is defined as the irrational fear that stories in newspapers are not real news, but have been planted there by the nefarious minions of evil trying to draw your attention to the names of products.




i've been (re)reading james bond novels this week to unwind after revising. so far 'the man with the golden gun' 'moonraker' and 'thunderball' they're pretty good, but the best thing to do is only read the first two thirds - the lengthy buildup and introduction to bond's new enemy, and the action as the plot unfolds. i can't really be bothered any more with the denouements; the fairly predictable sadistic nightmare climax which is supposed to lead to a sense of relief when bond destroys the villain and gets the chick, surprise surprise.


death and dreams

i've enjoyed a lot of the great sandman comix (written by neil gaiman, drawn by all sortsa people), and seemingly, i'm not alone in finding the main character's little sister, death, even funkier and more compelling than the sandman, morpheus himself.
they are two of a fairly dysfunctional but closeknit family of seven siblings; destiny, despair, desire, dream, death, delirium and destruction, avatars of unending natural forces.
so i was pleased to find "death - the high cost of living" in the library this week.
a great spinoff starring the stylish goth chick, along with a teenage boy who starts the story about to commit suicide, and mad hettie, a two hundred and fifty year old english vagrant woman who has appeared as incidental character in some of the sandman stories. it's the story of the one day in every century that death has to spend as one of us lowly mortals, in order to keep her compassionate towards us.
the genius of these books is all in the characterisation: the two facets of death are entwined so well that you can't help but believe in death both as a real 'person', and purely as the incarnation of what she represents.



it's what the internet was invented for

The online encyclopedia of integer sequences



geometry of number for dummies

the best packing of centrally symmetric shapes on a plane are regular hexagons or linear transformations thereof,
the best covering of the plane by centrally symmetric shapes is with regular hexagons or linear transformations thereof,
the best / worst ditto for unsymmetric shapes is with triangles and in general
if you have a property of a convex polygon and a polygon with a limiting value exists, it will usually be a triangle
if the convex polygon has to be centrally symmetric it's probably a hexagon

if you know this, you might be able to pass one of my courses.
which is more than i am yet confident of doing.



good news

bag recovered!
with everything in it but the phone, and especially c371 notes!
hallejulah! praise the good people of london transport lost property!




last week i read the third and final part of 'king', a comic book biography of martin luther king jr by the (radically named!) ho che anderson (fantagraphics). the third part tells the story of mlk taking his struggle to the urban slums of the north of the usa, his efforts to keep the civil rights movement non-violent, and his murder. all the speech balloons are different colours for different characters, with king's words always in blue. it's a really good comic, and a very humanizing way to tell someone's story in their own, and fictionalized, words.

"Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get will get to the promised land!

And so I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man! Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!"

this famous, tragically prophetic speech concludes the penultimate chapter, before the final one, named "the lorraine motel" for the site of his death.

without his legacy, protestant christianity wld have a lot more to answer for...



are your kids addicted?

Luckily, this only seems to affect kids.



three mathematical concepts to treasure

-the counting numbers
-the binomial theorem and coefficients
-analytic functions of a complex variable


dirichlet's theorem

if you take two numbers a,q which are relatively prime (have no common factors), then the arithmetic series a, a+q, a+2q,... contains infinitely many primes.
Probably the most beautiful thing I have learned, at least since the proof of uncountability of real numbers. Or maybe since the infinity of the primes in general. (Euclid's proof)
Induces the frustrating feeling of being partly able to imagine the prime numbers tailing off infinitely to the right, and thus getting a grip on how incomprehensible and hard to picture they actually are.









"almost every day between white bars"

"be warned - the future doesn't need us"




i took 'the cryptonomicon', by neal stephenson back to the library after reading (and enjoying!) the first 400pp at an more and more slowly, which, since it meant i wouldn't find out the ending before t=∞, makes not finishing it no great loss.

i haven't read a novel in ages, now i'm ploughing through "the music of the primes" by marcus sautoy, a 'popular account' of the riemann hypothesis(!).



yet to be convinced

"There are two facts about the distribution of prime numbers of which I hope to convince you so overwhelmingly that they will be permanently engraved in your hearts. The first is that, despite their simple definition and role as the building blocks of the natural numbers, the prime numbers...grow like weeds among the natural numbers, seeming to obey no other law than that of chance, and nobody can predict where the next one will sprout. The second fact is even more astonishing, for it states just the opposite: that the prime numbers exhibit stunning regularity, that there are laws governing their behaviour, and that they obey these laws with almost military precision."

Don Zagier, "The first 50 million primes" [Mathematical Intelligencer, 0 (1977) 1-19]

Cited in "the prime number theorem - a proof outline"


tom, jerry and the swimming pool

jerry the mouse is swimming in a square pool, while tom (the cat) watches from the side. tom can't swim, and runs slower than jerry, however, he can run 4 times as fast as jerry can swim. can jerry always escape?

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