UPDATE: Apparently CNN has decided to invite Gravel to the June 3 debate after all. Congrats to the blogosphere for bringing this about.

UPDATE II: A much more sympathetic interviewer and a more even-toned performance from Gravel:

Also, one piece of trivia, it’s pronounced “GraVEL” since he is of French-Canadian ancestry.

Rumsfeld Bio

April 25, 2007

Rumsfeld and Saddam, 1983 Rumsfeld book jacket

Two-part interview of Andrew Cockburn (pronounced “Coburn”), author of new Rumsfeld bio, here and here.

Listening to this, I have to wonder what is the difference between people like the VA Tech shooter and the types who have been ruling us for the past 6 years? One is a psychopath and the other a sociopath, I guess–if you like throwing around that sort of terminology.

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Virginia Tech Massacre No Basic Commonsense
News Boycott blog chastising news media organizations for repeatedly airing Cho Seung-hui’s photos and videos

There is an associated petition:


If you are agreement with it, sign and promote!

UPDATED: Link to opinion of an expert on the copycat effect.  The post from the 19th of April is the most relevant.

UPDATED 2: Video created by the people at Newsboycott.

Politicizing it: UPDATED

April 18, 2007

Prof. Liviu Librescu

The actions and standards of behavior of the man pictured above–most assuredly not those of the homocidal maniac–typify my experiences with the people of Virginia Tech.

That’s all I can say about this subject that has absolutely no political import, so read no further unless you want to see a tragedy ‘politicized’.

UPDATE: Discussion of NBC News’ idiot decisionmaking at Nanothoughts.  Stay tuned for more on this.
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I think I’ve finally figured out how to get students to sit up and pay attention during those dull sections on sequences and series. Write up on the board this proof that


“Mad Scientist” by Mindstate Actually, it would just give students the excuse they’ve always been looking for to send me to the loony bin.

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Two great public addresses by P. Lang and JH Kunstler laying out the basics of their respective messages:

Lecture at the Miller Center by Lang.

Commonwealth Club of CA lecture by Kunstler.

Each link is to an .mp3 that can be streamed or, by right clicking and choosing “save link as…” downloaded to your system.

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P-adic Laplacian

April 8, 2007

Question: what is the analogue of the Laplacian for \mathbf{Q}_p?

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This is the film that I now want to project onto the sides of buildings in public squares.

I wouldn’t have expected to find out that the BBC showed a three-hour documentary on the telly that covered many of the topics I’ve been thinking about and kicking around in discussion with friends for the past 10 years, but there you have it.* In addition to the philosophy, game theory, economics, politics, it was most interesting to me the way they interwove psychiatry and surveys in the first two episodes (I’m still working on the third episode). The Ladd-Lipset Survey of the American Professorate and how that came about in the late 70s, although it was not mentioned in the documentary, would have also fit into this context. Mathematical measurement of dubious value was a lietmotif of those times.

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Fuchsiana redux

March 23, 2007

Here’s another little puzzle about Fuchsian groups. [A collaborator came up with it and we’d like to use it to simplify a proof in a paper, but I think it’s a question that may have totally independent interest.] Is any Fuchsian group \Gamma_1 of the first kind with at least one cusp contained as a subgroup of finite index in another Fuchsian group \Gamma such that \Gamma has exactly one cusp?

If one is more comfortable with this terminlogy, “Fuchsian group of the first kind with at least one cusp” equals “nonuniform lattice in \mathrm{PSL}(2,\mathbf{R})''.

For example, obviously if \Gamma_1 is a congruence subgroup of any sort, then obvserving that \Gamma_1\leq\mathrm{PSL}(2,\mathbf{Z}) suffices. This gives me the feeling if there’s a counter-example to be found, it would be among non-arithmetic lattices, but I’ve never had any sort of handle on those.

Apparently, to allow mathematicians to be the center of occasional media feeding frenzies.

Yesterday, infinite dimensional representation theory of real Lie groups was one of the more pleasant, though difficult, backwaters of mathematics.  Today I hear a Congressman (McNerney) is going to make a speech about it on the House floor.   I guess now representation theory is going to become so hot that every book about it will get stolen from the libraries, cost $200+ to buy in the bookstore, and, what’s more, every brilliant young Harvard/Princeton grad student will run into the field and scoop my problems.
You can’t win.

[Quotation in the title is attributed to Harish-Chandra.]