Sunday, March 26, 2006

Warning: the following will not be comrehensible unless you have watched the second season of Battlestar Galactica.

Looking at the reactions of various people to the finale of Galactica's season 2, I gather that almost everyone seems to have loved it. On the other hand, I had a problem with the way the end of the second season worked out. It felt like the show broke many of its own rules, changing and re-inventing characters as it went along.

I could not belive that:

- Adama, who went apeshit when Roslin encroached on his "military authority" by telling his pilot to do what she wanted, is completely complacent when Baltar dooms humanity by ordering him to "set a course for New Caprica." Whatever happened to his insistence that he alone gets to make military decisions?

- Number 6, who smugly told Baltar that in a few hours there won't be anyone left to put him on trial for treason, suddenly wakes up confessing his love for her.

- Caprica-sharon, who was so helpful in the first part of the final episode, decides she doesn't care about Galactica in the second.

And then theres Baltar. His decision to give a nuclear weapon to terrorists - right after declaring that "I am not the man you think I am" - is completely incomprehensible given what we know about Baltar at that stage. The early part of the show presents Baltar as a basically good man - manipulated by number 6, paranoid, especially about being found out for causing humanity's destruction, but basically good. Each time Baltar does something "bad," it can be attributed to 6's manipulation of him - until this. When Baltar gives the cylon a nuclear weapon - ostensibly so that she will agree to sleep with him - the show breaks its continuity with Baltar's character.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Its really quite amazing how many idiotic journalists are out there. Tim Lambert mentions this article:

...the overall number of Iraqi civilians and soldiers killed since the U.S.-led invasion in spring 2003 remains murky. Bloodshed has worsened each year, pushing the Iraqi death toll into the tens of thousands. But no one knows the exact toll.
And why don't we know how many Iraqis have died? Because we're extapolating from small samples!

In late 2004, a study published in the Lancet medical journal estimated the war had caused some 98,000 civilian deaths. But the British government and others were skeptical of that finding, which was based on extrapolations from a small sample.
You have to wonder what the world is coming to when one of the nation's top newspapers carries a piece evaluating statistical estimates by someone who obviously does not know that all of statistics is extrapolation from small random samples.

And, by the way, no the Lancet study did not say the war has caused 98,000 civilian deaths. That's just one more mistake from an obviously incompetent reporter.

Monday, March 20, 2006

This is pretty funny.

Monday, March 06, 2006

So I've just found out that sexual contacts in human beings tend to follow power laws. Apparently, this has been known since the first result measuring the network of sexual contacts appeared in 2001.

It seems to me that the implications of this finding for questions of sexual education in schools are huge.

Basically, what the research says is that a small percentage of individuals have an extremely large number of sexual partners, thus resulting in a small world phenomenon: the distance between any two people (i.e. the number of sexual partners one must go through to reach one person starting from the other) is not too large because one can always go through some of these highly connected hubs.

If you don't understand this, then think of blogs - the number of sexual partners behaves like blog traffic, with a small number of users with extremely high traffic (Instapundit, Daily Kos, etc).

If this is so, then its clear that teaching sexual abstinence in school is going to have very little effect in preventing hiv. Indeed, even assuming that teaching abstinence is actually effective - still, convincing people with a relatively small number of sexual partners to avoid sex altogether will have little effect as the connectivity of the network follows from the hubs of people with extremely high sexual activity. The only way to effectively stop the transmission of hiv would be at those hubs.

Now ask yourself what is more likely to appeal to someone who has a huge number of irregular sexual partners: an appeal to give up sex altogether or an appeal to properly use condoms?

Sunday, March 05, 2006

From UNC Students to Protest Campus Attack, ABC News,

Mohammed Reza Taheri-azar, 22, is charged with nine counts of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to cause bodily injury. Police say he drove an SUV through a crowd of students...

Derek Poarch, chief of the university's police department, confirmed Saturday that Taheri-azar, a native of Iran, told investigators he wanted to "avenge the deaths or murders of Muslims around the world."

Taheri-azar graduated from North Carolina in December after studying psychology and philosophy.