Happy Super Pi Day: 3.14.15

Today is “Pi Day,” the 14th day of the 3rd month (3.14).  Not only that, it is “Super Pi Day,” with the rest of the date giving the next two numbers: 3.14.15.  Pi is the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter.  Though circles are everywhere, their numeric ratios can never be exact.  The mysterious number represented by the Greek letter π has been proven to be an “irrational number,” one which has an infinite number of non-repeating decimals.  And, yet, the ratio has to be used in all kinds of common calculations, from figuring the area of a circle to analyzing subatomic and astronomical phenomena.

After the jump, an excerpt and a link to an essay on π and pi day by Cornell mathematicisn Tara S. Holm.  Do go to the link for an account of the history of our knowledge of the concept, including a government attempt to regularize it at 3.2 by passing a law.  My favorite part is how Prof. Holm is celebrating the day:  Getting her family together at 9:26 and 53 seconds (the next five numbers) and eating a piece of pie. (more…)

Class, children, & the social costs of nonjudgmentalism

There is a growing chasm in our society.  It isn’t so much between the wealthy and the middle class, though it does have to do with social classes, a major demarcation seeming to be between the college educated and those who just finished high school.  But it isn’t an economic gap so much as a cultural gap, or, more specifically, a child-raising gap.  It’s between children who have been raised by both parents, who have been cared for, given lots of attention, and taken care of.  And children raised pretty much on their own, often with a single mother and serial boyfriends, with very little supervision, and with very little protection from abuse, sex, and their own impulses.  This is the thesis of Robert Putnam’s new book Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis.  Putnam, the author of Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, is a very important social scientist, a Harvard professor whose insights have been very influential across the spectrum.  That he is pointing to this crisis in childraising–which, in turn, leads to young adults poorly equipped for a successful life–will get attention.

Thanks to Larry Hughes for pointing me to a New York Times column by David Brooks, who reflects on Putnam’s findings, which he summarizes this way:

Roughly 10 percent of the children born to college grads grow up in single-parent households. Nearly 70 percent of children born to high school grads do. There are a bunch of charts that look like open scissors. In the 1960s or 1970s, college-educated and noncollege-educated families behaved roughly the same. But since then, behavior patterns have ever more sharply diverged. High-school-educated parents dine with their children less than college-educated parents, read to them less, talk to them less, take them to church less, encourage them less and spend less time engaging in developmental activity.

Brooks goes on to describe some of the heart-breaking profiles of children growing up that Putnam gives, from descriptions of abuse and neglect to this statement of a young man who said he would like to grow up to be a preacher:  “I just love beating up somebody and making they nose bleed and just hurting them and just beating them on the ground.”  Then Brooks considers what the problem is and what is needed to address it. (more…)

Raising little narcissists

A study purports to show how certain parenting styles can turn children into narcissists.  But it distinguishes between narcissism, which is bad, and “self-esteem,” which is good. (more…)

Epiphany as both theological and literary term

Today is Epiphany, a day and a season in the church year that I especially appreciate, old English teacher that I am, since the name is both a theological and a literary term.  I explain that after the jump in a post from four years ago. (more…)

Why Christmas is on December 25

Touchstone has reposted its most popular article, the scholarly treatment by historian William J. Tighe from 2003 about why the birth of Jesus is celebrated on December 25.  And, as he definitively shows, it has nothing to do with any pagan festival. (more…)

Woes of both the public and the private sectors

Conservatives are skeptical about the government and look to the private sector to solve our problems.  Liberals are skeptical about the private sector and look to the government for solutions.  Former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers says that our problem is that BOTH the public sector AND the private sector are dysfunctional. (more…)

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