line that looks orthogonal inside the larger square, is.]

The proof isn’t critical to the story (at least not up to p 500, which is where I’ve got to) and isn’t explained (ditto). The main character puzzles over it for a bit, then gives up. I haven’t seen it before, so thought I would try to puzzle it out myself. It turns out to be Euclids basic proof, so I think the book is being unreasonable by having the character fail to get it; he should recognise it instantly, because I think that (unlike me) they would have had a proper classical geometrical education.
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Hot air

I’ve pretty well given up paying the slightest attention to climate-change negotiations (err, hence this post…), as they seem to be utterly pointless. The political response to something is to talk about it, and so they do, spending large amounts of money and emitting large amounts of CO2 in the process. But as Nature admits, these are talks about talks about talks. Obama’s election is more significant. All these stupid conferences should be cancelled.


Shamelessly ripped from an internal newsgroup (thanks to AY):

A Buddhist went up to the hotdog seller and said: “Make me one with everything”. Anyway, he got his hotdog and after not receiving his change, he asked for it. “My friend,” replied the vendor, “the change must come from within”.

And if you don’t like that…
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How overfed are we?

One of the possibilities for GW-damage is reductions in crop yield – up to 25%, in extreme scenarios. My reaction to that was “we all eat too much anyway” (well I certainly do) but some people did point out the obvious, that not everyone lives in the overfed West. Eli was kind enough to point to the FAO who tell me that in 2000 global average calories per day per person was 2807 (up from 24xx in 1970). The NHS tells me that the average adult should eat about 2,000 per day (women) and 2,500 per day (men) which we’ll average down to about 2,250 (m/f) and then down to 2000 (including children).

Which seems to count out to there being, globally, about 1/3 more food available than is needed (neglecting trivia like distribution and ability to pay). So there seems to be a fair amount of fat in the system (so to speak). And thats neglecting gains to be made from switching from inefficient meat-based nutrition to all going veggie.

[Update: Mind you, this isn’t good -W]