Saturday, July 30, 2005

Alternate Mathematical Reality

The following quotation is taken from "Arab Civilization and Its Impact on the West" by Dr. Abdullah Mohammed Sindi. The complete document can be found at Arab Alternate Reality along with various links to rabid antisemitic literature including The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Dr. Sindi also thoughtfully offers a large gallery of antisemitic caricatures that would have warmed Adolph Hitler's heart and found a welcome place on a bulletin board in the SS barracks at Auschwitz.
"The Arabs and Muslims contributed more to the field of mathematics, the basic foundation of modern civilization, than any other people in history. To the magnificent Arab civilization the world owes algebra, algorithm (logarithm), arithmetic, calculus, geometry, trigonometry, the decimal system, and the brilliant "zero". The revolutionary "zero", which gave us what is referred to in the West as the Arabic decimal numeration system, did not originate in India as some Western historians claim but was rather developed in ancient Iraq by the Neo-Babylonians maybe as early as 500 BCE. [21] American mathematics Professor Karl J. Smith indicated in his textbook, The Nature of Mathematics, that while the ancient Indians developed mathematical digital symbols, their numeration system offered no advantage over other earlier systems because it did not contain a "zero" or use a positional system. [22] Although the Arabs’ Semitic ancestors in ancient Iraq developed the “zero”, it was only through the great post-Islamic Arab civilization that it was incorporated into the main body of the general mathematical theory. It took Europe almost 300 years to finally accept the "zero" as a gift from the Arabs. The Arabic numerals were simultaneously expressed in somewhat two different figures or forms, one Abbasid (the eastern style which most Arabs currently use) and one Andalusian (the western style which is used today in the Arab Maghrib countries of Northwest Africa). It was this Arab Andalusian form of numerals (i.e., 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9) that the West and the rest of the world eagerly adopted; hence the worldwide label "Arabic numerals"
None of the above is true. So-called Arabic numerals, including zero, were invented around 400 A.D. in India. Arab mathematicians first became aware of this system of notation about 377 years later. The Arab mathematicians who made use of them properly referred to them as Indian numerals (أرقام هندية, arqam hindiyyah). Until the modern era it was only Arab mathematicians who used this system. Arabs involved in commerce used a method very similar to the Greek and Hebrew systems. It entailed the use of letters of the alphabet. The first set of nine letters corresponded to the numbers 1-9, the second to 10-90 and the third to 100-900. It had no symbol for zero nor did it allow decimal fractions. Arab astronomers used a base 60 Babylonian scheme that did allow for fractions and a zero.

The Italian mathematician Leonardo Pisano also known as Fibonacci made the formal case for general adoption of the Indian system in a book published in 1202. However, the system did not come into general use in the Western world until the invention of the printing press 250 years later. The Arab world followed suit centuries later. The complete truth of the matter can be found in the pertinent Wikepedia entry.

Dr. Sindi claims to have taught at a number of California colleges and universities. It is regrettable that young and impressionable American students were exposed to this bigoted, ignorant, delusional creature in the guise of an instructor.

Learning Political Economy by Example

We now know that the former Soviet Empire was an economic and environmental catastrophe. We know that Cuba is poorer today than it was before the revolution. We know that people die by the millions of starvation in North Korea. We can see what a difference capitalism made in the People's Republic of China. We should know that Socialism is a recipe for poverty. Nevertheless, countless Communists, Socialists and anticapitalists in this country and others remain intent on imposing a discredited, failed economic model on their fellow citizens.

Capitalism, however, comes in a large number of flavors and to make capitalism successful you have to do it right. Some countries do it poorly. Others do it amazingly well while others sometimes change their ways for better or worse. I find two examples particularly instructive: Sweden and Ireland. Sweden has over the last generation gone from being the fourth richest nation in the OECD to the seventeenth richest. Meanwhile Ireland has gone from being one of the poorest and most hopeless countries in Europe to the second richest -- tiny Luxembourg is in first place at present.

It should be obvious that Sweden, richer than Ireland in natural resources, blew it big time. Where did it go wrong? What seems to be a sound analysis can be found here: Swede and Sour.

It should also be obvious that Ireland suddenly started doing things right. What was the Celtic Tiger's primary secret of success? Find out here: Celtic Tiger.

Several of the former eastern European satellites of the Soviet Union in search of a role model for economic success appear to have settled on Ireland. An overview of some of what they are doing can be found here: A Flattening Solution. Bulgaria is joining the party and tiny Estonia is growing its economy so rapidly that some are beginning to call it the "Baltic Tiger".

The varying European government economic policies and programs and their track records of success and failure can be instructive to the American voter. The Communist minority in the Democrat party favors the failed Soviet model. A much larger group of democratic Socialists (A.K.A. Progressives) who roost in the Democrat party favors the failed Swedish model. Republicans in the main favor the successful Irish model. Please choose wisely.

Friday, July 29, 2005

When Geopolitics Isn't

The terms "geopolitics", like the word "issue", is being misused by people who haven't the slightest idea of what it means. This is particularly true of the "No Blood for Oil!" crowd who probably know very little about blood and nothing at all about how the international oil market functions and the ways in which the U.S. government attempts to insure uninterrupted supplies of oil at affordable prices.

Wikepedia provides a very thorough discussion of the origin and meaning of the term "geopolitics". It can be found here: Geopolitics defined. For the last 100 years the word has had a very specific and generally accepted meaning. Nevertheless, there are those who yearn for an impressive way of talking about energy security policy and have hijacked the word and put it to a different use.

A very good example is an excellent article describing American energy security policy. While it is incorrectly entitled "The New Geopolitics of Oil" it does give an overview of how our government tries to insure that we have an uninterrupted supply of oil at affordable prices. You can find it here: Petropolitics. Two elements of energy security policy it fails to address are pipeline and sea lane security.

When Saddam Hussein was ruling the roost the U.S. got about 3% of its imported oil from Iraq. This is petro chump change. If Hussein had found some way to insure that Iraqi oil didn't get to our refiners alternate suppliers would have made up the difference. In short, Iraq has never been a threat to our energy security nor is it likely to ever be an asset. It will, like any other oil producing nation, sell its oil to the highest bidder via a free market distribution system over which the U.S. has absolutely no control. In the end, "No Blood for Oil" leftists can do little more than darkly refer to "geopolitics" although they have no idea of what that word may mean.

Finally, the accepted primary definition of the noun "issue" has for the last 200 years been a dispute between two or more parties. An acknowledged software bug is not an issue. A concern, reservation, suspicion, problem, defective product or unsatisfactory service is not an issue unless it entails a dispute between two or more parties. Diarrhea is not a gastrointestinal issue. You don't have issues about anything. If you are not involved in a dispute with one or more other parties your life is issue free. Please, never use that word again.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Environmental Cognitive Dissonance

Knowing something about nonlinear dynamical systems I immediately smelled a rat when the MSM began to retail various computerized global circulation models as reliable predictors of the Earth's temperature a century from now. It was clear to me that climatologists didn't know enough about key factors influencing climate to create trustworthy models and a century's worth of linear economic extrapolations were based on the assumption that there would be no significant innovations in energy production technology for the next 100 years. In order to predict the Earth's average temperature 50 years from now it is also necessary to predict the state of technology and characterize the global economy 50 years down the line. The foolishness of it all amazed me. How could anyone take any of this seriously?

Nonetheless, I dispassionately examined the science involved in the first and subsequent IPCC reports along with various doomsday predictions from environmentalist groups. The opinion I ultimately formed wasn't based on press releases but from a thoughtful scrutiny of peer-reviewed studies published in reputable scientific publications. I was helped by the fact that I have in the past been a published scientist and know a great deal about statistics and scientific method. In the end I concluded that the argument for significant anthropogenic sources of warming is weak, the climate is probably getting warmer in unexpected ways and that there was little we can do about it except to gradually adapt to changing circumstances.

Furthermore, it is entirely unclear to me whether further warming is bad or good. CO2 is plant food and necessary for almost all surface life on Earth. What concentrations are too little, too much or just right? There is an average surface temperature that promotes the greatest abundance and diversity of life on this planet. What is it? If you were made God for a day and given two knobs to tweak: CO2 as a percentage of the atmosphere and average surface temperature how would you adjust them in order to maximize plant and animal life on this planet? You don't have a clue, do you? No one else has one either. We are not alone.

Knee-jerk environmentalists who can't accept anything other than incipient ecological Armaggedon are immune to reason. Those who actually want to build a more realistic and dispassionate model of the state of climate prediction efforts are well advised to check out the following links:

  • The University of Calgary has produced a twenty minute or so video overview of some current scientific objections to claims that global warming is in large or significant measure anthropogenic. See it here Video.
  • The test of any mathematical model is predictive validity. Would you buy and sell stock based on a computer program that had in the past selected 3 winners, 27 losers and 1 stock that didn't move in either direction? I think not. Would you bet our economy on a global circulation model that did as poorly? You will find a summary of the accuracy of GCM predictions here: Scorecard.
  • Can you tell the difference between politicized junk science and objective sound science? The Junk Man will help you sort it out at Junk Science.
An enormous amount of grant money has funded a great deal of research since the initial IPCC report and Kyoto fiasco. Scientists have made enormous strides in reconstructing global mean temperatures and atmospheric CO2 concentrations over very long time spans. Their findings are incompatible with the notion that atmospheric CO2 concentration is the principle factor determining global mean temperature. As one would expect in a relatively immature area of scientific inquiry into a very complex phenomenon, the more we learn the less we know. That is as it should be. It also wise to refrain from betting the farm until we have a better understanding of how things really work.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

A Gadfly on the Rump of Academia


Conservatives, in spite of the blackout by the MSM, are well aware of the fact that liberal arts departments in most American institutions of higher learning have become political lunatic asylums run by the patients. However, there is only one ongoing story of the epidemic of ideological madness that I have been able to find. It can be found in a series of articles by Dr. Michael Adams who takes evident pleasure in being a conservative thorn in the side of his radical peers.

While Adams appears to have nothing particularly original or insightful to offer in terms of analysis the story of his various political travails and successes in overcoming them can be entertaining. It also pleases me that there is at least one conservative in academia who will neither bend nor bow and is more than willing to bite back. You can find his online publications here: Mike Adams

Ernie Pyle Reborn?



What is it really like to fight insurgents in Iraq? While this question is of no interest to the MSM and will surely be misrepresented by "Over There" it certainly interests me. I have checked out various BLOGs published by armed forces personnel in Iraq but they typically reflect the experiences of an odd assortment of contributers who usually aren't engaged in regular combat and aren't in leadership positions. Nor is there much to be learned from the U.S. Central Command's bland and sanitized stories published at centcom.gov. Fortunately, there does appear to be a modern equivalent of WWII's Ernie Pyle who goes where the action is and risks life and limb to tell it like it is. His name is Michael Yon.

Michael Yon once served in the U.S. Army Special Forces. He can talk the talk and walk the walk. His BLOG is a must read for those who want to know what it is like to be on the bitter end of an incredibly brutal and heartless struggle. Check him out at michaelyon.blogspot.com.

Gun Totting Lesbian Libertarian


Until today the little I knew about Tammy Bruce was gleaned from a brief account in the MSM published some time ago. The article made much of her defense of our right to keep and bear arms, her former status as a leader of a NOW chapter and her view that NOW's policies and politics had become lunatic fringe. I immediately imagined a beady-eyed bull dyke with a crewcut living in a double-wide with two pit bulls. I could not have been further from the truth.

Although Ms. Bruce doesn't operate a proper BLOG a visit to her web site can be mildly rewarding for those who share her very sound values. Check it out at www.tammybruce.com.