Archive for July, 2012|Monthly archive page

Is Algebra Necessary?

In Uncategorized on July 31, 2012 at 8:32 pm

This is a post with my gut response to an almost comical article by some political scientist, appearing here:


Apparently political scientists (in case this particular one is a representing example) think that “objective truth” or “objective reasoning” are much different things than usual people have in mind. This guy basically tells us what he sees lacking in himself and probably in other people from his department, maybe even his secretary. He does no attempt to look a bit outside of his university building. Probably then he spent an afternoon looking for data confirming his stereotypes online.

I was thinking that the article would tell me what one means with algebra, and “necessary for what”. This is never made clear in the text, and you arrive a the end of the article with the clear impression of having been tricked. (Here are the answers: “algebra”=managing mathematical formulas, “necessary”=necessary in order to become better political scientists)

However I read this immense list of irrelevant data which basically foster the stereotype “numbers are confusing, especially when you call them letters, especially X or Y”. Also one of the main points is the following: If you want to become a good political scientist, you don’t need algebra. In my case this information turns out to be not-so-relevant, because, guess what? I’m not in a political science career!! ta-daaa!!

Another nobel-prize idea: school is made in order to prepare people for jobs. Clearly that’s all education is for, right? Why not sending people who are to become doctors in a doctor-fostering school since birth, and the same for peasants, lawyers, bee-keepers and salami-producers??

What is mathematics for the author of this wonderful essay? It is “teaching how to use numbers”. The deepest philosophical statement in the whole pamphlet is perhaps “What is needed is not textbook formulas but greater understanding of where various numbers come from, and what they actually convey.”

Clearly nobody ever heard of geometry, right? Triangles, circles, anyone? I mean, before writing some 10000 word article, why does one not get informed about what he will be speaking about? Why just throw a bunch of useless numbers and stereotypes in the face of the reader?




Parasite Rex (link)

In Uncategorized on July 29, 2012 at 9:20 am

Parasite Rex

Japanese.films.2 Harakiri/Seppuku

In Uncategorized on July 24, 2012 at 9:00 pm

Second one of the Japanese film series. This is a film from 1962 by Akira kurosawa, and I think it is more deep and authentic than the remake by Takeshi Miike. The film reflects upon the meaning of being a samurai, and the Japanese meaning of honour. Can a samurai in disgrace to bargain his suicide for money to provide a doctor for his dying family, while still preserving his honour? In this moving story set in the period of decline of samurai orders in feudal Japan, a highly psychological battle between values and bureaucratized moral code takes place, via a mix of flashbacks which an old samurai has during his seppuku ceremony, and of troubled reactions of the nobles and other samurais which assist to it. I highly reccomend this film. (click on the image for trailer)


P.S. : I forgot two more wonderful highlights: 1) the beautiful music, which sounds quite strange and old, but gives to the whole film a more bitter and solemn aftertaste; 2) the beautiful sword fight on a windy beach, which easily justifies seeing the whole film just by its  elegance and intensity. I didn’t think that the same kind of suspense which happens in the best westerns could be repeated in a samurai sword fight.


In Uncategorized on July 21, 2012 at 12:59 pm

Some people have this nice open source project to create a shape-changing boat which might be able (using the new degrees of freedom given by changing the hull shape) to exploit winds better, and go faster pulling possibly long “tails” in order to collect oil spill pollutants or plastic junk from the surface of the oceans. Image

I think the idea is quite interesting, and the fact that they open-source the thing and are open to sharing ideas is a plus.

japanese.films.1 – the 13 assassins

In Uncategorized on July 20, 2012 at 9:37 pm

I’m starting a nice series of Japanese films. The first one is about the killing of a sickly destructive noble in feudal japan. To do that a master samurai gathers other 11 good fighters (and they find also an extra member on the way, for a total of 13). The last hour of the film (total time 2h05min) is dedicated to a battle of 13 men against 200 men. If you like feudal Japan, it is a very nice movie. If you are curious, beware it’s a bit violent due to sword fights, but it is not overdoing, it has an emotional side which in the end is not so ‘cheap’. I would recommend this film to somebody who is into mangas about feudal japan. Here is the trailer (note: there is another youtube “original trailer” of this, which however i find (somewhat idiotic and) not representative of the spirit of the film… click the photo for the trailer, in japanese):



In Uncategorized on July 16, 2012 at 8:14 pm

In historic-time-ambiented mangas often people wear sunglasses!! Outraged by this (possibly) complete nonsense, I was looking up the thing in wikipedia, convinced as I was that sunglasses were invented recently. It isn’t like that actually (…which doesn’t change the fact that samurais were not using sunglasses at that time, grrr!) as I describe below:

Roman Emperor Nero  is said to like watching the gladiator fights through polished light emerald green gems held up to his eyes, functioning as mirrors. It’s not even sure that the effect of those was more influencing the light’s color, or rather multiplying the copies of the gladiators’ images like in a kaleidoscope.

The invention of (true) sunglasses was somewhere between 1268 and 1289 in Europe, perhaps earlier in China.

A visual historical recording of early sunglasses is a painting done by Tommaso da Modena in 1352 (internet says). This was the first painting of a subject in sunglasses and many more were to follow as it became a fashionable symbol of distinction or honor.

(here is a picture by Tommaso di Modena, but those are actually just normal glasses: why else would the monk use them for writing down notes?.. If you find a true-sunglasses-T.d.M.-picture please let me know.)

Around the twelfth century, sunglasses were worn by Judges in the Courts of China. Those smoky quartz, flat-glassed panes were not used as protection from the sun, but rather to conceal any expression in their eyes to keep from giving away the outcome of their decisions.

(Here some smoky quartz)

(..and a Chinese judge. I have no idea if old-Chinese-judge-sunglasses looked like that or if it’s a reconstruction [or a fake!])

Prescription sunglasses were introduced in Italy in the 1430s. By the 1600’s people began to realize the benefits of prescription glasses as helping the elderly to see better and the motto “A Blessing to the Aged” came into being in 1629. It was the motto of an English eyeglasses manufacturer, Spectacle Makers Company. In the mid 18th Century, James Ayscough developed blue and green corrective lenses which began the use of sunglasses for correcting optical impairments.


In Uncategorized on July 14, 2012 at 5:17 pm


here is a suspended rock.

In Uncategorized on July 14, 2012 at 8:53 am

There is a thin line between psychedelic folk and craziness.. Nobody will ever know on which side this group really stands.

glass and pressure

In Uncategorized on July 13, 2012 at 11:49 pm

Prince Rupert’s drop

Bologna bottle

Just read “the…

In Uncategorized on July 13, 2012 at 11:42 pm

Just read “the nose” a funny surreal tale of a general losing the most important part of a human body.. interestingly there is a monument in St. Petersburg to that precise nose. The link is from 2002 when somebody stole the plaque. St. Petersburg again could not resist long without that nose.