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November 16, 2005

Cranky Maths 2

Writing about web page http://www.licc.org.uk/imagine/home

Whilst searching for some resources on the Imagine Logo programming language I unexpectedly came across some wonderfully cranky maths from an obscure website which also happens to be called Imagine.

I quote:

" What does Maths tell us, then? Here are a couple of thoughts. First of all it tells us something about truth. 1 + 1 = 2. The equal sign teaches us about absolute truth. One plus one does not equal 2.130. Imagine somebody comes up to you and says, “One plus one equals 2.130.” You say, “Well that’s fine for you if you want to believe that. That’s just great. If it makes you happy…” No! You can’t run a railroad that way, can you? Maths tells us about a God of order, a God of reason, a God of rationality.

Perhaps Maths also gives us insights into concepts like eternity, or even the Trinity. What is 1 + 1 + 1? The answer is 3. That’s a tougher one. And you say, “You can’t do the Trinity that way, can you?” You cannot do it, which is why the Jews had such a problem. You cannot explain the Trinity using addition, but what is 1×1 x 1? One – which shows how three entities can be equal in value and relate to one another, and still be One. Which solves the problem of the Trinity – which may be of some comfort to the faculty here at Union."

Source (pdf)

My own PhD is about the equals sign and so the bolded statement above, "The equal sign teaches us about absolute truth", is certainly enlightening to me.


October 30, 2005

Cranky Mathematics

Writing about web page http://www.crank.net/maths.html

The internet has provided a wonderful outlet for cranks from self-appointed messiahs such as David Icke (who claims the Pope, the Queen and George Bush are literally baby eating lizards) through to the curious delights of Gene Ray's 4 dimensional time cube.

Recently I stumbled across the website CRANK DOT NET which provides the service of "presenting Web sites by and about cranks, crankism, crankishness, and crankosity". Surprisingly there is an entire section devoted to what one might call Maths Cranks – brave souls fighting the conspiracy of teachers and professional mathematicians who have been lying to us all these years that two and two make four, and you cannot divide by zero.

Take the first link, for example, called Zim Mathematics in which we learn that "All Mathematics is equal" although the meaning of this mysterious sentiment is not elaborated on. Navigating the website leads to many a bizarre equation. For example, I defy anyone to make sense of anything on the Quantity = Quality page, which contains such exotic incoherency as…

Quan × Quan => Qual ; Unsubordinate Fact
(N1 + N2 + N3) × (A + B + C)
A = Not A
1 × 1 = > 1x
1 Sheep + 1 Ram ( Sheep + Not Sheep + Ram + Not Ram)

(That last has to be my favourite.)


October 16, 2005

The End is Nigh!

Writing about web page http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Oracle/9941/index.html

We're lucky to be here at all in this month of October in the year 2005. We have survived the Millennium Bug, skipped the predictions of Nostradamus, dodged strikes by city-sized meteors and redeemed ourselves from the dire apocalypses foreseen by many a prophet. But we're not out of the woods yet! For the globe is warming and bird 'flu is spreading and God is coming and Big Brother technology is almost here and… well I could go on.

Check out this website for a telling, informative and humorous round up of End of the World panics and hoo-has, both past and present.

But hurry whilst earth lasts!


October 05, 2005

Jones's Blog or Jones' Blog?

Writing about web page http://www.dreaded-apostrophe.com/

There is a take-away food shop near my house called Wongs.

If it was written with an apostrophe, as in Wong's then the name of the shop would mean "the place belonging to a person called Wong". But as it stands, written Wongs, it means instead "many people called Wong". I'm almost tempted to commit my first ever act of graffiti and go and spray an apostrophe late one night.

A fascinating insight to the origins and usage of the apostrophe in modern English is available at the excellent website The Dreaded Apostrophe. It starts with the improbable-sounding claim that there is one rule, only one rule and nothing but one rule to using the apostrophe:

Use an apostrophe when letters are missing.

Pretty obvious for contractions such as don't but less obvious for possessives such as Wong's Shop.

The website explains that the rule holds for possessives because in old English you used to add an 'es' to nouns. So in old English we would write the bookes title ; the bookses titles ; the womenes hats and so on. In modern English the apostrophe replaces the 'es' in words ending 'ses' and replaces the 'e' is words ending 'es' (without a preceding 's'.) So we have the book's title ; the books' titles ; the women's hats and so on.

Sometimes it's optional. Joneses blog in old English becomes either Jones's blog or Jones' blog and both are correct.

That said it can still be confusing. For example, consider how to rearrange the following to use a possessive form instead of 'of'...

The hats of the mothers-in-law.
The hat of the mothers-in-law. (i.e. many mothers-in-law have shared ownership of one hat – improbable I know!)
The hats of Bill and Ben.
The hat of Bill and Ben. (Bill and Ben have shared ownership of one hat.)
The budget of the union of the students.


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