I wonder if some of the people arguing that the lockdowns to reduce spread of coronavirus should be lifted are being mislead by an instinct that's generally sensible but doesn't apply here, for interesting reasons. To a spherical-cow level of approximation, we have two problems – people dying of coronavirus, and people losing their livelihoods … Continue reading Algorithmic optimisation and opposition to social distancing measures.

# Maths investigations for children at home 4: modular arithmetic

“x mod y” is mathematician-speak for “the remainder you're left with when you try to divide x by y” - that is, to work it out you take away as many copies of y from x as you can. Eventually you'll be left with a number smaller than y, and that's x mod y. That's … Continue reading Maths investigations for children at home 4: modular arithmetic

# Maths investigations for children at home 3: unsolved problems

One of the "nice" things about number theory is that it gives rise to some problems that are extremely easy to state and understand, but very hard to prove. Your children won't be able to prove any of these, but they might have fun looking for counter-examples, and they might think it's fun to work … Continue reading Maths investigations for children at home 3: unsolved problems

# Maths investigations for children at home 2: Fibonacci numbers

The Fibbonaci sequence starts 0,1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21...; each term is the sum of the two preceding terms. Using Excel (or another tool if you prefer, but I think Excel will be good for this) work first 40 terms of the sequence (you can do this by entering a formula that says "this cell is the sum of … Continue reading Maths investigations for children at home 2: Fibonacci numbers

# Maths investigations for children at home 1: Prime factorisation

Write out a list of all the numbers from 1 to, say, 100 (it may help to put them in a rectangle; depending on the width of the rectangle you may see pretty patterns. Cross out all the multiples of 2, then all the multiples of 3; 4 is crossed out already (by 2) so … Continue reading Maths investigations for children at home 1: Prime factorisation

# Is the BBC politically neutral?

I think it's pretty clear that over the next few years the government is going to be putting pressure on the BBC to shift it's overall editorial standpoint a bit to the right. This is obviously going to create controversy - are they trying to force a neutral organisation to be come right-biased, or a … Continue reading Is the BBC politically neutral?

# Two models of school voucher system.

School vouchers are an idea that has very limited popularity outside the American right. I think there are two ways you could implement a voucher education system, of which I think one would be a terrible idea but the other might well not be. Model 1: The government says "if you like, rather than giving … Continue reading Two models of school voucher system.

# Thoughts on the last election

LET us admit it fairly, as a business people should, We have had no end of a lesson: it will do us no end of good. Not on a single issue, or in one direction or twain, But conclusively, comprehensively, and several times and again, Were all our most holy illusions knocked higher than Gilderoy’s … Continue reading Thoughts on the last election

# I am a Blairite

Absolute poverty rate Hospital waiting times Crime rate School spending per pupil. Unemployment rate Median wage and disposable income Good Friday Agreement Repeal of section 28 Civil partnerships act against Invasion of Iraq PFI Arguably excessive borrowing?

# The moral consquences of believing your prayers may be answered

The combination of beliefs in the power of petitionary prayer - by which I mean the idea that God will sometimes answer requests to intervene by working miracles when he would not have done so had the prayer not been made - and the use of the word "good" to describe God is one that … Continue reading The moral consquences of believing your prayers may be answered