News Bits

by Luke Muehlhauser on August 19, 2010 in News

Great quote: “To most Christians, the Bible is like a software license. Nobody actually reads it. They just scroll to the bottom and click I Agree.”

This interview with Nassim Taleb is the best 20 minute summary of why I think the current economic woes are not just a recession but may be the beginning of the end for the USA. I want to move to Australia.

Testosterone” is a superb episode of This American Life for those interested in feminism, misogyny, and gender identity.

The Huffington Post is known as a quagmire of woo-woo, but maybe the addition of Victor Stenger will begin a turn toward the light?

Shit, now even algebra is broken?

Reddit: You can choose 15 seconds of music to introduce you when you walk into a room; what do you choose? Some of my favorites: “Ride of the Valkyries“, Homer singing “Spanish Flea”, “Genesis” by Justice, “The Final Countdown“, “Yakety Sax“, the chorus of AC/DC’s “Big Balls“, Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir”, “Carmina Burana“, Rob Dougan’s “Clubbed to Death”. Me, I might go with the moment beginning at 4:40 in Muse’s “Knights of Cydonia”.

If you’re a fan of Canon Rock you must hear Amadeus Rock and Beethoven Rock. But where is my Stravinsky Rock? Oh, here it is.

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Mark H. August 19, 2010 at 8:32 pm

re: Arithmetic article

I’m beginning to see why scientists and other geeks hate New Scientist. It’s more like a science tabloid. There’s nothing new here. Mathematicians have known that arithmetic is inherently incomplete since Gödel’s theorems from the 1930s. Arithmetic isn’t broken, it merely has limits on what can be proved. Everything that has already been proven is still mathematical truth.

Besides, even if arithmetic is augmented with these exotic infinities, that system will also be incomplete because it is still subject to Gödel’s theorems.

This reminds me of when New Scientist ran a cover with “Darwin Was Wrong” in large letters, only to have the cover article cover modern revisions to the common descent chart. This only led to headaches for biologists who had to deal with creationists waving the magazine in their faces (usually after not bothering to read it). Now we have to read that math is “broken.”

Utterly useless.


ShaneSteinhauser August 19, 2010 at 9:14 pm

I’m looking forward to Victor Stenger’s new book. The very first premise of WLC’s fine tuning argument is based on questionable math, as well as assumptions about the nature of life.


lukeprog August 19, 2010 at 9:54 pm

Thanks for your perspective, Mark H.


Liam August 19, 2010 at 11:36 pm

Come and live in Australia, Luke!

Our economy rules :)


juhou August 20, 2010 at 12:09 am

You should also check out the opposition to Nassim Taleb:


juhou August 20, 2010 at 12:34 am

And here are some numbers about the austerity issue worth checking out:


Silas August 20, 2010 at 4:44 am

Like, what are the songs in the “morality podcast”? It’s been bugging me for the last couple of days. :)


lukeprog August 20, 2010 at 7:29 am

Thanks, juhou.


lukeprog August 20, 2010 at 7:30 am


It’s a secret. :) Maybe we’ll have a contest and a prize for whoever first guesses all the tracks used in each episode, or something. :)


Gimpness August 20, 2010 at 8:07 am

So long as Tony Abbott and the Liberals (by name only they are conservatives. Conservatives for Palin suggested he is the Australian equivalent of her) don’t get elected tomorrow then I would totally welcome you to Australia.


Lamplighter Jones August 20, 2010 at 6:29 pm

Re: Arithmetic and large cardinals

Friedman’s work is indeed new; it’s part of his program intended to demonstrate the necessity of large cardinal axioms in doing ordinary mathematics. While the Paris-Harrington theorem gave a concrete example of a statement that cannot be proved in Peano Arithmetic, the statement is provable in ZFC (probably in ZF, but I’m too lazy to check). Proofs in ZFC are usually considered acceptable in ordinary mathematical discourse, so the Paris-Harrington theorem didn’t encourage mathematicians at large to consider foundational issues. Friedman’s work exhibits simple statements in the language of arithmetic that cannot be proved in ZFC, but can be proved with the use of large cardinals.

While Gödel’s theorem mechanically produces arithmetical statements not provable or refutable in ZFC, these statements have an unnatural feel, and can become very complex. Friedman has clearly achieved his goal of producing simple, unprovable (in ZFC) statements; whether they “seem natural” is a matter of opinion – Zielberger, who is quoted in the article, seems to think they are unnatural. It would be interesting to hear the opinions of other mathematicians.

While New Scientist’s headlines are a bit sensationalist, the content of this article is correct.


Mark H. August 20, 2010 at 8:20 pm

@ Lamplighter Jones:

Thanks for the summary. What little I know of number theory comes from Gödel, Escher, Bach and skimming wikipedia. Am I at least right that “saving arithmetic” is a rather hyperbolic description of what’s going on?

The article reminds me of popular articles on modern physics (my area of study) that describe things at such an abstracted and analogy-laden level that it barely describes anything of what’s actually going on. This is how the understanding that “quantum mechanics requires consciousness to collapse the wave function” continue to propagate. Thus we get “What The $*(& Do We Know?” kind of nonsense.


Lamplighter Jones August 20, 2010 at 10:11 pm

@Mark H.

Yeah, the “Saving Arithmetic” bit is over-the-top.

I’m frequently disturbed by misleading statements in science journalism. Discover Magazine’s interview with Shing-Tung Yau was advertised with the teaser quote:

Shing-Tung Yau: “Why the universe is really made of numbers.”

On top of that, the preface for the interview made it sound like Yau’s construction of Calabi-Yau manifolds actually demonstrated that space has six dimensions beyond those we normally percieve.

The next-to-latest issue of Skeptic Magazine featured the article ‘The Mind is Not a Kludge,’ with the line

Gödel’s theorem shows that logic is actually inconsistent.

I wonder if we can organize and push back against this kind of crap.


lukeprog August 20, 2010 at 11:22 pm

Lamplighter Jones,

Woah! That quote on Godel’s theorem is bizarre.


Mark H. August 21, 2010 at 2:03 am

Just read the Kludge article (copied here, although it seems this was scanned and interpreted by German OCR software as “the” seems to have been turned to “die”). This is one of the most bizarre things I’ve ever read. Protip: if you have to tell your reader that you’re not a creationist multiple times, you might be doing something wrong.


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