Econstudentlog

A glossary for research reports

Not the first of its kind, but I liked it. Link.

Scientific term (Actual meaning)

It has long been known that … (I haven’t bothered to look up the original reference)

…of great theoretical and practical importance (…interesting to me)

While it has not been possible to provide definite answers to these questions … (The experiments didn’t work out, but I figured I could at least get a publication out of it)

The W-Pb system was chosen as especially suitable to show the predicted behaviour. … (The fellow in the next lab had some already made up)

High-purity || Very high purity || Extremely high purity || Super-purity || Spectroscopically pure … (Composition unknown except for the exaggerated claims of the supplier)

A fiducial reference line … (A scratch)

Three of the samples were chosen for detailed study … (The results on the others didn’t make sense and were ignored)

…accidentally strained during mounting (…dropped on the floor)

…handled with extreme care throughout the experiments (…not dropped on the floor)

…Typical results are shown … (The best results are shown)

Although some detail has been lost in reproduction, it is clear from the original micrograph that … (It is impossible to tell from the micrograph)

Presumably at longer times … (I didn’t take time to find out)

The agreement with the predicted curve is excellent (fair) || good (poor) || satisfactory (doubtful) || fair (imaginary) || . . as good as could be expected (non-existent)

These results will be reported at a later date … (I might possibly get around to this sometime)

The most reliable values are those of Jones (He was a student of mine)

It is suggested that || It is believed that || It may be that … (I think)

It is generally believed that … (A couple of other guys think so too)

It might be argued that … (I have such a good answer to this objection that I shall now raise it)

It is clear that much additional work will be required before a complete understanding … (I don’t understand it)

Unfortunately, a quantitative theory to account for these effects has not been formulated … (Neither does anybody else)

Correct within an order of magnitude … (Wrong)

It is to be hoped that this work will stimulate further work in the field … (This paper isn’t very good, but neither are any of the others in this miserable subject)

Thanks are due to Joe Glotz for assistance with the experiments and to John Doe for valuable discussions … (Glotz did the work and Doe explained what it meant)

C. D. Graham, Jr., Metal. Progress 71, 75 (1957) (actual source)

June 29, 2011 Posted by | fun, science | Leave a comment

Why indeed?

Link.

June 29, 2011 Posted by | comics | Leave a comment

Sense and Sensibility

First novel in the book. I’ll skip the next as I’ve previously read Pride and Prejudice.

I liked it, I think in general if you like the one you’ll like the other. A few quotes, I’ve done my best to not include spoilers:

1. “‘I could not be happy with a man whose taste did not in every point coincide with my own.’ […] ‘the more I know of the world, the more am I convinced that I shall never see a man whom I can really love. I require so much!'”

2. “Mrs Jennings was a widow, with an ample jointure. She had only two daughters, both of whom she had lived to see respectably married, and had now therefore nothing to do but to marry all the rest of the world.”

3. “It would be an excellent match, for he was rich and she was handsome.”

4. “‘A woman of seven and twenty,’ said Marianne, after pausing a moment, ‘can never hope to feel or inspire affection again […]'”

5. “‘Brandon is just the kind of man,’ said Willoughby one day, when they were talking of him together, ‘whom everybody speaks well of, and nobody cares about; whom all are delighted to see, and nobody remembers to talk to.'”

6. “‘I have no wish to be distinguished; and I have every reason to hope I never shall. Thank Heaven! I cannot be forced into genious and eloquence.’
‘You have no ambition, I well know. Your wishes are all moderate.’
‘As moderate of those of the rest of the world, I believe. I wish as well as everybody else to be perfectly happy; but like everybody else it must be in my own way. Greatness will not make me so.'”

7. “‘Shyness is only the effect of a sense of inferiority in some way or other. If I could persuade myself that my manners were perfectly easy and graceful, I should not be shy.'”

8. “‘How charming it will be,’ said Charlotte, ‘when he [her husband, Mr Palmer] is in Parliament! – won’t it? How I shall laugh! It will be so ridiculous to see all his letters directed to him with an MP – But do you know, he says, he will never frank for me? He declares he won’t. Don’t you, Mr Palmer?’ [note that his wife calls him Mr Palmer]
Mr Palmer took no notice of her.
‘He cannot bear writing, you know,’ she continued; ‘he says it is quite shocking.’
‘No,’ said he, ‘I never said anything so irrational. Don’t palm all your abuses of language upon me.’
‘There now; you see how droll he is. This is always the way with him! Sometimes he won’t speak to me for half a day together, and then he comes out with something so droll – all about anything in the world.’ […] ‘Mr Palmer is just the kind of man I like.'”

9. “‘I hope he will come tonight. It will be all to one a better match for your sister. Two thousand a year without debt or drawback – except the little love-child; aye, I had forgot her; but she may be ‘prenticed out at small cost, then what does it signify? Delaford is a nice place, I can tell you; exactly what I call a nice old-fashioned place, full of comforts and conveniences; quite shut in with great garden walls that are covered with the best fruit trees in the country; and such a mulberry tree in one corner! Lord! how Charlotte and I did stuff the only time we were there! Then, there is a dovecote, some delight stew ponds, and a very pretty canal; and everything, in short, that one could wish for; and, moreover, it is close to the church, and only a quarter of a mile from the turnpike road, so ’tis never dull, for if you only go and sit up in an old yew arbour behind the house, you may see all the carriages that pass along.’ […]” [notice anything missing in that explanation as to why that man was a better match for the sister than the other guy? If you need a hint, go back and read 8 again.]

10. “‘A man who has nothing to do with his own time has no conscience in his intrusion on that of others.'”

11. “There was a kind of cold hearted selfishness on both sides, which mutually attracted them; and they sympathised with each other in an insipid propriety of demeanour, and a general want of understanding.”

12. “Elinor agreed to it all, for she did not think he deserved the compliment of rational opposition.”

13. [they are discussing a marriage:] “Elinor, smiling at the grave and decisive importance of her brother’s tone, calmly replied, ‘The lady, I suppose, has no choice in the the affair.’
‘Choice! How do you mean?’
‘I only mean, that I suppose from your manner of speaking, it must be the same to [‘A’] whether she marry [‘B’] or [‘C’].’
‘Certainly, there can be no difference; for [‘A’] will now to all intents and purposes be considered as the eldest son – and as to anything else, they are both very agreeable young men, I do not know that one is superior to the other.'”

June 26, 2011 Posted by | books, quotes | Leave a comment

Soul Music

Another book by Pratchett. I liked Small Gods better, I don’t consider this one one of his best books. But it was still relatively fun and a reasonably enjoyable read. Some quotes:

1. “He was not, by the standard definitions, a bad man; in the same way a plague-bearing rat is not, from a dispassionate point of view, a bad animal.”

2. “‘Why couldn’t we just take it off her?’ said Glod, when they were outside.
‘Because she’s a poor defencelless olld woman,’ said Imp.
‘Exactly! My point exactly!'”

3. “Susan did not know much about history. It always seemed a particularly dull subject. The same stupid things were done over and over again by tedious people. What was the point? One king was pretty much like another.
The class was learning about some revolt in which some peasants had wanted to stop being peasants and, since the nobles had won, had stopped being peasants really quickly. Had they bothered to learn to read and acquire some history books they’d have learned about the uncertain merits of things like scythes and pitchforks when used in a battle against crossbows and broadswords.”

4. “‘Look,’ said Susan, ‘I’d just like you to know that I don’t believe any of this. I don’t believe there’s a Death of Rats in a cowl carrying a scythe.’
‘He’s standing in front of you.’
‘That’s no reason to believe it.’
‘I can see you’ve certainly had a proper education,’ said the raven [yes …raven. The talking raven.] sourly.”

5. “‘How old are you?’
‘Sixteen.’
‘Oh, my.’ Albert rolled his eyes. ‘How long have you been sixteen?’
‘Since I was fifteen, of course. Are you stupid?'”

6. “No-one actually tried to kill musicians in the Drum. Axes were thrown and crossbows fired in a good-humoured, easy-going way. No-one really aimed, even if they were capable of doing so. It was more fun watching people dodge.”

7. “‘Wizards don’t scare me. Everyone knows there’s a rule that you mustn’t use magic against civilians.’ The man thrust his face close to Ridcully and raised a fist.
Ridcully snapped his fingers. There was an inrush of air, and a croak.
‘Ive always thought of it more as a guideline,’ he said, mildly. ‘Bursar, go and put this frog in the flowerbed and when he becomes his old self give him ten dollars. Ten dollars would be all right, wouldn’t it?’
‘Croak,’ said the frog, hastily.”

8. “BUT MOST PEOPLE ARE RATHER STUPID AND WASTE THEIR LIVES. HAVE YOU NOT SEEN THAT? […] YOU SEE THE LIGHTED WINDOWS AND WHAT YOU WANT TO THINK IS THAT THERE MAY BE MANY INTERESTING STORIES BEHIND THEM, BUT WHAT YOU KNOW IS THAT REALLY THERE ARE JUST DULL, DULL SOULS, MERE CONSUMERS OF FOOD, WHO THINK THEIR INSTINCTS ARE EMOTIONS AND THEIR TINY LIVES OF MORE ACCOUNT THAN A WHISPER OF WIND.
The blue glow was bottomless. It seemed to be sucking her own thoughts out of her mind.
‘No,’ whispered Susan, ‘no, I’ve never thought like that.’
Death stood up abruptly and turned away. YOU MAY FIND THAT IT HELPS, he said.” [Death’s speech is always in caps in Pratchett’s books, the caps is not my doing/a mistake.]

9. “Ridcully smacked his lips happily.
‘Ah, we certainly know what goes into good beer in Ankh-Morpork,’ he said.
The wizards nodded. They certainly did. That’s why they were drinking gin and tonic.”

10. “‘Did you read the contract?’
‘Did you?’
‘It was very small writing,’ said Glod. He brightened up. ‘But there was a lot of it,’ he added. ‘Bound to be a good contract, with that much writing in it.’
‘The Librarian ran away,’ said Buddy. ‘Oooked a lot […The Librarian is a monkey], and ran away […a monkey who’s quite a bit smarter than these guys].’
‘Hah! Well, he’ll be sorry later on’ said Glod.”

11. “Chrysoprase had been a very quick learner when he arrived in Ankh-Morpork. He began with an important lesson: hitting people was thuggery. Paying other people to do the hitting on your behalf was good business.”

12.”‘How many?’ he said.
‘Just ten to start with,’ said Dibbler. ‘But I think there’ll be more later. Lots and lots more.’
‘How many’s ten?’ said the troll.
Dibbler held up both his hands, fingers extended.
‘I’ll do them for two dollar,’ said Chalky.
‘You want me to cut my own throat?’ [it’s not for nothing that Dibbler goes by the name Cut-My-Own-Throat-Dibbler]
‘Two dollar.’
‘Dollar each for these and a dollar-fifty for the next batch.’
‘Two dollar.’
‘All right, all right, two dollars each. That’s ten dollars the lot, right?’
‘Right.'”

13. “‘Have I seen you before?’
I’M IN HERE QUITE OFTEN, YES. A WEEK LAST WEDNESDAY, FOR EXAMPLE.
‘Ha! That was a bit of a do. That’s when poor old Vince got stabbed.’
YES.
‘Asking for it, calling yourself Vincent the Invulnerable.’
YES. INACCURATE, TOO.
‘The Watch are saying it was suicide.’
Death nodded. Going into the Mended Drum and calling yourself Vincent the Invulnerable was clearly suicide by Ankh-Morpork standards.”

14. “He was, by and large, against the idea of a permanent office. On the positive side it made him easier to find, but on the negative side it made him easier to find. The success of Dibbler’s commercial strategy hinged on him being able to find customers, not the other way around.”

15. “‘I don’t remember you talking like this when you jumped up and down on that street violinist’s fingers last month,’ said Mr Clete.
‘Yeah, well, that wasn’t, like, assasination,’ said Satchelmouth. ‘I mean, he was able to walk away. Well, crawl away. And he could still earn a living,’ he added. ‘Not one that required the use of his hands, sure, but —‘”

16. “Dunelm wasn’t in the kind of job where you survived if you told people you’d seen people. Dunelm could serve drinks all night without seeing anyone.”

June 23, 2011 Posted by | books, quotes, Terry Pratchett | Leave a comment

Euler’s formula and Euler’s identity

The video is more than half-way through the calculus coursework, so if you’re unfamiliar with this stuff there’ll probably be some things you don’t understand even if he keeps it simple and don’t go through a more formal proof. The Maclaurin series he’s talking about is just a Taylor series evaluated at x=0, at uni we always call them Taylor series or Taylor expansions but apparently naming conventions differ.

The three videos before that one builds up to this, but if you’re familiar with maths and can remember how to do Taylor expansions and how to deal with trigonometric functions, you should be able to follow this quite easily without watching those as well; I could, as he doesn’t deal with anything here that I haven’t had exams in at a previous point in time. It probably didn’t do any harm that I read 100 pages in Discrete Mathematical Structures this weekend, parts of which contained a brush-up on permutations and factorials (the “!”-thingies in the formulas).

Videos like these were the kind of stuff I had to cut down on a lot during the last month leading up to the exam, those and non-study books. I’m behind on the blogging of the books I’m reading but I’ll get to it.

What do economists learn when taking their education? Most people would probably guess that they/we learn a lot of stuff about markets, industries/firms and some political economy (‘how the economy works’) and such. Maybe something about ‘how to calculate the numbers’. This is another side of the coin. Even though we wouldn’t be asked to go through that proof at an exam, we are (at least some of us) probably expected to know enough math to be able to understand something like this (it depends on the courses). There’s a lot of math and statistics in (some areas of) economics. There’s actually enough to make a guy who voluntarily decides to watch a video like the one above in his spare time think it’s a little too much. Though of course part of the reason why I feel that way is the fact that I suck at math, which is also why I try to get better at it – at least I’m not a math atheist. Now that we are dealing with comics, there’s also this.

June 22, 2011 Posted by | economics, Khan Academy, knowledge sharing, mathematics | Leave a comment

Quotes

1. “No, I don’t want to marry you — that would hurt the income of local prostitutes.” (Silas Barta)

2. “politics is not science or business… it is closer to religion. People admit their political views are wrong about as often as they admit that their god is false.” (Veridical Driver.)

3. “A simple way to determine whether the right to dissent in a particular society is being upheld is to apply the town square test: Can a person walk into the middle of the town square and express his or her views without fear of arrest, imprisonment, or physical harm? If he can, then that person is living in a free society. If not, it’s a fear society.” (Natan Sharansky)

4. “Education is what is left after all that has been learnt is forgotten.” (James Bryant Conant)

5. “It seems that most people’s attitude toward history is like their attitude toward shit, they’re only interested in their own.” (Razib Khan)

6. “Nonsense is socially OK, but not stupidity.” (Mason Cooley)

7. “Lonely people keep up a ceaseless flow of commentary on themselves.” (-ll-)

8. “Never judge a critic by your agreement with his likes and dislikes.” (George Saintsbury)

9. “Speak when you are angry—and you will make the best speech you’ll ever regret.” (Laurence J. Peter – the man who formulated the Peter Principle, which is the following:

“In a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence.”

10. “When you see yourself quoted in print and you’re sorry you said it, it suddenly becomes a misquotation.” (-ll-)

June 21, 2011 Posted by | quotes | Leave a comment

Missing the point

(Politik-relateret, men informationskomponenten har stor vægt og det her er faglig kritik (måske også ‘for faglig’ i den nuværende udformning, lix-tallet af tekstdelen under citatet er 61. Whatever, jeg har vist kun relativt smarte læsere…)

Læste lige den her artikel om en ung arbejdsløs magister der gik fra dagpenge til et produktivt job. Her er et godt citat:

“”Ligeså snart, man som dagpengemodtager tillader sig at beskæftige sig med et eller andet, skal det modregnes i tid og penge. Jeg har forståelse for, at det skal modregnes økonomisk, hvis man tjener penge udover dagpengene. Men den kontrol og umyndiggørelse, man udsættes for i dagpengesystemet, er demotiverende og rent ud sagt ikke til at holde ud,” forklarer hun. Hun ser hellere, at der bliver skåret i de sociale ydelser, frem for at man fortsætter med det nuværende system:

”For mit vedkommende ville jeg i hvert fald have foretrukket færre penge til gengæld for mere frihed, da jeg var i dagpengesystemet.”

Men det er netop pointen med det system, der findes i Danmark i dag. Hun var så træt af de mange krav, at hun valgte at deltage fuldt på arbejdsmarkedet i stedet for at blive i systemet. Det sjove er at kritikken af systemet dækker over noget, der for så vidt bedst kan betragtes som en succeshistorie for det nuværende system.

I Danmark er sociale ydelser til mennesker med arbejdsmarkedstilknytning ikke bare sådan nogle der gives pr. automatik og uden krav, et narrativ mennesker med politiske sympatier i samme retning som mig selv til tider gør brug af. I et internationalt perspektiv er de danske ydelser høje, men de modsvares samtidig af en lang række krav. De to ting hænger sammen; jo færre krav der stilles i forhold til modtagelsen af sociale ydelser, jo lavere sociale ydelser vil der alt andet lige kunne oppebæres i ligevægt for givne personkarakteristika. Det er faktisk derfor systemet ikke for længst er brudt sammen; Danmark her en beskæftigelsespolitik som for dem, der er på arbejdsmarkedet, er stærkt fokuseret på at beskæftigelse er endemålet – også i betydeligt højere grad end det er tilfældet for mange lande med lavere social kompensation. Det er en af flere grunde til, at vi på trods af tårnhøje skatter mv. såmænd har en meget høj erhvervsfrekvens i et internationalt perspektiv.

Et stift og krævende system er dårligt egnet til at tage sig af de individer, der for alvor har det svært, eksempelvis pga. misbrug eller lignende, hvis de ikke kan opfylde de krav, der stilles. De risikerer at blive trukket i ydelserne og så kan det blive rigtigt vanskeligt – hvorimod nogle af dem, der til gengæld har overskud til at udholde systemets krav, sandsynligvis er bedre stillet end i nogle typer af systemer med lavere ydelser og færre krav (introduktionen af den marginale ikke-pekuniære konditionalitet relateret til modtagelse af en given social ydelse vil altid stille individet som modtager ydelsen værre end i udgangspunktet – for fastholdt indkomst indebærer den marginale ikke-pekuniære konditionalitet altid et nyttetab for modtageren). Standard-fortællingen er at betingelser gør det lettere at målrette ydelserne til dem, der har et reelt behov, men helt så simpelt er det selvfølgelig ikke. Et andet problem er at høje krav gør det mere attraktivt for folk på kanten af arbejdsmarkedet at melde sig helt ud, hvilket øger behovet for kontrol og regulering af kompensation til individer uden for arbejdsmarkedet og gør dem værre stillet.

Det er en uhensigtsmæssig, måske ligefrem kontraproduktiv, kritik at rette mod systemet som højtuddannet individ at fortælle, hvor ubehageligt det var at modtage ydelserne, og hvordan det var rarere at deltage på arbejdsmarkedet på trods af et indkomsttab relateret dertil, når personen som ytrer kritikken jo tilsyneladende netop har kvalifikationerne til at deltage på arbejdsmarkedet. Systemet er netop indrettet med henblik på at gøre det ubehageligt at være på overførselsindkomst for mennesker som hende, fordi det ikke er meningen, at hun og mennesker som hende skal modtage indkomsterstattende ydelser fra staten, efter at den har gjort en stor investering i hendes humankapital ved at betale for hendes videregående uddannelse, pointen med hvilken skulle være (burde have været) at gøre hendes arbejdsmarkedsparat og produktiv.

June 18, 2011 Posted by | velfærdsstaten | 8 Comments

An interlude

There’ll be no updates on my part here for the next days, neither comments nor new posts. Perhaps I’ll post again Friday or Saturday.

Last exam this semester is getting close and I’m really busy (or at least I ought to be. Either way…). A few wikipedia links (no descriptions, would rather keep this brief):

1. Loki’s wager.
2. Groningen Protocol.
3. Intercontinental ballistic missile.
4. Fossil.
5. 1906 San Francisco earthquake.

June 14, 2011 Posted by | Geology, history, Paleontology, wikipedia | 2 Comments

Serious stuff

From an e-mail to PZ Myers, I learn that:

“the DNA was/is manipulated by ET’s to gain power over the planet.”

“an important Stargate (templar complex) is going to open now.”

“whatever group controls the planetary templar complex when this star gate (some call it Amenti gates) will open in 2012 , will have dominion over the planet and also will have access to the core universal star gates in Mintaka, Orion. The last time Amenti opened , pole shift occurred due to intruder manipulation, and would have again, if guardians, who protect the human race, had not been intervened.

So, as you can imagine, there are many things going on, which you might not even dream of. But this is not important.”

Interestingly enough, even though this stuff is ‘not important’, Tom will in his next mail “talk about the parallel earth, and why they have already been manipulated by ‘Dark Forces’ and already living under the ‘One World Order'”. I feel like I ought to send him an email so that he can keep me in the loop about all these important developments taking place.

June 13, 2011 Posted by | stupidity | Leave a comment

If only…

Alt text: “it feels awesome.” Link.

(When it comes to the first four panels of the above strip, my life mostly resembles the guy on the right – granted perhaps except from the first one. When it comes to the last two panels, my life mostly resembles the guy on the left. Of course part of the reason is that I’m often not reading what I’m supposed to be reading.)

June 13, 2011 Posted by | comics | Leave a comment

Cosmology revisited

So first of all, I know a handful readers or two came by after I commented over at William’s blog – if one or more of you decided to come back to read this: Welcome!

If you didn’t read this post (that is: looked closely at the images) back when I posted that, I suggest you start there. Now Salman Khan has made a series of videos where he starts at Earth, then moves on outwards. I notice in one of the videos he mistakenly uses light year as a measure of time, not distance, but he was pretty excited at that point, for good reason. I’ve posted the first video in the series below – when I watched it on youtube, it automatically started the next video once the previous one had finished, which was both good and bad as I probably sat there for over an hour watching that stuff, but I don’t know if it’ll do the same when embedded here. If not, you should really watch the series on youtube if you think the first part was ok – it gets even better and far more mind boggling as he proceeds.

I love what Sal is doing. If you felt the need to follow the link to Salman Khan’s wikipedia article because you don’t know who he is or what he’s doing, here’s another good video you should watch:

And here’s the link to the site.

In other news, here’s a chess game I played earlier this evening (I was white and it was a 5 minute game so presumably lots of mistakes if you let the silicon monster have a look at it). I haven’t run it through a computer, but I still think my decision to exchange on g7 and move 20.f5 instead of taking on e6 was the right one. I really liked that 20.f5 move when I played it. If black wants to survive, he can’t defend that e6 pawn anyway, i.e. 20…Nf8, 21.f6+ Kg8, 22.Qd2 Nbd7, 23.Qh6 Nf6 (…Ne6, 24.dxe6 Nxf6(□), 25.Nxf6+ Qxf6(□), 26.Rxf6 and white has the same win as in the game with the Nf3 and Ng5-manoeuvre), 24.Nxf6+ Kg8, 25.Nh5! Ne6 (…gxh5 and after 26.Rxf7 black is mated), 26.dxe6 Rg8(□), 27.exf7 and game over). I think 20.f6 was a better defence than Ne5, Ne5 was a bad move. Black needs all the support he can get of the black squares around his king after he’s allowed the exchange of the g7-bishop. That said, the position after f6 is still losing for black.

June 12, 2011 Posted by | astronomy, Chess, cosmology, education | Leave a comment

An observation, just in case somebody should have forgotten…

“In 2008, employment rates were 82% and 77% for native Danish men and women respectively, compared to 63% and 50% for non-Western immigrant men and women (Statistics Denmark, 2009).”

Here’s the link.

June 10, 2011 Posted by | data, demographics, immigration, studies | 3 Comments

Small Gods (II)

More stuff from the brilliant book:

1. “‘The captain just said something odd. He said the world is flat and has an edge.’
‘Yes? So what?’
‘But, I mean, we know the world is a ball, because…’
The tortoise blinked.
‘No, it’s not,’ he said. ‘Who said it’s a ball?’
‘You did,’ said Brutha. Then he added: ‘According to Book One of the Septateuch, anyway.’ […]
‘I told you I never made the world,’ said Om [the tortoise]. ‘Why should I make the world? It was here already. And if I did make a world, I wouldn’t make it a ball. People’d fall off. All the sea would run off the bottom.’
‘Not if you told it to stay on.'”

2. “A few Ephebian citizens watched idly from the roadside. They looked surprisingly like the people at home, and not like two-legged demons at all.
‘They’re people,’ he said.
‘Full marks for comparative anthropology.’
‘Brother Nhumrod said Ephebians eat human flesh,’ said Brutha. ‘He wouldn’t tell lies.’
A small boy regarded Brutha thoughtfully while excavating a nostril. If it was a demon in human form, it was an extremely good actor.”

3. “‘Ask them about gods,’ Om prompted.
‘Uh, I want to find out about gods,’ said Brutha.
The philosophers looked at one another.
‘Gods?’ said Xeno. ‘We don’t bother with gods. Huh. Relics of an outmoded belief system, gods.’
There was a rumble of thunder from the clear evening sky.
‘Except for Blind Io the Thunder God,’ Xeno went on, his tone hardly changing.
Lightning flashed across the sky.
‘And Cubal the Fire God,’ said Xeno.
A gust of wind rattled the windows.
‘Flatulus the God of the Winds, he’s all right too,’ said Xeno.
An arrow materialized out of the air and hit the table by Xeno’s hand.
‘Fedecks the Messenger of the Gods, one of the all-time greats,’ said Xeno.

[A little later in a tavern Brutha asks a barman the same question:]
‘Gods don’t like that sort of thing,’ said the barman. ‘We get them in here some nights, when someone’s had a few. Cosmic speculation about whether gods really exist. Next thing, there’s a bolt of lightning through the roof with a note wrapped round it saying “Yes, we do” and a pair of sandals with smoke coming out. That sort of thing, it takes all the interest out of metaphysical speculation.'”

4. “The Ephebians believed that every man should have the vote.* Every five years someone was elected to be Tyrant, provided he could prove that he was honest, intelligent, sensible and trustworthy. Immediately after he was elected, of course, it was obvious to everyone that he was a criminal madman and totally out of touch with the view of the ordinary philosopher in the street looking for a towel. And then five years later they elected another one just like him, and really it was amazing how intelligent people kept on making the same mistakes.

*Provided that he wasn’t poor, foreign nor disqualified by reason of being mad, frivolous or a woman.”

5. “‘Your missionary had said that people who did not believe in Om would suffer endless punishment. I have to tell you that the crowd considered this rude.’
‘And so they threw stones at him…’
‘Not many. They only hurt his pride. And only after they’d run out of vegetables.’
‘They threw vegetables?’
‘When they couldn’t find any more eggs.'”

6. “‘Slave is an Ephebian word. In Om we have no word for slave,’ said Vorbis.
‘So I understand,’ said the Tyrant. ‘I imagine fish have no word for water.'”

7. “‘I know about sureness,’ said Didactylos. […] ‘I remember, before I was blind, I went to Omnia once. This was before the borders were closed, when you still let people travel. And in your Citadel I saw a crowd stoning a man to death in a pit. Ever seen that?’
‘It has to be done,’ Brutha mumbled. ‘So the soul can be shriven and -‘
‘Don’t know about the soul. Never been that kind of a philosopher,’ said Didactylos. ‘All I know is, it was a horrible sight.’
‘The state of the body is not -‘
‘Oh, I’m not talking about the poor bugger in the pit,’ said the philosopher. ‘I’m talking about the people throwing the stones. They were sure all right. They were sure it wasn’t them in the pit. You could see it in their faces. So glad it wasn’t them that they were throwing just as hard as they could.'”

8. “Gods are not very introspective. It has never been a survival trait. The ability to cajole, threaten and terrify has always worked well enough. When you can flatten entire cities at a whim, a tendency towards quiet reflection and seeing-things-from-the-other-fellow’s-point-of-view is seldom necessary.
Which had led, across the multiverse, to men and women of tremendous brilliance and empathy devoting their entire lives to the service of deities who couldn’t beat them at a quiet game of dominoes.”

9. “‘And there’s some barbarians up towards the Hub,’ said the mate, relishing the word, ‘who reckon they go to a big hall where there’s all sorts to eat and drink.’
‘And women?’
‘Bound to be.’
The captain frowned. ‘It’s a funny thing,’ he said, ‘but why is it that the heathens and the barbarians seem to have the best places to go when they die?’
‘A bit of a poser, that,’ agreed the mate. ‘I s’pose it makes up for ’em … enjoying themselves all the time when they’re alive, too?’ He looked puzzled. Now that he was dead, the whole thing sounded suspicious.”

June 9, 2011 Posted by | books, quotes, religion, Terry Pratchett | Leave a comment

Insane (..!/..?)

“A large survey of randomly selected adults, sponsored by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and conducted between 2001 and 2003, found that an astonishing 46 percent met criteria established by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) for having had at least one mental illness within four broad categories at some time in their lives. The categories were “anxiety disorders,” including, among other subcategories, phobias and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); “mood disorders,” including major depression and bipolar disorders; “impulse-control disorders,” including various behavioral problems and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD); and “substance use disorders,” including alcohol and drug abuse. Most met criteria for more than one diagnosis. Of a subgroup affected within the previous year, a third were under treatment—up from a fifth in a similar survey ten years earlier.”

Here’s another interesting bit:

“Kirsch and his colleagues used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain FDA reviews of all placebo-controlled clinical trials, whether positive or negative, submitted for the initial approval of the six most widely used antidepressant drugs approved between 1987 and 1999— Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, Celexa, Serzone, and Effexor. This was a better data set than the one used in his previous study, not only because it included negative studies but because the FDA sets uniform quality standards for the trials it reviews and not all of the published research in Kirsch’s earlier study had been submitted to the FDA as part of a drug approval application.

Altogether, there were forty-two trials of the six drugs. Most of them were negative. Overall, placebos were 82 percent as effective as the drugs, as measured by the Hamilton Depression Scale (HAM-D), a widely used score of symptoms of depression. The average difference between drug and placebo was only 1.8 points on the HAM-D, a difference that, while statistically significant, was clinically meaningless. The results were much the same for all six drugs: they were all equally unimpressive. Yet because the positive studies were extensively publicized, while the negative ones were hidden, the public and the medical profession came to believe that these drugs were highly effective antidepressants.”

Here’s the rest, via MR. There’s a lot of related stuff here.

June 8, 2011 Posted by | data, Psychology, random stuff | 2 Comments

Small Gods (I)

Link. Read it yesterday. Pure escapism, I needed that. Wonderful book.

Some quotes:

1) “what gods need is belief, and what humans want is gods.”

2) “The trouble with being a god is that you’ve got no one to pray to.”

3) “Many feel they are called to the priesthood, but what they really hear is an inner voice saying, ‘It’s indoor work with no heavy lifting, do you want to be a ploughman like your father?'”

4) “He knew from experience that true and obvious ideas, such as the ineffable wisdom and judgement of the Great God Om, seemed so obscure to many people that you actually had to kill them before they saw the error of their ways, whereas dangerous and nebulous and wrong-headed notions often had such an attraction for some people that they would – he rubbed a scar thoughtfully – hide up in the mountains and throw rocks at you until you starved them out. They’d prefer to die rather than see sense. Fri’it had seen sense at an early age. He’d seen it was sense not to die. […] for Fri’it, not dying had become a habit.”

5)
“‘Why?’
‘How should I know? I don’t know!’ lied the tortoise. […the divine tortoise. The tortoise in question is a god. But a small one. To be quite frank, it’s only about the size of a tortoise.]
‘But you … you’re omnicognisant’´,’ said Brutha.
‘That doesn’t mean I know everything.’
Brutha bit his lip. ‘Um. Yes. It does.’
‘You sure?’
‘Yes.’
‘Thought that was omnipotent.’
‘No. That means you’re all-powerful. And you are. That’s what it says in the Book of Ossory.’

[…]

‘Who told him I was omnipotent?’
‘You did.’
‘No I didn’t.’
‘Well, he said you did.’
‘Don’t even remember anyone called Ossory,’ the tortoise muttered. […] ‘Ossory. Ossory,’ said the tortoise. ‘No … no … can’t say I -‘

[…]

‘What! If you didn’t give them [the Discworld version of the Commandments] to him, who did?’
‘I don’t know. Why should I know? I can’t be everywhere at once!’
‘You’re omnipresent!’
‘What says so?’
‘The Prophet Hashimi!’
‘Never met the man!’
‘Oh? Oh? So I suppose you didn’t give him the Book of Creation then?’
‘What Book of Creation?’
‘You mean you don’t know?’
‘No!’
‘Then who gave it to him?’
‘I don’t know! Perhaps he wrote it himself!’ […]
‘that’s blasphemy!’
‘Blasphemy? How can I blaspheme? I’m a god!'”

6) “On the whole, Vorbis discouraged red-hot irons, spiked chains and things with drills and big screws on, unless it was for a public display on an important Fast day. It was amazing what you could do, he always said, with a simple knife…
But many of the inquisitors liked the old ways best.”

7) “Gods don’t like people not doing much work. People who aren’t busy all the time might start to think.”

8 ) “‘He tortures people,’ he said coldly.
‘Oh, no! The inquisitors do that. They work very long hours for not much money, too, Brother Nhumrod says. No, the exquisitors just … arrange matters. Every inquisitor wants to become an exquisitor one day, Brother Nhumrod says. That’s why they put up with being on duty at all hours. They go for days without sleep, sometimes.'”

9) “‘He turned me on to my back,’said Om [the tortoise mentioned above].
‘Yes, but humans are more important than animals,’ said Brutha.
‘This is a point of view often expressed by humans,’ said Om.”

10) “People said there had to be a Supreme Being because otherwise how could the universe exist, eh?
And of course there clearly had to be, said Koomi, a Supreme Being. but since the universe was a bit of a mess, it was obvious that the Supreme Being hadn’t in fact made it. If he had made it he would, being Supreme, have made a much better job of it, with far better thought given, taking an example at random, to things like the design of the common nostril. Or, to put it another way, the existence of a badly put-together watch proved the existence of a blind watchmaker. You only had to look around to see that there was room for improvement practically everywhere.
This suggested that the Universe had probably been put together in a bit of a rush by an underling while the Supreme Being wasn’t looking […] Koomi’s theory was that gods come into being and grow and flourish because they are believed in. Belief itself is the food of the gods. […] When the Omnian Church found out about Koomi, they displayed him in every town within the Church’s empire to demonstrate the essential flaws in his argument.
There were a lot of towns, so they had to cut him up quite small.”

11) “Om listened to the sailors. They were not men who dealt in sophistries. Someone had killed a porpoise, and everyone knew what that meant. It meant that there was going to be a storm. It meant that the ship was going to be sunk. It was simple cause and effect. It was worse than women aboard. It was worse than albatrosses.”

12) “The captain, whose face now looked as if sleep had not been a regular night-time companion” […] – Pratchett makes sure that there are always wonderful sentences like these all over the place in his books. I love stuff like this.

Probably more later, I think this is one of his best books I’ve read, though it is actually quite hard to compare them. I’ve started on Soul Music today, have read the first 100 pages. I’ll not start studying again at least until I’ve finished that one as well.

June 8, 2011 Posted by | books, quotes, religion, Terry Pratchett | Leave a comment

Promoting the unknown, a continuing series

June 3, 2011 Posted by | music | Leave a comment