Monthly Archives: November 2011

Mamoun’s dream

Caliph Mamoun

Caliph Mamoun dreamed that Aristotle came to him and told him that faith and reason are compatible — with important consequences for the history of mathematics. In Europe four centuries later, Thomas Aquinas invoked Aristotle when he used reason to support faith. Where are we today? Are faith and reason in conflict, or do they work together?

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The looting goes on

Iraqi police seize stolen artifacts on way to be smuggled abroad
By Shaymaa
Azzaman, November 16, 2011

Iraqi police in the southern Province of Najaf have seized 40 artifacts belonging to different Mesopotamian periods, an Antiquities Department official said.

Abdulzahra al-Talaqani, the department’s spokesperson said, the stolen pieces were on their way to be smuggled out of the country.

Talaqani claimed the recent months have seen a surge in police activities in protecting Mesopotamian ruins.

Iraqi antiquities, like almost everything else in Iraq, have been the main victims of the 2003-U.S. invasion in whose immediate aftermath the Iraq Museum and several other provincial museums were looted.

Smugglers and illegal diggers invaded ancient sites and tens of thousands of artifacts are believed to have either been stolen or illegally dug up and sold.

Talaqani said smugglers and illegal diggers face harsh penalties if caught.

“Trading with stolen or smuggled ancient finds is punishable by at least 15 years in prison,” he said. “Using force to attack ancient sites and museums could lead to execution.”

At least one person was taken into custody pending trial when Najaf police stormed a house where the stolen pieces were kept, Talaqani said.

He did not comment on the archaeological significance of the artifacts.\2011-11-16\kurd.htm

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Personality test

Do you think visually/spatially or analytically? When you’re thinking about math problems, do you see a picture? Is your mathematical universe founded more on geometry or on arithmetic/algebra/algorithms? Test case: are Al-Khwarizmi’s geometrical demonstrations enlightening or confusing to you? Studies show different people excelling in different kinds of reasoning. There are even gender differences, complicating the question “Where are the women?”

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Discovered or invented?

When a new mathematical advance is made — Eudoxus’s theory of proportions, say, or Cardano’s formula for cubic equations — is it discovered or invented? Was it already out there, maybe among Plato’s ideal forms? Or would the mathematics of a civilization in another galaxy be quite different? (See also “Draw a Triangle”)

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Volcano threatens Virunga Park

A volcanic eruption is threatening the Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the original home of the Ishango Bone:

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What are mathematicians for?

The servant of a powerful ruler (Archimedes, Al-Khwarizmi). The bureaucrat (the scribe who wrote Plimpton 322). The academic (Euclid). The merchant’s son (Fibonacci).

What is the key role in society of the modern mathematician? Silicon Valley techno-wizard? Wall Street quant? College gatekeeper?

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