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|Thursday, January 21st, 2010|
My distinguished mentor and co-author just won the Veblen prize
|Monday, October 12th, 2009|
|Нам пишут или non-profit advertisement for Berkeley area (and maybe Cambridge) people.
You are warmly invited to join us on MONDAY, OCTOBER 19 at 5:15pm for "LOGICOMIX: The Life, Loves, and Logical Struggles of Bertrand Russell and the other Great Logicians who wrestled with the elusive goal of placing mathematical reasoning on a Firm Foundation," a panel discussion of the new graphic novel "Logicomix" with co-author Christos Papadimitriou, UC Berkeley Professor of Computer Science, and Paolo Mancosu, UCB Professor of Philosophy, and me. This free event will take place in Room 100 of the Genetics and Plant Biology building (GPB) at UC Berkeley (located nearby the West Gate to campus and the intersection of University Avenue and Oxford Street). You may view the location of the building on a campus map at: http://www.berkeley.edu/map/maps/BC12.html
For more information and a link to the NY Times book review, please see http://www.msri.org/logicomix
For a preview of the novel, go to http://www.logicomix.com/en/index.php?option=com_content&view=frontpage&Itemid=53
I hope to see you at this special event.
PS There is a Cambridge reading at http://www.harvard.com/events/press_release.php?id=2383
and a Northeastern U bookstore reading on the same day.
|Monday, June 1st, 2009|
|It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is.
“made from potato flour in the sense that one cannot say that it is not made from potato flour"The Lord Justice Hath Ruled: Pringles Are Potato Chips
As a mainstream mathematician, I'm pleased to see a court ruling utilizing proof by contradiction. The article goes on to state:
"The Supreme Court of Judicature had little patience with Procter & Gamble’s lawyerly attempts to break out of the potato chip category. The company argued that to be “made of potato” Pringles would have to be all potato, or nearly so. If so, Lord Justice Jacob noted, “a marmalade made using both oranges and grapefruit would be made of neither — a nonsense conclusion.”
He was even more dismissive of Procter & Gamble’s argument that to be taxable a product must contain enough potato to have the quality of “potatoness.” This “Aristotelian question” of whether a product has the “essence of potato,” he insisted, simply cannot be answered."
|Saturday, February 14th, 2009|
Был такой британский математик Карл Пирсон, от которого много чего осталось такого, чему учат в университетах. Его в какой-то момент призвали в армию, там направили в авиацию, а там, узнав, что он статистик, придумали ему правильную задачу. Чем хороши королевские вооруженные силы, так это тем, что там правильные задачи ставят правильным людям. Задача была такая: надо было броней укреплять самолеты, потому что были потери. И генералы решили, что в самолетах нужно посчитать дырки от пуль, и в тех местах, где их больше, ставить броню, потому что ясно же, что именно в эти места пули чаще попадают. Я не знаю, легенда это, или нет, но тогда Пирсон аккуратно спросил: «А в каких самолетах считают?» И когда ему объяснили, что в тех, которые возвращаются с задания, он сказал: «Нет, нужно укреплять те места, где дырок нет вообще. Потому что это означает, что если пуля в это место попала, то самолет до аэродрома не долетит».
В современной геномике используется та же идея. http://www.polit.ru/lectures/2008/04/24/gelfand.html
|Saturday, January 31st, 2009|
Опыт многократный, в самом деле горький опыт, научил его давно, что всякое сближение, которое вначале так приятно разнообразит жизнь и представляется милым и легким приключением, у порядочных людей, особенно у москвичей, тяжелых на подъем, нерешительных, неизбежно вырастает в целую задачу, сложную чрезвычайно, и положение в конце концов становится тягостным. Но при всякой новой встрече с интересною женщиной этот опыт как-то ускользал из памяти, и хотелось жить, и все казалось так просто и забавно.
Дама с собачкой.
|Friday, January 30th, 2009|
| Лекция Цфасмана в Билингве
"С благотворительностью по-русски я сталкивался многократно в своей деятельности в Независимом университете, потому что Независимый университет независим в первую очередь от государственного финансирования, - не получает ни копейки. Поэтому где-то приходится искать деньги, и часть из них находится благотворительным путем. Эта благотворительность ужасно непохожа на западную. Благотворительность по-русски происходит следующим образом: кто-то из руководителей Независимого университета встречается с кем-то, кого он когда-то и где-то знал или кому его порекомендовали. Этот человек говорит: я бы хотел помочь Независимому университету. Ну, наш ответ, естественно, большое спасибо. А как? Он говорит: ну, например, деньгами. Мы говорим: отлично. А сколько вы можете дать? Он называет сумму, тут же вынимает наличными из кармана и дает. Тогда я или кто-то другой его спрашиваем: а каковы условия использования этих денег? Человек глубоко задумывается и говорит: ну, на доброе дело. Я его спрашиваю: а еще? Тут он задумывается еще глубже и говорит: да, пожалуй, есть еще одно условие. Вы никому не говорите, что это я дал. Видимо, основная причина, что засмеют. "
И еще много интересного.
|Friday, January 23rd, 2009|
| New malware
is on attack. Gotta love this bit, though:
One intriguing clue left by the malware authors is that the first version of the program checked to see if the computer had a Ukrainian keyboard layout. If it found it had such a keyboard, it would not infect the machine.
|Saturday, December 13th, 2008|
Наткнулся на старую запись bgmt
. Ролевые игры как школа эмпатии - это мысль. А зачем еще они нужны?
|Wednesday, November 5th, 2008|
We feel a deep pleasure from realizing that we believe something in common with our friends, and different from most people. We feel an even deeper pleasure letting everyone know of this fact. This feeling is EVIL. Learn to see it in yourself, and then learn to be horrified by how thoroughly it can poison your mind. Yes evidence may at times force you to disagree with a majority, and your friends may have correlated exposure to that evidence, but take no pleasure when you and your associates disagree with others; that is the road to rationality ruin.
The good people of Massachusetts have kept their income tax and decriminalized marijuana. The disappointing people of California have made a discriminatory definition into a law. The unbelievable people of Alaska look to have voted a convicted felon into the Senate.
In other news:
Stevens, if he wins his race, will probably still be ejected, with a special election held to replace. Maybe this is what Alaskan republicans really meant.
Not a good day for gay marriage overall (Florida, Arizona).
We will (finally) have a high-speed train from SF to LA.
And oh yes, we have a new president-elect. The celebrations in Cambridge were no match for Berkeley, but still substantial. Harvardites blocked off a part of the square and tapped passing cars, yelling and shaking hands with drivers. Central square was agitated as well. Bicoastal elitists, gosh darn'em!
|Tuesday, November 4th, 2008|
" has been sold
. Too bad. It was on a long-term loan at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, and it was one of my favorites.
|Thursday, August 7th, 2008|
A multi-millionaire meets a squatter, a Freakonomics guest column
|Friday, May 23rd, 2008|
|Tuesday, March 4th, 2008|
The New York Times lists 3 counties in Texas with the result "100% reporting, 0 votes" for the democratic primary. The same counties in the republican primary are listed with "17% reporting - 66 votes" in Roberts county, "100%- 369 votes " in Armstrong county and "100% - 1235 votes" in Hunsford county. I wonder what life is like in this Hunsford county.
|Friday, January 25th, 2008|
|Thank you for your honesty.
Never have I ever...
Yes, I watched "The Moment of Truth" (and so can you). That "repetitive and irritating" (Boston Globe), "abhorrent, asinine" (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) show. Partly to see what kind of person would do this - as the LA Times noted, a completely shameless or a completely blameless person would do really well in this, but they'd never pass the audition. But partly because for all its repetitiveness and overblown dramatics the show succeeded effortlessly in making me identify with the protagonist - as an absorbing book or a movie would do. I tried the questions out. "Did you ever go through someone else's things when they were not there?" "Did you ever hit someone's car and left without leaving a note?" Then tried changing the ones that don't directly apply. "Did you ever have sexual fantasies during mass?" - at a synagogue? an interview? a math lecture? "Do you think you are better looking then your friends?" - smarter? cooler? more honest? And then tried to imagine what my friends and relatives would say.
Sometimes I'd get off easy for one reason or another ("Are you a member of the "Hair Club for Men?", "Do you delay having children because you are not sure that your wife is going to be your lifelong partner?"). Sometimes I could safely say "No" to a question and almost hear an internal "whew!" of relief. But then sometimes I couldn't. The show serves simultaneously as a source of very rare information about others and a force for self examination. Before watching I almost thought I would be one of the "blameless". Now I'm not so sure (though I should note that there is a difference between saying "yes" to what the show writers would think an embarrassing question and actually being embarrassed about it).
The truth shall set you free.
At one point a friend asked a contestant's wife "Is it worth a hundred thousand dollars to hear this?" I, too, would like to know. How much is it worth to be paid to know that your husband thinks you will not stay married? What about to know that he has a lover? How much would you pay a private eye to find out?
The show does not put a price tag on information, it puts one on embarrassment. The knowledge you'd pay to gain privately is often the same knowledge you'd pay to keep private. As a result we get not a market of truth, but of shame. Here shamelessness, not truthfulness, is turned if not yet into a virtue, then certainly into profit.
Shame is a social structure for enforcing honesty. For a moral person lying is to be avoided, as is crime. Yet we impose shame, just as we impose our criminal system, to reinforce the weak moral fiber and bend more people into honesty and obedience to law. Lying, however is generally a much smaller transgression and shame is a correspondingly softer penal mechanism. It has to be, for we lie all the time.
In his New York Times article (included in the "Best American Science Writing 2007) "Looking for the Lie" Robin Marantz Henig cites a the following study. A group of people were asked to keep a diary of their social interactions. The subjects averaged 1.5 lies a day. These are self-reported and, judging from the samples given, factual lies like "Lied about where I had been," or "Said that I did not have change for a dollar," as opposed to lies of opinion as "I like your new jacket" or "That was a good dinner" could be. I can only speculate what number of daily lies a tabulation by an impartial and omniscient observer would produce. Lies are the lubricant of social interaction. Remove them and it would grind to a halt.
Or would it?
This is certainly the position that Henig takes. He writes that if a truly efficient lie detector could be developed, we might find ourselves living in "a fundamentally different world than the one we live in today" and then that "this would be a problem. As the great physician-essayist Lewis Thomas once wrote, a foolproof lie-detection device would turn our quotidian lives upside down: "Before long, we would stop speaking to each other, television would be abolished as a habitual felon, politicians would be confined by house arrest and civilization would come to a standstill."
The article's last sentence sums it up:
"Worse than living in a world plagued by uncertainty, in which we can never know for sure who is lying to whom, might be to live in a world plagued by its opposite: certainty about where the lies are, thus forcing us to tell one another nothing but the truth."
Would it really be so horrible? Sure, if you were to start telling the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth to everyone you meet it would not end well. Do people really want to hear that they are fat or boring or stupid? That their new shoes are ugly (unless of course the shoes were a well-intended but misguided gift from grandma)? I leave the more grave questions of the type asked on "The Moment of Truth" to your imagination.
But what if everyone did it? All the time. Of course there would be problems - by the time you are done telling your wife that she is not as good looking as her sister she may not be in the mood to hear you say you love her anyway and start counting the ways. Yet after that first fury, would she not be relieved when she finds out you do love her? Or even if she finds you don't - now, as opposed to ten years and two kids later - would she not be happy?
We would have to change our reactions to everyday remarks. Even something as simple as "How are you?" could now be an interesting question. We would have to get good at compressing information, develop shorthand, learn to make explicit the omissions implicit in "Fine, thanks." Learn to take negative feedback not as personal offense and positive comments not as sign of friendliness, but simply as information.
It would be a different world, that is certain. Certain, indeed, is what it would be. No crime. No political manipulation. No drama. Well, at least no melodrama. Imagine what that would do to romance and love. Yes, you can say I'm a dreamer. All I know is that when that pocket lie detector comes out - I'll be camping out in front of the store.
Colombian version of "The Moment of Truth" was canceled after a contestant admitted to hiring a hitman to kill her husband. Sometimes the truth can land you in jail.
|Wednesday, October 24th, 2007|
|Thursday, October 4th, 2007|
|Public Service Announcement
Monday, October 22
Co-sponsored by the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures
and the Davis Center*
/"The Social Philosophy of the Genre of Popular Song in the
Post-Industrial Network Society"/khaloymes
Psoy Korolenko (Pavel Lion), Ph.D., Moscow State University
Harvard Yard, Dudley House, Junior Common Room
|Tuesday, October 2nd, 2007|