Monday, 24 August 2009

This is an excellent sentence (fragment)

so the fourth Ackermann number is quite large.

From the wikipedia article on the Ackerman function. You really have to have a special interpretation of 'quite' for this sentence to be true.

Monday, 17 August 2009

I used to think Steven Colbert was a parody..

This is possibly the scariest/funniest thing I've ever seen. This guy seems to be genuinely claiming that universal healthcare leads directly to terrorism. I thought that "evil and Orwellian" were going pretty far, but this is insane.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

This literally doesn't seem to add up

How tall is Nelson's column? Apparently until recently, no-one knew the answer to this question.

I realise this is hardly news, as it happened about three years ago, but it's one of the most confusing things I've ever read, I genuinely have no idea how it could be true. Apparently, before someone got up there and measured it, we'd all been massively overestimating

To quote the story:

As part of the most thorough cleaning and restoration of the world-famous monument in its 163-year history, a laser survey was carried out to establish exactly how tall it was.

And the discovery which will render countless school textbooks out of date was that it measures 169ft from street level to the top of Nelson's hat - compared to an official height of 185ft.

I'm supposed to believe that the 'official height' was out by about 16 feet? That's 10% of the actual height. I could make an estimate that's within 10% of the actual height just by holding my finger up against it and squinting. Had no-one tried measuring the thing's shadow? Or dropping something off the top to see how long it took? Or counting how many of those ring-like things there are round the outside? Or giving a barometer to the janitor?

I genuinely find this utterly implausible, but no-one in any of the newspaper stories I can find from the time seems to have questioned it. Lazy reporting? Or am I over-estimating the numeracy of the nation?

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Shops cut prices

I'm not really sure if this qualifies as an inane newspaper article, but it was by far the most interesting thing on the Sun's news page today:

A NEW price war was hotting up last night after Britain's biggest pharmacy chain slashed the cost of a bottle of suncream to £1.

I can't really figure out why this is supposed to be news. Presumably it's some sort of 'credit crunch' story, but it seems more like good old-fashioned competition to me. I was surprised that Lloyd's is Britain's biggest pharmacy (do Boot's only operate in big cities?) but I don't have much more to say.

Even The Sun can get some things right

There is new legislation in the offing regarding the regulation of complementary medicine. This is a bit like having legislation regarding the practice of sorcery: it just doesn't make any sense, and tends to encourage the view that 'alternative' medicine has some legitimacy.

Professor Ernst (whose book I still haven't gotten round to reading) is quoted in the Sun as saying:
If you regulate nonsense, it is still nonsense.
When even the Sun's columnists can make more sense on a topic than the government ministers in charge of it, I think it's time to be worried.