December 01, 2015

5:28 PM | Problems of a problematic vocation
Readers who (like the author) persist in wondering what I was trying to say after they have finished the book may find it useful to take the book’s subtitle more literally.  If you believe mathematics is a problematic vocation, it doesn’t necessarily follow that you believe that the problems have solution, much less that the […]
4:00 AM | Survey of Relation Theory • 2
In this Survey of previous blog and wiki posts on Relation Theory, relations are viewed from the perspective of combinatorics, in other words, as a topic in discrete mathematics, with special attention to finite structures and concrete set-theoretic constructions, many … Continue reading →

November 30, 2015

1:38 PM | Plato, graphs, vision and another anchor
I’m not sure what led me to David Mumford’s Why I am a Platonist,  which appeared in a 2008 issue of the European Mathematical Society (EMS) Newsletter, but I’m happy I found it. David Mumford is currently Professor Emeritus at Brown and Harvard Universities. The EMS piece is a clear and straightforward exposition of [...]

November 29, 2015

12:00 PM | The Year In Books
(via WikiMediaCommons) Reviewing another great year in popular math! Your mileage may vary.... Which is always my way of warning that my picks for favorite reads of the year won't necessarily suit your own interests/tastes. With that said... Will start with a few miscellaneous notes: a) If you enjoy Tyler Vigen's humorous "Spurious Correlations" website (a sort of parody of statistical
1:03 AM | Return to the Comedy Hour: P-values vs posterior probabilities (1)
Some recent criticisms of statistical tests of significance have breathed brand new life into some very old howlers, many of which have been discussed on this blog. One variant that returns to the scene every decade I think (for 50+ years?), takes a “disagreement on numbers” to show a problem with significance tests even from a “frequentist” perspective.  Since it’s […]

November 27, 2015

1:00 PM | This Week's Leftovers...
Thankful for another week of mathy stuff...1)  For the advanced amongst you, Peter Woit posts about Langlands news:http://www.math.columbia.edu/~woit/wordpress/?p=81042)  Arthur Benjamin interviewed (podcast, 30-mins.) about his book, "The Magic of Math":http://www.scientificamerican.com/podcast/episode/math-can-equal-fun/3)  Once again sweet, amiable Doron Zeilberger considers possibly telling

November 26, 2015

8:58 PM | Book Note: Tony Roy, Symbolic Logic, #1
Tony Roy (Philosophy, California State University, San Bernardino) has generously made available his Symbolic Logic: An Accessible Introduction to Serious Mathematical Logic. I’m commenting here on the version of October 6, 2015. The full main text is no less than 746 pages … Continue reading →

November 25, 2015

MONTHLY MEMORY LANE: 3 years ago: November 2012. I mark in red three posts that seem most apt for general background on key issues in this blog.[1]. Please check out others that didn’t make the “bright red cut”. If you’re interested in the Likelihood Principle, check “Blogging Birnbaum” and “Likelihood Links”. If you think P-values are hard to explain, see how […]
1:17 PM | Teach Yourself Logic 2016 — Last call for suggestions!
As I’ve noted, it is time to update the much-downloaded Teach Yourself Logic Study Guide for 2016, and I’ve recently made a start working through the current version.  So far, the editorial tinkering has been plentiful but minor as far as content is … Continue reading →
12:54 PM | A moment of cheer
For ever and a day, the old have bemoaned the state of the world and how it is now all going to the dogs. But it is difficult not to feel that, yes, even here in Europe, things really are … Continue reading →

November 23, 2015

7:29 PM | A bela bunda and what it has to do with the Sokal affair
The first draft of the chapter of MWA entitled Further investigations of the mind-body problem was written in a hurry in the summer of 2010, and for that reason can claim to be the first extended contribution to the metaphysical study of Ed Frenkel’s buttocks, as a contribution to mathematical culture.  By now, though, enough […]
6:37 PM | “It seems that understanding of these things is difficult for you.”
  All members of the editorial board of a mathematical journal that will remain unnamed received the above diagram, accompanied by a message by the author that included the lines “It seems that understanding of these things is difficult for you.”  The last line above is also worth pondering.

November 22, 2015

11:00 AM | A Life In Math
"What a wee little bit of a person's life are his acts and his words! His real life is led in his head, and is known to none but himself... Biographies are but the clothes and buttons of the man. The biography of the man himself cannot be written." -- Mark Twain quoted in "A Numerate Life" by John Allen Paulos A blurb today on John Allen Paulos' latest book (released in paperback), which

November 20, 2015

10:53 PM | Erich Lehmann: Neyman-Pearson vs Fisher on P-values
Today is Erich Lehmann’s birthday (20 November 1917 – 12 September 2009). Lehmann was Neyman’s first student at Berkeley (Ph.D 1942), and his framing of Neyman-Pearson (NP) methods has had an enormous influence on the way we typically view them. I got to know Erich in 1997, shortly after publication of EGEK (1996).One day, I received a […]
1:15 PM | Math Potpourri
For your weekend reading/listening: 1)  This Reddit thread mentions several math podcasts (several of which I include in my list on right-side of this page), and also pointed me to the Quanta Science podcast that I was unaware of: https://www.reddit.com/r/math/comments/3r1ox2/are_there_any_good_math_podcasts_out_there/2)  A blurb from Mathbabe this week (linking in turn to THIS Nature article)

November 19, 2015

4:31 PM | Dirty Hands, part 1: Forbidden fruits
The graph illustrates what happened to MWA‘s Amazon sales rank after Jim Holt’s review came out in the New York Review of Books.  Last March, after I quoted Tom Waits in order to express my ambivalence toward Amazon (on the one hand, it has been a disaster for independent bookstores; on the other hand, it […]

November 16, 2015

4:33 PM | Women in French mathematics: statistics
The statistics speak for themselves.  The situation is much worse than I thought.  More statistics can be found at the Femmes et Mathématiques website.
4:29 PM | Grothendieck in the New York Review of Books
I would be inclined to write more about Jim Holt’s very generous review of MWA in the December 3 issue of the New York Review of Books but I’m still feeling rather disoriented, I think understandably, by the weekend’s events in Paris.  You can get a sense of the atmosphere from this news item in […]

November 15, 2015

1:08 PM | “…an anchor in the cosmic swirl.”
Looking through some blog sites that I once frequented (but have recently neglected) I saw that John Horgan’s Cross Check had a piece on George Johnson’s book Fire in the Mind: Science, Faith, and the Search for Order. This quickly caught my attention because Horgan and Johnson figured prominently in my mind in the late [...]

November 14, 2015

12:26 PM | "when darkness comes and pain is all around..."
No summary available for this post.
4:49 AM | Lessons of the Paris attacks
I strongly believe in statistical explanation, although it makes me philosophically uneasy.  It’s not that I can’t reconcile it with my no less strong belief in the principle of cause and effect; philosophers of various persuasions have taught me different ways to adjust the relative strength of these two beliefs as a function of circumstances.  […]
4:18 AM | “What does it say about our national commitment to research integrity?”
There’s an important guest editorial by Keith Baggerly and C.K. Gunsalus in today’s issue of the Cancer Letter: “Penalty Too Light” on the Duke U. (Potti/Nevins) cancer trial fraud. Here are some excerpts. publication date: Nov 13, 2015 Penalty Too Light What does it say about our national commitment to research integrity that the Department of […]

November 13, 2015

1:50 PM | Friday Math Wrap-up
Math from the week...1)  Evelyn Lamb covered the topologist winner of the Breakthrough Prize award this week: http://tinyurl.com/q4cpbwb  ...and long, interesting Michael Harris post on the Breakthrough Prizes here:https://mathematicswithoutapologies.wordpress.com/2015/11/09/working-the-red-carpet-part-2/2)  From fivethirtyeight blog a cautionary tale on scientific method:http://

November 10, 2015

11:36 PM | Postcard from Vienna
A week in Vienna, staying in the Innere Stadt where The Daughter is living for three months. Some unreasonably good weather, warm enough to take coffee sitting outside. The city looking wonderful in the bright sun. And then in a different … Continue reading →

November 09, 2015

5:02 AM | Findings of the Office of Research Misconduct on the Duke U (Potti/Nevins) cancer trial fraud: No one is punished but the patients
Findings of Research Misconduct A Notice by the Health and Human Services Dept on 11/09/2015 AGENCY: Office of the Secretary, HHS. ACTION: Notice. ----------------------------------------------------------------------- SUMMARY: Notice is hereby given that the Office of Research Integrity (ORI) has taken final action in the following case: Anil Potti, M.D., Duke University School of Medicine: Based on the […]
2:17 AM | Working the red carpet, part 2
That’s the Press Badge I wore while covering last year’s Breakthrough Prize ceremony.  For readers of this blog, the big news from Mountain View this year is, of course, Peter Scholze’s refusal of the $100,000 New Horizons Prize.  That comes as a bit of a surprise to me, I have to admit; I was one […]

November 08, 2015

1:23 PM | Working the red carpet, still part 1: addendum
It was getting late and I neglected to mention the important detail that Lily Collins (daughter of Phil, that should also be mentioned) starred in a film called Abduction (with an embarrassing IMDB rating of 5/10) opposite C. S. Pierce (pictured above). And something tells me (just this morning) that this year’s ceremony will be […]
3:19 AM | Working the red carpet, part 1
Tomorrow the annual Breakthrough Prize ceremony, created by venture capitalist Yuri Milner in 2012, with the help of a group of Silicon Valley luminaries, will include mathematicians for the second time.  I was on hand last year, at the cavernous Hangar One in Mountain View, wearing a press badge, and that’s why I was on […]

November 07, 2015

6:25 AM | “Ideas are the currency of mathematics.”
That sentence, spoken by Dick Gross this past Tuesday, is a particularly effective epigrammatic expression of the value system that prevails in our corner of mathematics.  It also fits neatly with the ontological commitment expressed in a sentence from my Princeton Companion to Mathematics article:  “if you can steal ideas, then they are real” — […]

November 06, 2015

2:00 PM | That Was the Math Week That Was
So much math, so little time.... 1)  Jordan Ellenberg with another of those viral-type math probability problems (which he relates back to the 'hot-hand' controversy):http://tinyurl.com/psexlp82)  And another problem, this time geometric, making some waves: http://tinyurl.com/naqhkts ...and still some more monthly puzzles here:http://teachfurthermaths.weebly.com/puzzle-of-the-month 3) 
1,743 Results