A number of posts so far this month, with perhaps a handful more upcoming.
Given Tablets but No Teachers, Ethiopian Children Teach Themselves: “I thought the kids would play with the boxes. Within four minutes, one kid not only opened the box, found the on-off switch … powered it up. Within five days, they were using 47 apps per child, per day. Within two weeks, they were singing ABC songs in the village … Some idiot in our organization or in the Media Lab had disabled the camera, and [thie children] figured out the camera, and had hacked Android.”
Tardigrades (or “Water Bears”); First Animals to Survive in Space: This is so cool, I’m just going to embed the video below. Some surprising evidence in favour of panspermia? Who’da thunk it?
Email Is The New Pony Express–And It’s Time To Put It Down: “Email . . . may just be the biggest time killer in the modern workplace. Here’s where companies are headed next.”
The Saga of Epsilon and Zeta:The story of the seemingly never-ending 2005 hurricane season.
How to Eat a Triceratops: “Step two: tear the head off to expose the tasty neck muscles.”
Hobbit coins worth thousands to become legal tender in New Zealand: From the fictional land that brought you all manner of magic rings, only some of which are evil, this lovely new set of commemorative coins.
It is the Future, Here is Your Jetpack: The lack of jetpacks in the twenty-first century is officially something we can no longer complain about. People will probably still whine about the lack of flying cars, however.
My dog: the paradox (an Oatmeal comic): “My dog does not fear automobiles, garbage trucks, or airplanes . . . but he is terrified of hair dryers.”
Ada Lovelace, Throughout the Ages: Did you miss Ada Lovelace day?
How to Protect Yourself Against Supernatural Creatures (Dinosaur Comics): “Rather than punishing bad behaviour, reinforce your lycanthropes desirable behaviour at the moment it happens with a click and a treat.”
It happens, sometimes. Not intentionally. I try to be fair, perform some honest research, leave polemicism out of it. But sometimes there are people out there with an interest in my writing something very different than what I have, in fact, chosen to write.
Some time ago I wrote on Care2 about a fossil fuel shill who managed to get an instructor gig in one of those massive, science-for-humanities-majors intro courses, in Canada’s own Carleton University. I was alerted to the story by one of the science policy/education watchdog groups I keep in touch with (and have done since before I wrote about this sort of stuff — science teachers need to know about attacks on reality as much as science/environment writers do).
The story was easily verified by checking out the actual course information on Carleton’s own website, and the sort of falsehoods being propagated by this climate denier in the classroom are neither subtle nor relative. Just the other day, Tom Harris left a comment both on that months-old article, and here on the site (on my About page). He wants me to take down the article. I won’t be doing that.
There’s no need to respond to his message point-by-point because he complains my article is inaccurate, when it simply isn’t. You either understand and buy into the scientific method, or you think you can just make anything up you want. I’m not going to attempt a rational conversation with someone who falls into the latter group.
Also recently, I received a message about a restaurant I reviewed here on the site, my local Zesto’s. I had a bad experience there, but didn’t pile on (I think) too much. It’s not the first response I’ve received to that review: not long after the posting went up, somebody commented on Urban Spoon (to which I linked in the review) that I was full of it. It was a bit suspicious (the user made an account apparently just to comment on my review and has never made another posting since I last checked), and in any case, there was little to it other than name-calling.
But the message I received this week was from the actual restaurant owner apologizing for the issues I experienced,and inviting us back for another meal. I give her credit for that. I appreciate the difficulty in finding good people in the service industry, and I’m happy to know that that particular employee’s behaviour is at least not official Zesto’s policy.
I won’t be taking up that meal offer, but I acknowledge it here. She’s trying to make up for a bad first impression, which is difficult to do. At the very least, a polite, honest communication is more likely to get a response from me than ad hominems.
My first three Library Journal reviews have run, and are partially or completely available online. Parts of my review of X and the City can be found here.
My full review of Benoit Mandelbrot’s memoir, The Fractalist, is quoted on the Barnes and Noble page for the book here.
My review of the coffee table book, Spectrums, gets the lead in a recent Xpress Reviews post at the Library Journal online.
It’s a Duck: The difference between science and superstition.
Vectors, matrices, and eigenvalues, oh my! The Manga Guide series’ triumphant return to the fertile and abstract realms of mathematics is, to this reader, most welcome and not a little overdue. This is not to say that previous forays into the physical-, life-, and computer sciences were at all unsuccessful. But even on their worst day, these real-world subjects are not nearly so difficult to penetrate as, say, set theory or integral calculus. And this is coming from a card-carrying math geek.
The wonderful and beautiful thing about this series is in its ability to come at complex and foreign topics from a sideways angle. I’m still amazed at the unusual points of reference the book authors find to bring the reader into some notoriously difficult topics – explaining onto and one-to-one functions in terms of restaurant orders, for example. The highly visual nature of the comic medium also serves as an anchor in what might otherwise be a text-heavy topic.
The manga scenario wrapped around all this math draws on a number of classic tropes, and not only from the realm of manga. Reiji is working hard as the newest student in his university karate club, a membership he paid for by agreeing to tutour his sensei’s sister in linear algebra. He’s the proverbial 98-pound weakling with a good heart, and it’s as good a reason as any to have two young people flirt and talk about matrix multiplication.
Of eight chapters, the first six are laid out as groundwork before the “real” linear algebra topics in the last two. The fundamentals in chapter two include reiviews of (or introductions to) set theory, some basic mathematical logic, and functional relationships. Following this are two chapters covering matrices, and two more on vectors (in a matrix interpretation). Only then are we able to tackle the true topics of the book title, linear transformations, eigenvectors, and eigenvalues.
It may sound like a hodgepodge, but it’s not. Each chapter builds carefully on the previous one. No calculus and only some basic algebra, trigonometry, and co-ordinate geometry are needed before reading this book. But the topics are tough for a newbie. This is university-level mathematics and requires a lot of practice problems before it will sink in for most readers.
The example problems in the text are great, but there are only a few. As with all books in the series, The Manga Guide to Linear Algebra is best utilized in conjunction with a thick textbook, chock-full of additional practice exercises. Much like earning a black belt, the road to mathematical mastery requires many hours of practice and perhaps more than a few forehead smacks on nearby slabs of wood.
(No Starch Press, 2012)
Reprinted with permission from The Sleeping Hedgehog
Copyright (2012) The Sleeping Hedgehog
Five Men Agree To Stand Directly Under An Exploding Nuclear Bomb: “Watching this film, there are many things to wonder (and worry) about, but one of the stranger moments is how the bomb bursts in complete silence. We see a sudden white flash. It makes the soldiers flinch. Then there’s a pause, a pregnant quiet that lasts for a beat, then another and then — there’s a roar.”
Batman: Plutocrat: “Superman (for example) fights intergalactic dictators, evil monopolists, angry generals, and dark gods, i.e. symbols of abusive authority. Batman fights psychotics, anarchists, mob bosses, the mentally ill, and environmentalists, i.e. those who would overthrow the status quo. Superman fights those who would impose their version of order on the world. Batman fights those who would unbalance the order Batman himself imposes on Gotham.”
Dinosaur Comics Presents McDonald’s Presents the Olympic Games: “Perhaps you’ve forgotten Coca-Cola, THE OFFICIAL SUGARED AND COLOURED BEVERAGE OF MCDONALD’S PRESENTS THE OLYMPIC GAMES?? You want a sculpted gold-medal body? Have you tried exercising? Sure, maybe. But have you tried CHUGGING A COKE?”