7QT: Agreement Theorems and Exponential Suprises

7QT: Agreement Theorems and Exponential Suprises September 11, 2015

— 1 —

I loved this NYT piece on an Italian street whose residents created a private facebook group to get to know each other better.

Mr. Bastiani took a chance and posted a flier along his street, Via Fondazza, explaining that he had created a closed group on Facebook just for the people who lived there. He was merely looking to make some new friends.

In three or four days, the group had about 20 followers. Almost two years later, the residents say, walking along Via Fondazza does not feel like strolling in a big city neighborhood anymore. Rather, it is more like exploring a small town, where everyone knows one another, as the group now has 1,100 members.

“Now I am obligated to speak to everyone when I leave the house,” Ms. Boyers said jokingly. “It’s comforting and also tiring, sometimes. You have to be careful what you ask for.”


“It’s the mental habit that is so healthy,” she said. “You let people into your house because you know some and trust them enough to bring along some more. You open up your life.”


— 2 —

What a smart idea — and, speaking of smarts, the Clerk of Oxford blogger has a post up for a dictionary blog on different words relating to wisdom in Old English:


Old English had many words for ‘wise’: wisgleawsnotor, and more. Frod seems to describe someone who’s grown wise from experience, while someone who is learned in books can be called boccræftig. There are plenty of words to describe the opposite quality, too: a person who is not very wise may be unwis or samwis (like Tolkien’s simple, though very loyal, Samwise Gamgee), dollic (‘foolish’) or dysig (‘stupid’, related to ourdizzy).


Generosity was an important quality for Anglo-Saxon lords, who were expected to retain the loyalty of their followers by distributing rich gifts (gifa). One proverb points out, a little cynically, that ‘Swa cystigran hiwan, swa cynnigran gystas’ – ‘the more generous the household, the more noble the guests’. But not all the language of generosity is so pragmatic, and Old English poetry has one especially evocative compound meaning ‘generous’: rumheort, literally ‘roomy-hearted’. It suggests someone who is great in spirit, generous with more than just possessions – much as we might say someone has a ‘big heart’.

— 3 —

I liked Ursula Le Guin’s rumheort approach to the letters she receives (described in this article)

LE GUIN: But the paper mail from kids is so great. I do try to answer that. I can’t keep up with it, the lovely letters people write me. But I do try to answer the kids. I really do. They’re so insolent sometimes.

SICHA: They’re saucy?

LE GUIN: Well, they tell me how I should have finished the books or what the next Catwings book ought to be or something like that. They have no inhibitions. It’s cool. If I got that from a grown-up, I wouldn’t think it was so cool. I’d say, “Write your own book!” But somebody 8 years old, they identify so passionately with what they read. You can tell. They really are into it.

— 4 —

I know I shared a Math With Bad Drawings post in last week’s Quick Takes, too, but “The Exponential Bait and Switch” is so great that I have to link to the site again.  I don’t want to spoil where the story goes, so just trust me and read the whole thing.


— 5 —

And now trust me again, and don’t read this whole thing if it doesn’t catch your interest.  I really enjoyed Scott Aaronson’s written-up-talk on Aumann’s Agreement Theorem, but I think only about 15% of the blog readership is going to get as excited as I am, so you have my explicit permission to close the tab if it doesn’t catch your fancy.


— 6 —

But here’s some excellent writing on missing information from one of my colleagues at FiveThirtyEight: We Still Don’t Know How Many People Died Because Of Katrina

There is still no memorial listing the names of Katrina victims, still no way to know how many remain uncounted or unidentified, and still no agreement on how to count victims if a storm of Katrina’s impact hits the U.S. again. Ten years on, we’re still in the dark.

— 7 —

And finally, on a much lighter note, I’m so pleased that, for some of their September comic book covers, Marvel is doing special editions with cosplayers standing in for the characters!

captain marvel


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