Archive for November 5th, 2009

Name that Fractal

sevensixfive: Circles

This is an open question: What is this fractal? It’s a method for filling a 2D plane with circles in an orderly way – circles made of circles, all the way down. There are published examples of similar systems, like the Apollonian Gasket, the Kleinian Groups, Indra’s Pearls, but I’ve never seen this particular arrangement before, and I’ve been looking for over ten years. Is this a trivial variation on something already known? Or a new and undiscovered thing? I have no idea. I found it while doodling in math class.

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Update: It’s an “orbit of a circle under a Kleinian group generated by two Mobius transformations (one elliptic of order 4, one parabolic)” explanation (PDF)

This Could Get Ugly

Global warming views ‘are philosophical belief’ for UK law

“A belief in man-made climate change, and the alleged resulting moral imperatives, is capable if genuinely held, of being a philosophical belief for the purpose of the 2003 Religion and Belief Regulations,” ruled Justice Michael Burton (Guardian, Independent). “If a person can establish that he holds a philosophical belief which is based on science as opposed, for example, to religion, then there is no reason to disqualify it from protection”

It is true, I suppose, that a view can be philosophical even if science addresses it — one can accept gravity without ever having taken a physics class, meaning that one believes in gravity in a dogmatic sense. I think this is easier to see if one’s belief were to contradict science: one could sincerely believe that they can defy gravity and fly, though if that were ever put to the test they would have a hard time reconciling their belief with the fact that they did not fly so much as plummet. (Then again, having witnessed a lot of discussions involving cdesign proponentsists, I’ve seen fervent belief allow for some pretty wicked mental contortions). Certainly there are people out there that zealously believe that they can build a perpetual motion device, or that relativity is wrong. And it just boils down to this: if facts will not dissuade you, then your belief is religious.

But we have words to describe those who tenaciously hold to beliefs that have been empirically tested, and found to be wanting: cranks, crackpots, woomeisters, kooks, loons, quackademics, wackjob, etc. You now appear to have the problem of not being able to fire an engineer or a scientist for believing in perpetual motion, simply because they hold that belief religiously. On the other hand, if the boss is a free-energy believer, how do you protect the science-minded employee from being dismissed for mentioning the second law of thermodynamics in front of the boss? Citing facts/truth has to be what’s protected, not fanatically held lies or untruths. Between this and the libel laws in England, it’s kind of a wacky place for the intersection of science and speech (Can I say that?)

Update: some commentary on the situation, which cautions us that by reducing science to belief, we lose something: beliefs are created equal, and it’s far easier to dismiss a belief or an opinion — all you have to do is disagree.

Religions have beliefs. Science is not a belief system but the best process we have for establishing the truth, piece by independently replicated piece. Nicholson should be appalled by the ruling he has won.

How Not to Be Seen

How to Reject a Paper: Advice from a Chain Letter

You have to keep in mind that no matter how crappy the paper is, the authors are going to be pissed that it is rejected, and they are going to immediately begin wracking their brains to identify referees who might have done the dirty on them. Most will form a list of at least 5 or 6 people that they think are likely to have screwed them. Since most papers are reviewed by no more than 2-3 reviewers, this means you have a good chance of being on the list even if you were NOT the reviewer. Thus, particular pains must be taken to direct the authors ire elsewhere.

1. Pretend that you are British. (Note — this does not work well if you actually are British).

Most importantly, it tells you how to pretend to be British (though not necessarily being Mr. Nesbitt of Harlow New Town), or how to be obviously pretending to be British in case you are, as well as some other tactics.

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