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Ramanujan's Challenge

·6 mins
A bust of Srinivasa Ramanujan in Kolkata. Asking for Signs # A fallen-away Catholic friend once told me that he wished the Bible predicted modern science. “If Jesus said, ‘Oh, by the way, matter is made up of atoms,’ then I would also believe him when he says he’s God,” he said. I don’t think we should expect Jesus to have said things like that. First, it wouldn’t have helped anyone in the centuries before it could be verified.

Grocery Prices

·1 min
Australians buying tea just before the price increases. Grocery prices are up, and my wife took the opportunity to do some comparison shopping. We currently shop at Aldi, of course, so her research question was, Is it worth it to buy Sam’s and/or Costco memberships and shop for certain items there? She concluded that it is for us. Here’s her spreadsheet. Enter your monthly quantities on the “Item Analysis” tab and it’ll show how much you could save at each bulk seller.

Math and Science Links Jan 2022

·3 mins
The game I knew in childhood as Sheep in Pens. I’ve got one math link and one meta-science link this month. Math: I’m excited about Ben Orlin’s forthcoming book of math games. Ben loves math and puns. He’s witty and perceptive. His post on being stuck is something I’ve included in work trainings to explain how data analysts should think. Science: Then there’s Bruce Charlton’s longform essay Not Even Trying: The Corruption of Real Science.

Jesse Tree

·6 mins
Tree of Jesse by Absolon Stumme. There’s a tradition in many Catholic families to make a Jesse tree in Advent. This means doing a reading from the Old Testament each day, and pinning a leaf with an associated symbol on it to a cloth tree on the wall. The name comes from Isaiah 11:1: There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.

Careers, Ambition, and Humility

·7 mins
Dear Sebastian, I read your open letter on your economics curriculum. I happen to be thinking a lot about career advice at the moment, so the advice you include from 80000hours was interesting to me. I love the idea of including career advice in an economics class, and situating it right when the curriculum has caused that sort of angst in your students is perceptive. But I have mixed feelings about what I found at 80000hours, and it provides a useful framework for talking about the thoughts I already had brewing.

Math and Science Links Dec 2021

·2 mins
An interference pattern from a laser in a double slit experiment. As one of my college classmates said, when I entered college, I thought I knew 10% of all the math in the world. Four years and 17 classes later, I thought I knew 1% of all the math in the world. Then I went to grad school, and now I only think I know 0.1%. The more you climb, the better you can see all the mountains you haven’t visited yet.

Links on Family

·3 mins
Portrait of a Family by Cornelis de Vos. A lot of the links I’ve saved in the past six months concern the broader topic of families. Here’s a top ten from May to this week: Noah Millman comments on parenthood and fertility rates. Amazing insight into, and compassion for, the way our culture fears the future. It’s also the best treatment I’ve seen of the climate change fear.


·1 min
A reflight of a SpaceX Falcon 9. Welcome back, readers! It’s been six months since the last post, and for the past three months the site has been down. I wasn’t happy with Wordpress, so I rebuilt the site in Hugo (thanks Gavin for introducing me!). And thanks to Shannon I now have a great logo too. All five (count ‘em) previous posts are back up, and you can expect more shortly.

The Drug Age I: Romantic Materialism

·4 mins
A web of neurons. [This is part 1 of a 6-8 part series. I’ll link the other parts here as they’re posted.] We sit in oversized green chairs in the nook at the north end of the first floor of the philosophy building. I have math classes and girls on my mind, and as usual, the conversation hovers just above the upper border of my head. This is Philosophy Club, and J has just declared himself a miriological nihilist.

Hopkins and Tenderness

·2 mins
A Windhover. I recently joined Leah Libresco Sargeant’s Tiny Book Club Substack after several months of lurking. Last month’s topic was the 19th century British Jesuit and poet Gerard Manley Hopkins, so let’s bring that conversation here too. Poetry is my preferred art form. There are at least a dozen poems that bring me to tears every time I read them. I love the language, I love the sound, I love the ideas, and I love the challenge of memorizing them.