Category Archives: Politics vs. math

When we become inured to death

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Petrarch's Triumph of Death.

In 2017 and 2018, when all eyes were on several horrific incidents of mass gun violence, the United States was averaging just under one incident of mass gun violence per day (defined by the excellent Gun Violence Archive as four or more people killed or injured in one reported incident). During the pandemic year of 2020, that number rose to… Read more »

The Covid math of “us” versus “me”

Smallpox vaccination

I wrote a few weeks ago about how the Covid crisis has exacerbated the need for America to move from a very self-centered “me” culture into the more compassionate and action-oriented “us” culture required to combat the virus. Listening to the voices raised in protest to such collective action as mandated vaccinations and masking, I have noted that there are… Read more »

The capricious God of Covid

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Dice icon

“At the first glance, the only ‘law’ … seems to be that of Caprice — caprice in inheriting, caprice in transmitting, caprice everywhere, in turn.” — Philosopher William James (1842– 1910) One of the classic examples in an introductory statistics class is the drawing of billiard balls from an opaque sack containing an unknown mix of various colored balls, and… Read more »

Let’s pretend rural Iowa is Mars

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Storm-Clouds-Over-Lamoni-Cemetery

Note: This is a cross-post from Bleeding Heartland from earlier this week. So, I have watched the bizarre unpiloted, billion-dollar carnival ride that took Jeff Bezos into the barest edge of “space.” We are looking at spending more billions of dollars as a collective society to pursue a goal of living on the moon or Mars, for some just for… Read more »

Worth a read: Shape by Jordan Ellenberg

Shape-Ellenberg

You have probably not thought much about geometry since your tenth-grade math class where you learned how to calculate the area of circle or a triangle. Have you retained anything else? Or even that? Well into the 19th century, you would not be considered to be an educated person unless you were familiar with Elements by Euclid, a Greek mathematician… Read more »

When your pain becomes our pain

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Empathy-Sympathy-Compassion

Odds are…you personally will not suffer any ill effects from the coronavirus. But over 600,000 U.S. families have watched loved ones die, often without the hugs of family who had to say goodbye via FaceTime. Odds are…you personally will not be killed in a grocery store by a domestic terrorist wielding an AR-style high-lethality weapon. But over 40,000 families lost… Read more »

Biden, the bishops, and a failure to communicate

Cool Hand Luke

American Catholic bishops have apparently backed off plans to deny the Holy Communion from practicing Catholic Democratic politicians like President Biden and Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Comments from the Jesuit Pope Francis and public sentiment appear to have convinced the bishops that this stance would be politically unwise at this time. California Republican and gubernatorial candidate Caitlyn Jenner, who in a… Read more »

Mass delusions do not end well

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Reverend Jim Jones

I will admit right off that my pre-election scenario for post-Trump Republican politics has turned out to be very wrong. In my script, the “sharp knives” traditional Republicans, typified by former Vice President Dick Cheney and represented by his daughter, Wyoming representative Liz Cheney, would stick one of those conceptual knives into Donald Trump and wrest control of the party… Read more »

The probability of alien UFOs has not really changed

Interest in alien visitation has spiked following the recent release of an Pentagon report on their experiences with what they call unidentified aerial phenomena (UAP), or what are commonly called unidentified flying objects (UFOs). Despite the new report, the basic probability math of alien visitation has not changed by any significant amount after the release of new grainy videos. Here… Read more »

When public health gets political

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Iron lung

Note: This post was published earlier at the Iowa blog BleedingHeartland.com Despite a strong start at vaccinating its populace against Covid-19, my former home state of Iowa has begun to slip in the national rankings in its percentage of vaccinated residents. In Texas, some hospital workers have taken their management to court to fight suspensions for refusing the vaccine, despite… Read more »