Archive for May, 2014

May 20, 2014

A good sign for the economy?

by Neil Rickert

Spamming is up.  I’m referring to comment spamming of blogs.

I have just deleted 26 spam comments.  When I checked this morning, I deleted 29 spam comments.  In the middle of the day, I deleted another 23 spam comments.

Until recently, I would rarely see more than 2 spam comments per day.

I’m guessing that this is a good sign for the economy.  It suggests that someone has money to spend on hiring spammers.

Oh, and Akismet is great in detecting spam.  I do briefly scan what it finds to see if there are any false positives, though that seems to rarely happen.

May 12, 2014

Jonny S. on Atheism

by Neil Rickert

Jonny Scaramanga has a wonderful new post:

I guess that I like it, because it is very similar to my own view.  So I suggest that you read it.  And maybe browse through some of Jonny’s other posts while you are there.


May 6, 2014

The Supreme Court decision on Greece, NY

by Neil Rickert

On Monday May 05, the US Supreme Court ruled that it is okay for the town of Greece, NY to open their meetings with prayer.  I’ve seen a number of blog posts that express unhappiness with this decision.

The court decision was what I had expected.  And I do not find it at all troubling.

Remembering back to my teenage years, when I was an evangelical Christian, I would not have wanted this decision.  As I would have seen it at that time, this kind of public prayer only debases prayer.  It teaches people that prayer is the reciting of meaningless mumbo-jumbo.

(The spell checker did not like “mumbo-jumbo”.  It turns out that it is a mainly British (and Australian) phrase that means roughly the same as “gibberish”.  So I have linked the wikipedia page.)

As a consequence, I do not see the court as having given anything of value to religion.

May 4, 2014

Coffee cups and donuts

by Neil Rickert

There’s a saying among mathematicians, that a topologist is someone who cannot tell the difference between a coffee cup and a donut.  I’ll discuss that in this post, and I’ll suggest implications beyond mathematics.

Usually, when we say this, we are thinking of the donut and the coffee cup as two-dimensional surfaces.  Once we go to the three-dimensional objects, nobody denies that the donut has a soft and spongy texture which makes it clearly different from a coffee cup.


Let’s start with a brief rundown on what is topology.  It is a branch of mathematics where we discuss ideas such as continuity, convergence, etc.  A classic example of convergence is with the sequence 0.9, 0.99, 0.999, …  We can see that the sequence gets closer and closer to 1, and we say that it converges to 1.  So topology has something to do with the geometric ideas of getting closer.  But it does so without needing a notion of metric (or distance).