2009 02 04
A very rough proxy for anger at the Pope

This morning brought the news that Angela Merkel has decided to add her voice to the chorus of criticism directed at Pope Benedict for his decision, on January 21, 2009, to lift the excommunication of holocaust denying bishop Richard Williamson. Pope Benedict was himself a member of the Hitler Youth as a young man, which obviously complicates matters for him when he starts ex-excommunicating holocaust deniers.

I figure a very rough proxy for anger about the issue has to be the number of Google hits for “Nazi Pope” in a particular period of time. Of course, we should expect a baseline number of hits as a result of the controversy surrounding Pope Pius XII, and there’s bound to be a lot of noise (people angrily objecting to the term “Nazi Pope” for example). Anyway, this chart is rough and crappy, but it gives you an idea.

Graph of google hits for nazi pop over time.

It’s even more remarkable if you assume that the vast bulk of the increase comes from the period after January 21, 2009. I wonder what February will look like.

Description of how I made the chart is below the fold, in case anyone wants to check its accuracy.

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Howls of outrage (13)

2008 08 08
Recently read: “Learning Python”

Posted by in: Books, Programming, Python

Mark Lutz. Learning Python

When I was studying philosophy, I didn’t bother to review philosophy books here. Likewise, I don’t now intend to write much about computer books. But I’ll make an exception for Mark Lutz’s Learning Python. I was told a while back by several people that Python is a great programming language to get started with. It’s elegant, powerful, free, easy to pick up, and currently in fairly widespread use. As far as I can tell, this was good advice. I’ve certainly enjoyed the time I’ve spent playing around with Python, and I’ve found the experience strangely empowering. There are all kinds of uses for simple programs in daily life, and it’s wonderful to be able to whip them up yourself. Picking up a little programming is something that I recommend to just about anyone, including people who never thought of themselves as likely programmers. If, then, you want to dabble a bit, and you take the advice given to me to begin with Python, go get yourself Lutz’s book. It is readable, extraordinarily clear, and patient. I suspect that at times the pace is slow enough to drive someone with an actual programming background nuts, but this turns out to be very handy if you’re new to programming. Highly recommended.

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2008 07 27
The Monty Hall Problem

Posted by in: Math, Programming, Python

Thanks to a friend, this morning I learned about the Monty Hall Problem. As she remarked, it is counter-intuitive in the extreme. But I see from the Wikipedia article that even Paul Erdos got it wrong the first time, so I don’t feel too bad about being initially stumped. (If you’re having trouble getting it, I found it very helpful to step back and think about the related N doors puzzle discussed in the Wikipedia article.)

One of the wonderful things about picking up even the slightest bit of programming is that you can test and play around with things like this. The Python programming language makes it especially easy for a beginner to muddle through to a test very quickly:

import random

remainingchoice = []
carcount = 0.0
trials = 100000

for i in range(1, trials):
    possibilities = ['goat', 'goat', 'car']
    if possibilities[1] == 'goat':
for item in remainingchoice:
    if item == 'goat':
        carcount +=1    

print (carcount * 100) / trials

Somehow makes it all seem more solid. Except when I changed the trials variable to 100000000 and my computer was all like “What the fuuuu?” and then Python crashed hard.

Howls of outrage (24)