Just in case you were under the illusion that politicians used to be smarter...

>> Wednesday, February 06, 2008

I'm sorry I missed the occasion: it seems yesterday was the one-hundred-and-eleventh anniversary of the Indiana State Legislature's attempt to declare that the value of π is equal to exactly 3.2. The text of the bill can be read here, and is worth a gander (especially for the comment that the official value of π "should be discarded as wholly wanting and misleading in its practical applications...").


And I thought the lawmakers today who want to teach an "alternative" to evolution by natural selection were dumb. They still are, but at least their stupidity stops just short of basically un-inventing the wheel. Granted, geometry classes would be much simpler if you could plug in a short, rational number: the area of a circle with a radius of 2 units? Twelve-point-eight, of course. How, short, sweet, simple, and probably oblate is that? I'd like to see the rest of the world compete with American science then, when we can calculate complex arcs in our heads.


USA! USA! USA!


What?





10 comments:

Jim Wright Friday, February 8, 2008 at 2:43:00 PM EST  

Faith based math - been there, done that. I prayed before every math exam: Please, Great Bird of the Universe, make Pi equal to Three decimal Two, oh puuuleeeze!

But can you see it? Think about how damned funny it would have been if this law actually came to be, hell, even nationwide. It could have led to a whole new field of mathematics.

Pi=3.2 exactly, so say we all. But, of course, it doesn't, there is some slop after the 2, which means in practical applications (say like manufacturing where you need to calculate the material costs of round or spherical objects or in transportation where you need to calculate fuel costs over long distance along a curve like the surface of the earth) there would always be a certain discrepancy. But, because we must think of Pi as 3.2 because it's the law, we can't directly refer to error in the calculation. Viola, Dark Math - like the Dark Matter and Dark Energy of astrophysics.

See, now that would be cool. Mysterious. And it would make things easier all around, because kids wouldn't have to get exact answers on tests, just the approximate ones. Win/Win as they say, vaguely.

Eric Friday, February 8, 2008 at 5:49:00 PM EST  

It would be cool... until someone on the Christian right pointed out that the subtle flaws in secular math required a new "intelligent algebra" based on the Biblical cubit. And then we'd have another mess on our hands....

alakazam,  Sunday, February 10, 2008 at 3:18:00 AM EST  

Christianity is about Faith, So but then again, so is athiesm. Faith in nothing.

Given a choice, I choose former.

Eric Sunday, February 10, 2008 at 10:55:00 AM EST  

Well, no. Atheism isn't about faith in "nothing." If there's a faith component to atheism, it's faith in evidence or faith that everything that happens in the universe follows rules. These "credos," if you want to call them that, aren't necessarily provable but they are the basis of all human knowledge.

In other words, I can't prove that the world didn't begin on my birthday and everything I think happened before that day is part of an enormous and mysterious hoax. I can't prove that the whole universe isn't happening in an expensive mainframe after the last human-computer war. I don't know that the value of pi isn't actually 18 on the far side of the universe, or that light travels at one constant speed everywhere. I don't know for an absolute fact that gravity isn't a manifestation of tiny, invisible, redecorating faeries as opposed to a mutual attraction between masses or the product of deformations in space-time. But while such beliefs might make for interesting science fiction stories or amusing late-night bullshit philosophy sessions over beer, they're not very useful for putting together a sensible view of the world, much less for inventing airplanes and cellphones and indoor plumbing and desktop computers and atomic bombs and such.

I'm an atheist not because I have faith in nothing, but because my faith in Reason leads me to conclude that the evidence for a deity is scant-to-none, and the hypothesis of a deity is unnecessary. That is, there's no good proof of God, and assuming the existence of God doesn't actually lead to any new answers. (Indeed, it only raises more questions: if God created the universe, what created God? If God is benevolent, omnipotent and omniscient, why is there evil? If God is not one or more of those things--benevolent, omnipotent, and omniscient--why should I care what He thinks? Why are there multiple religions, some of them dead? Etc., etc., etc.)

You're welcome to choose to believe in whatever you want. It would be nice, however, if you didn't make such a broad and erroneous statements about what other people believe. My apologies if that sounds harsh--I hope it doesn't (it isn't meant harshly), and I hope if you stick around you find most entries enjoyable.

alakazam,  Sunday, February 10, 2008 at 12:34:00 PM EST  

Well, I never knew an athiest who said that I couldn't pray for them. I hope you don't mind if I do for you. Wouldn't it be amazing it after you were gone, you found out the Christians were correct afterall?

Sorry, I wasn't trying to generalize; it seems that as a Christian, I am often painted as a fanatic, when all in all, I try to live a good life, without being judgemental. (That was not directed at you, please don't take it out of context). I wish the best for all.

Eric Sunday, February 10, 2008 at 1:11:00 PM EST  

Thank you for your kind thoughts. You obviously don't need my permission to pray for whatever you'd like; I can think of worthier things you might pray for, but (again) thank you.

Yes, it would be amazing if I found out anything after I died.

My best to you, as well.

alakazam,  Sunday, February 10, 2008 at 1:13:00 PM EST  

That is the beauty of praying, everyone can do it, and everyone can be prayed for. It is limitless. I believe you are worthy, as well as anyone else.

alakazam,  Sunday, February 10, 2008 at 1:16:00 PM EST  

I invite you to check out this book. Just consider without any pretense.

http://www.amazon.com/Case-Christ-Journalists-Personal-Investigation/dp/0310209307

I would be happy to send a copy to you if you would like. If not, I understand.

Eric Sunday, February 10, 2008 at 1:50:00 PM EST  

Thank you for the book offer, but my to-read list is fairly unmanageable right now, and I have at least six books I'm currently winding my way through at the moment.

alakazam,  Sunday, February 10, 2008 at 2:32:00 PM EST  

That's fine. The offer is on the table indefinitely. Thank you for not telling me to shove it!

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