15 June 2015

LUEE Episode 97: Labels

In this episode of Life, the Universe & Everything Else, Ashlyn is joined by Laura, Ian, Lauren, and Gem to discuss some of the advantages and shortcomings of using labels to describe ourselves.

Life, the Universe & Everything Else is a program promoting secular humanism and scientific skepticism that is produced by the Winnipeg Skeptics.

Links: The Power Of Categories: Invisibilia (NPR) | Ban Bossy. Encourage Girls to Lead | Let's ban 'bossy' – and not just because Sheryl Sandberg and Beyoncé said so (The Guardian) | 'Ban Bossy' Campaign Misses the Mark Concerning Girls' and Women's Leadership Skills (Huffington Post) | Atheism (Wikipedia) | Agnosticism (Wikipedia) | Profiles of the Godless: Results from a Survey of the Nonreligious (Center for Inquiry) | Diagnostic attributions versus labeling: impact of Alzheimer's disease and major depression diagnoses on emotions, beliefs, and helping intentions of family members (ResearchGate) | 5 Ups and Downs of Special Education Labels (Education.com) | The Fallaway Slam Podcast (The only podcast that matters!)

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Note: If you're in Winnipeg for the Fringe Festival and are interested in coming out to see Of Blood and Ashes, written by Ian James and Adam Johnstone and featuring Gem Newman, we're at Venue #3 (The Playhouse Studio) at 180 Market Avenue. Here are the showtimes:

  • Thursday, 16 July 2015, 9:00 pm
  • Saturday, 18 July 2015, 5:15 pm
  • Sunday, 19 July 2015, 7:00 pm
  • Tuesday, 21 July 2015, 12:00 pm
  • Wednesday, 22 July 2015, 5:15 pm
  • Thursday, 23 July 2015, 10:30 pm
  • Saturday, 25 July 2015, 3:30 pm

27 March 2015

Pi Day Trivia

On 14 March 2015 the Winnipeg Skeptics held a Pi Day celebration, which featured games, trivia, and lots and lots of pie.

Since not everyone could make it out and people seem to like this sort of thing, here's some pi- (and pie-) related trivia!

Question One
In the Star Trek episode "Wolf in the Fold", the Enterprise’s computer (spoiler alert) becomes possessed by the spirit of Jack the Ripper. (God, Star Trek was dumb sometimes...) How does Spock foil the evil computer? (Answer)

Question Two
The digits of pi go on forever in a seemingly random sequence, meaning that it falls into which class of numbers? (Answer)

Question Three
Who said, "If you wish to make an Apple Pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe"? (Answer)

Question Four
While pi is popular, a minority of mathematicians argue that a constant equal to 2π would make for a better circle constant, for a host of (I think very convincing) reasons. What do they call their "2π" constant? (Answer)

Question Five
How long has the Greek letter "π" been used to represent the circle constant? (Answer)

Question Six
This successful World War II operation, which involved persuading the Germans that the Allies planned to invade Greece by planting fake war plans on a corpse in Spain, was named after a suet pie. (Answer)

Question Seven
Pi Day (14 March) is also the birthday of which famous physicist? (Answer)

Question Eight
According to a band member, a vision involving a man atop a flaming pie influenced a famous band’s name. Which band? (Answer)

Question Nine
Some of the earliest attempts to understand pi involved trying to do something that has now become a euphemism for a hopeless or impossible task. What is it? (Answer)

Question Ten
In 2005 the world record for memorizing the digits of pi was claimed by Chao Lu, a Chinese engineering student. How long did he spend reciting pi? (Answer)

I was going to have some questions about radians, but I couldn't figure out how to formulate them in a way that was remotely entertaining. So... there aren’t any. You're welcome.

Answer One
He instructs it to compute pi right down to the last digit, a task that it can never complete.

Answer Two
Irrational numbers

Answer Three
Carl Sagan

Answer Four
Tau. Pi is defined as the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter; but it’s often written as the ratio of a circles circumference to double its radius (remember C = 2πr?). Tau is the ratio of a circle’s radius (rather than circumference) to its diameter, and it simplifies many common mathematical formulae.

Answer Five
About 300 years. It was William Jones who chose the Greek letter "π" to represent the circle constant in 1706. This choice was later popularized by Euler. Before the symbol's introduction, mathematics was a lot wordier, involving things like, "let x be the quantity which, when the diameter is multiplied by it, yields the circumference".

Answer Six
Operation Mincemeat, which was a British disinformation plan that persuaded Germany that they had accidentally intercepted "top secret" Allied documents. These plans were attached to a corpse deliberately left to wash up on a beach in Punta Umbría in Spain, and served to cover the actual Allied invasion of Italy from North Africa.

Mincemeat itself is a mixture of chopped dried fruit, distilled spirits and spices, and sometimes beef or suet. Originally, mincemeat always contained meat, but this is no longer the rule.

Answer Seven
Albert Einstein

Answer Eight
The Beatles. In a 1961 interview with Mersey Beat, John Lennon told the following story: "It came in a vision – a man appeared on a flaming pie and said unto them, 'From this day on you are Beatles with an A.' And so we were."

Answer Nine
Squaring the circle. That is to say: constructing a square with the same area as a given circle using only a compass and straightedge.

Answer Ten
24 hours (and 4 minutes). So if you spent Pi Day eating pie, or doing anything at all other than reciting numbers, be grateful. In 2005, Chao Lu recited 67,890 digits of pi correctly, claiming the previous record from Hiroyuki Goto of Japan. Goto’s record was 42,195 digits. How useful is this? Well, for comparison, you could compute the circumference of a circle around the known universe with an error no greater than the radius of a hydrogen atom using only 39 decimal places.

16 March 2015

LUEE Episode 94: Free Will

In this episode of Life, the Universe & Everything Else, Gem is joined by Donna, Ashlyn, and Ian to talk about free will, determinism, and what it means to make a choice. Also on this episode, Donna sits down with August Berkshire of Minnesota Atheists to discuss the moral implications of a world without free will. We went a little long, but don't blame us: determinism exempts us from all ethical responsibility!

Life, the Universe & Everything Else is a program promoting secular humanism and scientific skepticism that is produced by the Winnipeg Skeptics and the Humanists, Atheists & Agnostics of Manitoba.

Note: Barium. Radioactive caesium decays into barium.

Links: Free Will: What is it? and Do we have it? (The Winnipeg Skeptics) | Free will (Wikipedia) | Phineas Gage (Wikipedia) | Unconscious cerebral initiative and the role of conscious will in voluntary action (Behavioral and Brain Sciences) | Unconscious determinants of free decisions in the human brain (Nature Neuroscience) | A Brief Defense of Free Will | Discovery of quantum vibrations in 'microtubules' corroborates theory of consciousness (Phys.org) | Quantum indeterminacy (Wikipedia) | Uncertainty principle (Wikipedia) | Minnesota Atheists | Freedom Evolves (Wikipedia) | Freedom Evolves by Daniel C. Dennett (Amazon.ca) | Free Will by Sam Harris | Breaking the Free Will Illusion by 'Trick Slattery | Beyond Freedom and Dignity by B.F. Skinner (Amazon.ca) | Killing of Tim McLean (Wikipedia) | Li case exposes ugly truth about Tories (Winnipeg Free Press) | The Fallaway Slam Podcast (The only podcast that matters!)

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