The Guardian reports on research indicating that yet another South American tribe - this time, the Mundurukú - has serious language-imposed difficulties with numeracy. For more details, see this post by Mark Liberman.
Yet another of those occasional puzzles designed to exercise the old grey matter: what integers other than 25 and 27 constitute a cube differing from a square by 2? In other words, find the integer solutions of
X2 - Y3 = 2
X3 - Y2 = 2
Please explain your reasoning if you decide to provide an answer.
UPDATE: I'm closing comments on this until Thursday, to prevent people from revealing what they do know to others before then. This problem isn't as trivial as it looks, and rest assured you'll have plenty of headscratching to do in the interim.
How does one deal with perverse incentives of the sort illustrated by this story?
For most of the 10 years she has lived in her three-bedroom apartment on Codman Park in Roxbury, Betty Smith has been fighting to keep the drug dealers off her street.
Lately she's been winning.
But her efforts to make her block safer have had the perverse effect of helping to price her out of her home.
A few months ago, her landlord told Smith he was raising the rent from $825 a month to $1,600 a month. Smith is now afraid she'll have to leave the neighborhood she worked to make safer for her two boys, 17 and 12 years old, as well as two foster kids placed with her by the state.
Obviously, I don't think this calls for any sort of government intervention (to head that line of discussion off at the pass), but I do believe that the dilemma illustrated here is more common than one might think. How can property owners incentivize their clients to help raise the value of their portfolios if the likely consequence for successful clients is to be turfed out on the street? I've never laid eyes on a rental contract that even acknowledged such a possibility. Surely some clever soul out there can think of an arrangement through which both parties share in the upside.
I've just noticed this acerbic assessment of Napoleon Bonaparte's career over at the Daily Telegraph, and I have to say I found it mostly spot on. His defenders can yammer on about the Napoleonic Code and all the other blessings he's supposed to have brought the world, but what is that against the millions of lives snuffed out in his wars, or the "great man" model he set out for reactionaries like Carlyle, and, indirectly (or perhaps not so indirectly), for butchers like Hitler? People who are willing to overlook the negatives of Napoleon's career because of the putative benefits of his rule are guilty of the broken window fallacy: there are great opportunity costs to decades of continental-scale warfare, and one will never know just how much mankind has forgone because so many individuals who might otherwise have contributed to the world's fund of knowledge, culture and wealth had their lives prematurely snuffed out.
I'm sure most readers are probably sick to death of reading about the man on this blog, as indeed I am of writing about him, but I couldn't let this perceptive take by Timothy Burke on Derrida's significance and his shortcomings pass by unmentioned. It is a much more generous assessment of Derrida than I would ever be willing to grant - Derrida's attack on the possibility of definitive readings covered well-trodden ground (Kurosawa's film adaptation of Akutagawa's Rashomon contains the germ of this idea, while Popper's fallibilism applies it to all empirical knowledge), and as such strikes me as utterly unoriginal, while his understanding of linguistics was farcical - but it does confront the central fallacy made by the man and his acolytes head-on: that there is no such thing as a final, definitive reading of a text does not logically imply that all readings are equally valid, or even that there are an infinitude of possible readings of it, and in any case, it is contradictory to insist that no take should be "privileged" over any other and then categorically rule out the "common sense" reading as inadmissible, as Derrideans are wont to do.
It wasn't so long ago that I discussed the biased manner in which a certain newspaper was reporting on the delivery of the F-22 Raptor. As it happens, I'm not the only one who's being paying some attention to the underlying economics of the aeroplane manufacturing business, though the coverage in the linked post by Ethiopundit goes into a lot more detail, with material on the competitive relations between airlines on both sides of the Atlantic, links between aircraft manufacturers and governments, and the increasingly international scope of the ties that bind the big plane-makers with their suppliers. An insightful look at a subject that is often cheap fodder for populist demagoguery.
AdamSmithee takes a sceptical look at a report in which rather confusing and outright contradictory statements are made.
(1) While the developed world is quick to put the blame for Africa's slow growth on bad governance and corruption, the problems largely transcend politics. The only way in which Africa would be able to hoist itself out of the poverty trap is to stop playing the blame game and completely cancel debts from the past. But there would have to be a proviso that anything saved would go towards improvement and not be squandered by corruption.
(2) Africa does not require charity, it needs investment so that it can escape its dependence on aid. Africa requires investments of about $3 billion to help solve the problem but donor contribution to the continent is only about one-thirtieth of what is needed.
So, the problem isn't corruption, but for debt forgiveness to work we need to halt corruption. And Africa doesn't need charity, just a 30-fold increase in aid.
Ever wondered what American anti-Japanese war propaganda was like? Here's your chance to see for yourself. I must warn you that you're likely to be disappointed if you're expecting a crude, racist dehumanization of the enemy along the lines of the "Slavic subhuman" agitprop so beloved of the Nazis; on the contrary, American propagandists appeared to have known their stuff rather better than Herr Goebbels and company, as the primary thrust of the movie is to say "Don't let your smug assumptions about the Japanese lull you into complacency." One doesn't dehumanize an enemy by stressing the high level of education of his troops, their valor, their quality, and the willingness of the home population to work long hours and forgo worldly pleasures to secure national victory.
Where facts are concerned, the movie is almost completely accurate: the Japanese were extremely brutal in their treatment of conquered peoples and enemy soldiers, they were concerned about keeping the population growth of the Chinese suppressed, they did endorse the "might makes right" philosophy held by their fellow partners in the Axis, and they did believe that with enough personal sacrifice, the Yamato fighting spirit would win out over the soft, lazy Americans in the end, if necessary by bleeding America white in the struggle for Honshu, Japan's main Island. In fact, so fanatical were many of the leadership that they'd have kept on fighting after both Hiroshima and Nagasaki had been nuked, had Hirohito not personally intervened and said enough was enough.
Something else I'd like to note: although the narrator of the movie is obviously a person of European antecedents dressed up in "yellow-face" (?) to look and sound Japanese, I think it would be a mistake to leap to the conclusion that this was intended to play on white American racism - at least, not on the part of the propagandists. The reality of the matter is that it was hardly any more to be expected that there'd be plenty of Japanese at hand willing to appear in propaganda directed at their own homelands, any more than Americans or Europeans would have jumped at such an opportunity while in Japanese custody, and given the shameful treated meted out to Japanese-Americans during the war, it would hardly have been surprising had none stepped forward to co-operate in the making of a movie like this, on the unlikely assumption that its makers would have had the effrontery to ask.
My final thoughts on all this? Very well-done for its time, and thoroughly in keeping with the idea that the best propaganda is that which happens to tell the truth (even if not the whole truth).
Talk about an October surprise! Just when I was feeling confident that the election was in the bag for Kerry, who should come along to stir things up other than bin Laden himself? In a sane universe, this would be the death blow to Bush's re-election effort - why is Osama still free to run around making videos if Bush has done such a great job of making America safer? - but we don't seem to live in such a universe, and it looks to be one of those strange ironies that Bush's failure to get bin Laden "dead or alive" should now be the very factor that comes to his rescue. Talk about failing upwards.
I don't know quite what to make of Indian plans to tear down the colonial bungalows erected in Delhi by Sir Edwin Lutyens.
Urban developers in the Indian capital Delhi plan to "redevelop" stately bungalows designed by him and construct spacious apartments to accommodate MPs.
Lutyens' Delhi, as it has come to be known, is one of the capital's heritage sites, with its wide tree-lined avenues and sprawling white mansions set far back from the road, surrounded by lush green lawns.
Most of these are occupied by senior government officials, including the prime minister and members of his cabinet as well as MPs and bureaucrats.
But now urban planning officials want to pull them down and put the land to "better use".
Besides being a heritage site, Lutyens' Delhi also features on the list of 100 endangered sites across the world published by the New York-based World Monuments Fund.
On the one hand, I think Indians should be free to dispose of their architectural heritage in any way they see fit, free from interference from outside busybodies; on the other, I can't avoid feeling that this is a great mistake, and a concession to faddishness that later generations might come to regret, just as the Shanghainese are already starting to see the folly of having done so much damage to the old Bund under the banner of "modernization."