Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Third post in 5 days!!!!

I love cryptic crosswords. There is extreme satisfaction is completing a cryptic, especially if the clues are clever. I do The Age cryptic nearly every day but the one I look forward to, sometimes with dread, is the friday puzzle. David Astle composes these teasers and his clues are either very clever or sometimes ridiculous. Last friday appeared the following clue. The brackets indicate two words, 6 letters and 4 letters.

2330 + 3418 = 2880 (6,4).

This had me stumped for more than a day. Being mathematically minded I knew that the sum was wrong, so maybe it involved roman numerals or you typed the numbers into a calculator and see if they spelled an upsidedown word. None of this worked. Sometimes answers come at the strangest moments. I worked it out while jogging around an athletics track. The answer was Broken Hill. Why? 2330 = postcode for Broke in NSW, 3418 = postcode for Nhill in Victoria, put together spell BrokeNhill, 2880 = postcode for Broken Hill. I liked this clue.

Another clue that I like was the following which I saw years ago.
__ (8). Answer: Clueless.

I'll have to add to this when I can remember some more favourites.

I've found the following blog that also talks about the infamous David Astle.
Friday the thirteen

Monday, September 25, 2006

Benjamin Disraeli said it best....

I shouldn't get upset when I see news reports warning that your chances of getting some terrible ailment are increased by 40% if you do this or that. But I do. Why? It's not because I'm scared of getting that particular ailment. In fact, I don't really take that much notice of these reports. Here's why.

Here is an example I put to a few guys at the gym the other day after one of these stories appeared on the news. Give your gut feeling answer to it. Say one out of 1000 people get a pimple naturally. A study has shown that if you drink tea, your chances of getting a pimple increase by 40%. How many people out of 1000 get a pimple now. Remember, give a gut feeling answer to it. All the guys at the gym gave the answer of 400. And guess what, they were all wrong. In fact, only one point four (I'm using words rather than numbers so I don't give the game away) people get a pimple now. Remember, it's a forty percent increase. That means you multiply the number of people who get it by 140/100. In this case, that makes it one point four people.

The point is, it is not just enough to say it's an increase, you also need to the know the number of people who it really affects. 40% sounds scary, but if it really means that 0.14% get it rather that 0.1% does it still sound as scary?

For example, Here is research about the increase in risk of getting cancer if you are on HRT. The headline states there is a 60% increased risk of cancer. In reality, it means an increase from 0.23% of the population having cancer to 0.35% if you are having prolonged HRT use. This is a better indication of the risk and a more realistic number to be basing decisions on.

By the way, here is another question I gave the guys at the gym. In Melbourne, the weather on one day is totally independent of the weather that happens the next day. If there is 50% chance of rain on saturday and a 50% chance of rain on sunday, what is the chance that it will rain on the weekend? Give a gut feeling answer. I'll give the answer later.

Friday, September 22, 2006

The original idea is the domain of the genius

Sidenote: I haven't written here in nearly two months. It's not that I have had nothing to say, it's just that I have been venting verbally. By the time I sit down, the urge to vent has passed. However, I thought I better put something down. So here it is.

It has been said that there are no original ideas. Even when you have a thought you think is original, you pick up a book or read an article written years ago that contains your idea.

A couple of rants ago I expressed the opinion along the lines that most people are stupid and that the more advanced a society becomes the less knowledgible the average population is. Well, this opinion was expressed by Mencken about 75 years ago.

I am reading "H.L. Mencken on religion, edited by S. T. Joshi". Mencken was a newspaper man, essayist and political commentator in the early to mid 20th century. His philosophy and beliefs are:
I believe that religion, generally speaking, has been a curse to mankind - that its modest and greatly overestimated services on the ethical side have been more than overcome by the damage it has done to clear and honest thinking.
I believe that no discovery of fact, however trivial, can be wholly useless to the race, and that no trumpeting of falsehood, however virtuous in intent, can be anything but vicious.
I believe that all government is evil, in that all government must necessarily make war upon liberty...
I believe that the evidence for immortality is no better than the evidence of witches, and deserves no more respect.
I believe in the complete freedom of thought and speech...
I believe in the capacity of man to conquer his world, and to find out what it is made of, and how it is run.
I believe in the reality of progress.
But the whole thing, after all, may be put very simply. I believe that it is better to tell the truth than to lie. I believe that it is better to be free than to be a slave. And I believe that it is better to know than be ignorant.

An interesting set of beliefs that have a lot of merit. I like the one about "no discovery of fact can be wholly useless". That one goes out to those who keep asking what practical use could there be for my research.

Anyway, he formulated my ideas years ago and wrote about them in a far better way. In fact, as I am reading this book, it is quite scary to find how close I am to his way of thinking. But it's early days and I'm not even through the first chapter. I may have to read other works by him.

I'll leave you with a few quotes from him:
For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.

Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people.

Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard.

Giving every man a vote has no more made men wise and free than Christianity has made them good.

Every decent man is ashamed of the government he lives under.