Monday, 30 November 2009

Quadratic Equations and the Media

Several times in recent weeks I've heard people on the television or wireless cite quadratic equations as examples of recondite Mathematics.

I can still remember being taught to solve quadratic equations by completing the square. I was 12 at the time, and remember being most impressed by the ingenuity of the method. Ever since I've considered quadratic equations perfectly straightforward.

There are many intriguing mysteries in Mathematics, but quadratics are not  among them.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Visitors to this Blog

By far the most popular entries in this blog are the two or three describing my misadventures with cable modem and broadband Internet access; more than half the last month’s visitors  looked at at least one of those, even though all were posted more than six months ago.
The most surprising thing about it is that most of those visits result from the use of search engines. Information must be very scarce if my inexpert chatter appears high enough in search results for people to notice it.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

‘Differently Abled’

That phrase suggests to me someone in whom one of the usual faculties  is replaced by an unusual one. It would apply to someone who is blind, but has the echolocation of a bat, to someone deaf who uses telepathy instead of hearing, or to someone with no legs who has wings instead.

So far as I know, no one is differently abled in that sense; the phase is just one of the many dreary euphemisms used by sentimental people pretending that the world is a fluffy cuddly place.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Riparian Parameters

At least twice today the BBC news programmes have included an eyewitness account of the flooding in Cumbria containing the words:

"The river is back within its normal parameters"

At last we have a clue to the journalistic meaning of "parameter" ; it means "river bed"

Friday, 20 November 2009

The Philosophy of Sport in Gloucestershire.

On this morning's Radio 4, a lady was introduced as Professor of the Philosophy of Sport in the University of Gloucestershire.

I'm not sure what is oddest: that there should be such an institution, or that there should be a professorship in such a strange subject.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

'They gave their lives'

I am infuriated by the sentimental intellectual dishonesty of such language.

It conjures up a picture of someone opening a little door in the chest, and inviting some governmebnt offical to remove the heart and use if for the Public Good.

In reality those killed in war did all they could to stay alive, and many of them died, not only reluctantly, but extremely painfully. In the so called 'World Wars' many who died were conscripts, forced to fight. In the first world war many soldiers for sent on suicidal charges into machine gun fire, urged on at pistol point by officers prepared to shoot any who appeared reluctant.