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But this is the thing about science

The QAA guidance suggests that professors should note that “some early ideas in statistics were motivated by their proposers’ support for eugenics, some astronomical data were collected on plantations by enslaved people, and, historically, some mathematicians have recorded racist or fascist views or connections to groups such as the Nazis”.

The corect answer to that is “So fucking what”? Liebnitz was a German – you know, they produced the Nazis – Newton invented the cat flap which makes him an animal oppressor and Einstein was a Jew for goodness sake. Calculus still works tho’…..

Science either is or isn’t and who found out that it is or isn’t doesn’t matter a damn. It’s the is or isn’t that does.

57 thoughts on “But this is the thing about science”

  1. The function log a n=x is used to calculate how many trees in the Amazon should be cut down.

  2. People are just going to abandon yoonis. I think this might be an early sign of this already happening.

    It’s like a version of Conquest’s Law. Once there’s another better way to do a thing, the right-wing go off and do it, and leave the old fortress undefended. Like 1980s theatre that was all about THATCHER because the talent had moved on to movies and TV.

    How much do you need people going off to a place to study math when you’ve got the WWW? Like, this was exactly what Tim Berners-Lee designed it for.

  3. I do find it hilarious that “the finest health service in the world” can’t bear to call my disease by the name it went by for 70 years because to bloke who discovered it was found 5 years ago to have connections to the Nazi Party. I thought the least that would happen would that I’d immediately start to feel better, but sadly that did not prove to be the case.
    For the avoidance of doubt, I live (better described as “reside” nowadays) in the UK so the health service is, in fact, the NHS. I wish they’d concentrated on a cure, but hey, that’s tricky. Much easier to employ a “sensitivity adviser” on £127,000 a year…

  4. I do find it hilarious that “the finest health service in the world” can’t bear to call my disease by the name it went by for 70 years because to bloke who discovered it was found 5 years ago to have connections to the Nazi Party

    Serves you right for getting Hitlerpox.

  5. A pleasure to see some sense Tim.

    You’ll have noted the contribution of the evil Mahometans to algebra. And the number of stars with Arabic names.

    But as you point out, who found out that it is or isn’t doesn’t matter a damn.

  6. I would have thought that a maths degree is hard enough without having to learn the biographies of various mathematicians.
    If we make maths at uni even harder we are going to have less maths teachers which would not be a good thing.

  7. Dunno, might end up with more English teachers so we’d talk about fewer, not less, maths teachers.

  8. If we make maths at uni even harder we are going to have less maths teachers which would not be a good thing.
    Having seen the maths capability of the majority of people*, these days, sounds like a very good thing.
    *Having to use the till to calculate what 3 items @ 1:50 total.

  9. “Dunno, might end up with more English teachers so we’d talk about fewer, not less, maths teachers.”

    This is precisely whats wrong with this country. Too many arts graduates who know precisely what grammar to use, but don’t have a clue about the real world. Being pedantic about grammar is an intellectual version of the old upper classes U/non-U test – its a way to police language and discourse to the advantage of arts graduates and against people who live in the real world. Less maths teachers vs fewer maths teachers is irrelevant, the meaning is perfectly clear both ways. Picking people up on it is just a way of saying ‘Stay in your lane peasant, and leave the important talking and writing stuff to us!’.

  10. Anyone think of a game uses 12 dice? They’re selling them in a pack of that quantity at a shop I go to. Be an excellent way to get a kid learning to do mental arithmetic on the fly. The trick being, of course, to not do mental arithmetic at all. But to remember all the number combinations. Why I can total a shopping bill quicker than the girl can run it through the scanner.

  11. Jim: No, it’s about clarity of thought and communication, which is sorely lacking in modern discourse.

  12. Jim said:
    “Being pedantic about grammar is … just a way of saying ‘Stay in your lane peasant, and leave the important talking and writing stuff to us!’.”

    I think round here it’s usually just for the love of snark.

  13. Very true Jim. One of the advantages has made english the world’s common language is you can build sentences on the fly. You don’t have to precompose according to a set of rules. So it’s very easy to learn. Why complicate it unnecessarily*?
    *In correct english, of course, the adjective would precede the verb. But the verb is the important concept one’s trying to get over. Not the conditionality. Which is how we think.

  14. @BiS

    I once bought some stamps in a newsagents. I asked the girl behind the counter if I could have 12 stamps, to be told that they only sold them in books of 6.

    I smiled and asked for 2 books. I could see that she managed to work it out in her head before the transaction concluded.

    Thank God I didn’t ask for 18.

  15. @Tim
    “Dunno, might end up with more English teachers so we’d talk about fewer, not less, maths teachers.”
    Good point.
    However my point is true why make doing something harder for no benefit?

  16. Jim hits the nail on the head. The entire document mentioned in the article is a symptom of the useless art’s graduates (but I repeat myself) identifying a lucrative area and muscling in on it

  17. @BiS “Why I can total a shopping bill quicker than the girl can run it through the scanner.”

    When I was a kid, my dad taught me a game which involved taking a famous event (battle of Waterloo for example) then using the numbers in the date (1815) and the basic arithmetic functions (+ – / x) to arrive at all the numbers 1 to 10.

    So (1+8)-(1+5) = 3, (1×8)-(1+5) = 2, (1+8+1)-5 = 5 and so on. Couldn’t always get all 10 and if you got stuck, you could make it easier by using the numbers out of sequence.

    But it passed a bit of time.

  18. it’s about clarity of thought and communication, which is sorely lacking in modern discourse
    One thing I can’t stand is people sticking uncommon words in sentences. They may be supremely accurate but it doesn’t help if people don’t understand what they mean. Often the intent.
    Smug cunt of a lawyer I had to deal with would put inter alia on the end of bills he was sending me. He received a short, one sentence reply. “If you want paying, fucking itemise.”

  19. @BiS for your dice: any table-top RPG that’s not Dungeons and Dragons based, All table-top miniature-based wargames, quite a few “normal” table-top games.

    All call for n D6 v/s either a static/precalculated number or m D6.

    And yes… Dice Fetish is Big Business… /Nerd

  20. Grammar Nazism has a very important role. I once had to explain this to a programmer who didn’t understand the difference between ‘good’ and ‘well’.

    It is syntax – it is what makes a sentence make sense, it is the same as using the correct functions in a program.

    I rail likewise against the split infinitive in print. In speech or on the Interwebs it is just allowable, because often people are rapidly constructing sentences and do not have time to correct themselves. But writing it down in an article or a book is unforgiveable. Just like sentences with no verbs.

  21. “Too many arts graduates who know precisely what grammar to use, but don’t have a clue about the real world. ”

    Same can be said for Uni-level Mathematicians, whose mental removal from practical reality is a matter of pride for some….

    And honestly.. for teaching the Highschool Basics you don’t need Uni-level mathematicians.
    You need peeps who are of a more practical mindset and can show teens that all that mumbo-jumbo has its use. And attempt to save the poor kids from dying of boredom in class.

  22. @Andrew C
    That’s not bad. Might be able to work something from that.
    At one time I knew all additions of any pair of numbers between 1-99 & thus the subtractions. Product of having to do mental arithmetic, under pressure, when calculators needed two hands & a strong back to lift. It’s what I want to instil in the kid. A “feel” for numbers. So they’ll know roughly what something should be without having to think about it. Spectacularly absent with a lot of people these days. If you can do this, you can have a helluva advantage over them because you’re one jump ahead of the game. Like I know if someone’s trying to pad a bill.

  23. Bloke in Spain,

    This was a benefit of the old slide rule days, when (a) you might get two, maybe three significant figures in your answer rather than eight decimal places; and (b) you had to have a grip of the answer’s order of magnitude.

    Calculators are handy, but they’re prone to spurious precision (8.5237618 plus or minus 20 per cent…) and it’s woefully common that someone bashes numbers in and accepts the answer as holy writ without a pause of “shouldn’t two thousand times three thousand be a few million?”

  24. This is very much a black and black issue (like pretty well everything else comatose, sorry “woke”)

    What is the problem with science? It’s completely irrelevant. Africa managed slavery perfectly well without. Without writing, cities etc etc too.

  25. @BiS “One thing I can’t stand is people sticking uncommon words in sentences.”

    I agree. That sort of thing ought to be amerciable.

  26. @Jason
    Mathematics is a tool kit. It has no purpose of itself. You don’t need a full garage of tools to change a set of spark plugs. Just an idea of which ones to pick.
    I think educationalists have forgotten the point of education. Which is to learn how to learn. Once they’ve learned that, any fool can learn anything, as required. Maybe learning mathematics is a way to do that, but the numbers aren’t the point.

  27. @Ottokring
    One of the glories of english is that one can put the words in a sentence in almost any order & it’s comprehensible. And english speakers aren’t too bothered which order the words are received in, either. They’ll still extract the correct meaning out of it.

  28. BiS

    Yeah sense it’s make but to got.

    Another whinge. I went through 13 ( or however many ) years at school and 3 years Uni and only discovered what a subjunctive clause was when I learnt German in my early 20s. It was so important the Anglo Saxons even had a separate case for it.

  29. Yeah Germans. Anyone who can print trockenbeerenauslese on a wine bottle label with malice & intent deserves all they get.
    (Legacy of one having dipped into the wine import business)

  30. @ J & G: “Too many arts graduates who know precisely what grammar to use …”. Surely the modern arts graduate typically knows bugger all grammar unless she happened to pick some up in, say, French lessons. Or maybe things are different amongst the polders.

  31. But what difference does it make, dearieme?
    I’ve had to teach any number of people english. I tell them forget about conjugating verbs, you only really need the first person singular. Add some nouns, a few adjectives & the odd preposition & you can have a conversation. Which is the point of the exercise. I’ve managed to get through the past 7 decades without knowing what a subjunctive clause is, or it’s case. Although no doubt I use it. But if you can get the same result by sticking a couple of prepositions in*, what’s the problem?
    *An infinitive neatly split to upset Ottokring.
    Don’t forget. All these rules of grammar are actually arbitrary. They’re owed to the time the language had evolved to when they were written down. If it’d been a couple of decades earlier or later they’d be different. The spelling conventions in english are largely due to the first printers speaking Dutch.

  32. BiS: “If I were a carpenter, and you were a lady”. Best example I could think of of subjunctive use.

  33. @Steve.
    I did laugh, but no it’s not that. I still possess a pair…
    To be fair, neither my wife and I have looked recently so I might be imagining it

  34. Good example of how trivial it is. I would imagine most people would use 2nd pers sing for the first verb & it’s touch & go on the second. Certainly most of the people I speak with. The meaning would be the same.
    But thanx. Saved me looking it up.

  35. Guilty of googling trockenbeerenauslese. Cheers BiS. Quickly decided dessert wines not for me. I wonder if there’s a German word for a wine that gets you to the first floor, of a bungalow.
    English doesn’t have one afaik.

  36. Ducky McDuckface

    If we had fewer maths teachers, but more teachers of English, would more or fewer edumacated people use words like “dunno”?

  37. Bongo

    In Austria it’s known as Heckenklescher or hedge crasher.

    A particular sort of wine called Uhudler – because it makes one’s eyes dilate like an owl’s – is just such a type. It also gives you a hangover while you’re drinking it.

  38. Just like sentences with no verbs.

    Is that a Poe or not? It’s so hard to tell on the internet.

    Funny how science is tainted irredeemably by contact with anything on the right, but you can be as crazy as you like in other regards or batshit Stalinist and that’s AOK!

  39. As a mathematician, who may have signed that letter, I’d just like to point out that it’s a ‘less than’ sign, not a ‘fewer than’ sign.

  40. Chester @10.31, listening to Al Beeb this morning, I noted that whenever someone deemed ‘Right Wing / Far Right’ (in this case it was Ron De Santis) is against something, that something is referred to as ‘progressive’ and when someone Right Wing / Far Right is in favour of something, that something is referred to as ‘controversial’.

  41. @ bis
    The advantage of mental arithmetic is not just the speed but the accuracy: I can tell, when I bother, whether the girl/boy at the till has got it wrong

  42. @Tim the Coder – “Was Schrodinger an abuser of cats?”

    I can’t tell until I have observed the cat.

  43. “If I were a carpenter, I’d screw you to the bed.”

    h/t Jasper Carrott (IIRC, though memory of 70s jokes fades …)

  44. @John77 Nah. I’m a real mathematician (real numbers). I’m not going to say n is fewer than m. Sorry, I’m just not. Find me a mathematician that would.
    As I said, it’s a less than sign.

  45. One of the glories of english is that one can put the words in a sentence in almost any order & it’s comprehensible

    Man bites dog, dog bites man, dog man bites, hmmm
    Try instead
    Homo canem mordet, homo mordet canem, canem mordet homo

  46. @Paul Edward Dant

    While all three man dog bites sentences have different meanings, all three actually are understandable.

    The beauty of English is that it’s very efficient.
    No having hundreds of different endings for words depending on the gender of an item and or the person being talked about.

  47. @ Clovis Sangrail
    Five runs from singles off an over is fewer than eight from two boundaries.
    Just said it. I am a real mathematician – one of the reasons I became an Actuary instead of a computer programmer was someone who wrote an Algol compiler that could not accept zero as a real number, so the programme (we used English, not American) that I had spent most of a Long Vac translating into Algol for the new, more powerful,computer and updating/improving just didn’t work.

  48. @ Clovis Sangrail
    You have omitted to define n and m. FYI I have never started beating my wife.
    When talking about integers *and it makes sense* (which is not very often) I do use “fewer” e.g. “I completed the maths paper in less time and made fewer mistakes.”

  49. @John77 No I mean the algebraic statement ‘m is fewer than n’. That’s why I put in inverted commas.
    Alright, how do you read m less than sign n when you encounter it as a mathematical inequality.

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