Category Archives: Philosophy

A quote on explaining modern day reporting

Could Glenn Greenwald be any more correct in his blog entry “Ending the war vs. supporting the troops“.

All in all the entry isn’t very interesting to me – the way however in which he explains how reporting apparently works today is a gem of a quality you hardly find on the net. I have to add that personally I feel this is definitely not only true for political reporters. The long term repercussions of bad reporting is an uninformed society. Not being informed is the last thing the society will notice before it’ll fall into (probably unnoticed) totalitarianism.

[...]One of the principal functions of political reporters ought to be to dissect and dispense with misleading political sloganeering, but instead, they fulfill the opposite function: they are the most enthusiastic and effective disseminators of these cliches.

Some of them do it consciously and knowingly, for ideological reasons, to curry favor with sources. But many of them are driven by a far more banal dynamic. They “analyze” political disputes this way because most of their impressions are shaped by Beltway political operatives whom they respect and admire, on whom they depend, and this is how they have things explained to them. [...]

Adequate at best

Peter Johansson has written an interesting blog entry “Adequate at best” some days ago. For the full text, I’ll guide you to his site, of course, but here you go with a small quote:

[...] What bothers me is the implication that the bare minimum is good enough, that as long as the other half of the conversation can work out the intended message, we’re golden. This disturbs me greatly; when did we stop striving towards excellence in our daily lives? When did we decide that the most minimal of efforts should be good enough? When did we become this lazy? [...]

The entry is basically about the fact that it seems to be socially acceptable to write and publish material online without caring in the least about how things are written or how to formulate sentences. I am by no means implying that I am writing correct English but that I am trying to – which is worth a lot already.

[...] Anyway, the bottom line is that it dismays me that people seem to be content with putting in the least effort possible, and acting as if that’s as far as we ever should go. It dismays me because it indicates a lack of desire to ever excel at anything, to push boundaries and try to better oneself and the world. [...]

Greenpeace has gone nuts

Quoting from the german “Spiegel” from here

“Während sich die Experten des Weltklimarates den Kopf über Maßnahmen gegen den Klimawandel zerbrechen, leistet sich Deutschland als einziges Industrieland der Welt weiterhin unbeschränkte und CO2-treibende Raserei”, sagte Wolfgang Lohbeck, Verkehrsexperte von Greenpeace. Es sei ein ungeheurer Zynismus, dass Minister Tiefensee ein Tempolimit blockiere. “Er verantwortet damit Jahr für Jahr Hunderte von zusätzlichen Verkehrstoten, Tausende von Verletzten und mehrere Millionen Tonnen Treibhausgase. Da die zuständigen Politiker bisher immer nur reden, wird Greenpeace jetzt handeln!”


Laut Greenpeace würde ein Tempolimit eine unmittelbare Verringerung des CO2-Ausstoßes um etwa neun Prozent auf deutschen Straßen mit sich bringen. Greenpeace setzt sich dafür ein, dass Hersteller Autos auf den Markt bringen, die weniger Sprit verbrauchen – wenn keine hohen Geschwindigkeiten mehr erlaubt seien, steige auch der Anreiz bei den Herstellern, weniger auf umweltschädigende Autos zu setzen, hieß es bei der Umweltorganisation.

In essence, Greenpeace doesn’t like politicians discussing matters to long – in this instance – speed limitations and has decided to put up their own road signs limiting the maximum speed on the famous German Autobahns to 120km/h. Now, am I missing something or, are they trying to abolish democracy (and freedom while we are at it?).

Reason, CO2 emissions could be reduced by a whopping 9% on the road (note: in my opinion that’s far, far less then a 1% overall reduction) and if there are low speed limits car manufacturers can concentrate on low emissions and low fuel consumption rather then speed. Nice thinking overall, I’ve got to admit. Oh wait, it might not be that good after all. What about American Cars? In the US the speed limits are quite low, actually a good deal lower then in good old Europe and yet they are fuel guzzling monsters.

1200-year-old problem ‘easy’

Oh, for once this is the BBC at it’s virtual best. Lot’s and lot’s of none sense published for whatever reasons no human will ever understand. The article tells us about Dr. James Anderson, from the University of Reading’s computer science department, and is subtitled Schoolchildren in Caversham have become the first in the country to learn about a new number – ‘nullity’ – which solves maths problems neither Newton nor Pythagoras could conquer. Now if that isn’t something.

So here are some quotes from the article.

The theory of nullity is set to make all kinds of sums possible that, previously, scientists and computers couldn’t work around.

“We’ve just solved a problem that hasn’t been solved for twelve hundred years – and it’s that easy,” proclaims Dr Anderson having demonstrated his solution on a whiteboard at Highdown School, in Emmer Green.
– Quote 1 from the article

Computers simply cannot divide by zero. Try it on your calculator and you’ll get an error message.

But Dr Anderson has come up with a theory that proposes a new number – ‘nullity’ – which sits outside the conventional number line (stretching from negative infinity, through zero, to positive infinity).
– Quote 2 from the article

The only valuable thing about all this is one comment, although poorly formatted, by Kurt Fitzner – in my opinion at least.

The “problem” of a computer with divide-by-zero errors is not a problem, it’s a feature. It’s not something you need to or even want to fix. You could easily design a computer that doesn’t have an error in that situation if that’s what you want. Replacing the error condition with a new symbol accomplishes nothing. The program still has to deal with the issue in order to present a real-world result to the user. A divide-by-zero error is the way programs do that. It’s easy to solve a “problem” when you’re the architect of the definition of the problem in the first case. Dr. Anderson first defines a problem: calculators and computers throw an error when you try to divice by zero, and then defines an artificial solution – but the problem was artificial in the first place. We’ve all run into poorly designed programs that don’t handle divide-by-zero errors properly and crash. This isn’t a problem of dividing by zero, this is a problem of a computer program not handling its data properly. We’ve also all run into programs that attempt to reference a null pointer. By the same reasoning, we could define the memory that a “null pointer” points to as some new type of virtual space called “nullspace” (trekies should appreciate my resistance to the temptation to call it “subspace”), and call it valid. Make the computer such that reading from “nullspace” always returns a null. Suddenly no programs crash from dereferencing a null pointer any more. It doesn’t mean that the program is going to now do something useful. It probably means it will end up displaying garbage to the user, hanging in an infinite loop, or branching off to never never land. As far as it goes mathematically, there’s nothing you can do with nullity on paper that you can’t do by simply leaving it as (0/0) in the equation. So from either approach (mathematically or from a computer science perspective), it’s nonsense. The author’s own response to some of the critics (or, I should say, alleged response) doesn’t help my opinion. Tossing out the names of two other Ph.Ds and offering vague references to undescribed “axioms” built around this new symbol all reinforce my opinion that Doctor Anderson sounds precisely like the character Robert from the movie “Proof”.
– Kurt Fitzner

N.B. I noticed to late that you can do whatever you want to the formatting of the comments on BBC, the cut the newlines out of it. In that regard – sorry Kurt.