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Gender: Male
Hometown: Detroit, MI
Member since: Fri Oct 29, 2004, 12:18 AM
Number of posts: 74,621

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Is it time to kill calculus?

Is it time to kill calculus?
Math curricula are designed to shepherd students toward calculus. Some mathematicians think this path is outdated

SEPTEMBER 26, 2020 6:00PM

(Salon) Many parents relish reliving moments from our childhoods through our children, and doing homework with them is its own kind of madeleine. For Steve Levitt of "Freakonomics" fame — who is, in his own words, "someone who uses a lot of math in my everyday life" — a trip down memory lane vis-a-vis math homework became a moment of frustrated incredulity rather than gauzy reverie. "Perhaps the single most important development over the last 50 years has been the rise of data and computers, and yet the curriculum my children were learning seemed to have been air-dropped directly from my own childhood," he told me. "I couldn't see anything different about what they were learning than what I learned, even though the world had transformed completely. And that didn't make sense."

Levitt has made a career of questioning the received dogma. In this case, what he saw was that "A mathematical way of thinking, numeracy, data literacy, is far more important today than it has been; the ability to visualize data, the ability to make sense out of a pile of numbers, has never been more important, but you wouldn't know that from looking at the math curriculum." Data combined with the use of mathematical ideas had transformed the way he and others look at the world. Should data also change the way we teach mathematics?

In most schools, children are grounded in basic arithmetic in elementary school, and then, somewhere between middle school and high school, force-fed the "algebra-geometry-algebra sandwich". The first year of algebra ("Algebra I" ) continues to reinforce basic arithmetic, and then brings in fractions. The familiar starts to give way to the unfamiliar when variables and functions are introduced. That's when "x the unknown" makes its first appearance in word problems and linear equations, which for many marks a first sign of confusion rather than buried epistemological treasure.

Things then take a big turn, and math class time-travels to the days of ancient Greece for lessons in formal geometric proofs ("Geometry" ) that Euclid would have little trouble stepping in to substitute teach. Following that is a yearlong return to algebra ("Algebra II: The Sequel!"
), which given the previous year's partial hiatus from x's and y's and numbers first requires a lengthy review and then finally a return to new functions (exponentials, logarithms, polynomials) that either amuse or irritate you, depending on your taste, predilections, and teacher. .............(more)


Michigan's racial disparity disappears in new virus cases

(Detroit News) The disproportionate number of African Americans among newly reported COVID-19 cases has largely disappeared in Michigan over recent weeks, data suggests.

Wayne State University President M. Roy Wilson referenced the turnaround during a presentation Thursday to the Lansing Economic Club. Wilson, who sits on a gubernatorial task force created to examine racial disparities, appeared with the presidents of Michigan State University and the University of Michigan.

"One thing that is not being talked about enough is this huge racial disparity that we saw at the beginning has now been completely eliminated," Wilson said. The university told The Detroit News that state officials would not permit the release of the supporting data.

Graphics reviewed by The News, however, suggest the rate of new cases reported among the African American population nearly converged with the rate seen in other races at well under 100 per million in early August and has remained similar ever since. At its peak, African American cases were more than three times those in any other race. ..........(more)


Amy Coney Barrett: spotlight falls on secretive Catholic group People of Praise

Amy Coney Barrett: spotlight falls on secretive Catholic group People of Praise
Trump’s expected pick is a member of a ‘covenant community’ that faces claims of a ‘highly authoritarian’ structure

Stephanie Kirchgaessner in Washington
Sat 26 Sep 2020 08.29 EDT

(Guardian UK) Donald Trump’s expected nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the supreme court, to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg, is drawing attention to a secretive Catholic “covenant community” called People of Praise that counts Barrett as a member and faces claims of adhering to a “highly authoritarian” structure.

The 48-year-old appellate court judge has said she is a “faithful Catholic” but that her religious beliefs would not “bear in the discharge of my duties as a judge”.

At the same time, the Louisiana native and Notre Dame Law graduate, a favorite among Trump’s evangelical Christian base, has said legal careers ought not to be seen as means of gaining satisfaction, prestige or money, but rather “as a means to the end of serving God”.

Interviews with experts who have studied charismatic Christian groups such as People of Praise, and with former members of the group, plus a review of the group’s own literature, reveal an organization that appears to dominate some members’ everyday lives, in which so-called “heads” – or spiritual advisers – make big life decisions, and in which members are expected to financially support one another.

Married women – such as Barrett – count their husbands as their “heads” and all members are expected to donate 5% of their income to the organization. ............(more)


The Supreme Court is finished: Republicans have killed it. Now it's time to fight back

The Supreme Court is finished: Republicans have killed it. Now it's time to fight back
Trump and McConnell have corrupted the Supreme Court and th judicial branch for a generation. Time to fight dirty

SEPTEMBER 26, 2020 12:00PM

(Salon) Call it what it already is: Donald Trump's Supreme Court, and it's as corrupt as he is, as cynical as he is, as outright stupid as he is, as racist as he is, as fascist as he is. The Republican Party killed it, and Trump is driving another nail in its coffin with the nomination of arch-conservative Catholic Amy Coney Barrett. RBG is gone, and look at who Barrett will join: Clarence Thomas? A clown. Samuel Alito? A rubber-stamp hack. Neil Gorsuch? A replacement bell-ringer for racism. Brett Kavanaugh? A weepy beer-swilling prep-monster. John Roberts? He wrote the brilliant line, "The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race." Tell that to George Floyd, Johnny boy.

But they know the job they've been put there to do. Trump as much as told them this week when he said, "I think it's very important that we have nine justices. It's better if you go before the election, because I think this scam that the Democrats are pulling — it's a scam — the scam will be before the United States Supreme Court."

There it is, folks, right out in the open. The "scam" Trump is referring to is voting for Joe Biden. He may look like he's contesting the election on the campaign trail, screeching and hissing and sniffling at his rallies, thumbing out his endless apocalyptic fascist tweets, threatening to jail his opponents and throwing other chunks of red meat to his ravenous racist hordes. But don't be fooled. The Republican Party has been counting on the courts to win their elections for decades. Trump's real "base" is his five, and soon six, voters on the Supreme Court.

These cynical bastards have been playing the long game. They have been looking out there on their golf fairways, and they've seen who's riding the mowers and trimming the bushes and grooming the greens. They have looked at the workers on the floors of their chicken factories, and manning the counters of their fast food empires, and they have walked past their own housekeepers and nannies who are watching over their own children. They are surrounded by brown people and Black people, even in their own homes and in their own businesses. They know what's coming. The Republican Party is out of the closet as the White Party in a country that is inexorably turning browner and blacker and more Asian, peopled with more, not fewer, immigrants. How else do you account for the rise to power of Stephen Miller and Ken Cuccinelli and their ilk? They're in government to do the bidding of their masters, to slow down the brown horde, to throw sand in the gears of a demographic machine that is slowly grinding their political future into electoral hamburger. .................(more)


Florida man calls 911 after neighbors yell 'Shoot! Shoot!' during hockey game

A neighbor called sheriff’s deputies on some rabid Tampa Bay Lightning fans who were screaming “shoot! shoot!” as they watched Game 3 of the Stanley Cup final on television Wednesday night.

The call prompted several Hillsborough County Sheriff’s deputies to show up at Devon Garnett’s apartment door. He and two friends had gathered to watch the game at Garnett’s Radius Palms apartment.

In the first period, the trio began screaming for a goal, prompting the 911 call. .......(more)


'His abuses have escalated': Barr's kinship with Trump fuels election fears

(Guardian UK) Donald Trump’s astonishing suggestion at a campaign rally last weekend that the US president will deploy government lawyers to try to hit the brakes on the counting of ballots on election night relies on the complicity of one federal official more than any other.

That official is attorney general William Barr, who, as leader of the justice department, directs the army of government lawyers who would sue to halt the counting of votes.

Conveniently for Trump’s stated plan, Barr appears not only ready to acquiesce, he seems eager to bring the lawsuits, having laid groundwork for challenging the election with weeks of misleading statements about the integrity of mail-in voting.

To some observers, the attorney general appears to have also laid the groundwork for a further alarming step, one that would answer the question of what action the Trump administration is prepared to take if a contested election in November gives rise to large new protests. .....(more)


Invasive sea lampreys in Great Lakes, and the lake trout they prey on, puzzle scientists

(Detroit Free Press) It's a mystery.

Invasive sea lamprey, the Great Lakes' biggest predator, primarily feed on lake trout, one of the lakes' most prized sports fish. When trout populations are high, researchers expect to see fewer lamprey-wounded fish, and more of those wounds when lamprey populations are spiking.

But that's not always what scientists are finding.

New research into what may be behind the discrepancies holds promise to improve how sea lampreys are controlled in the Great Lakes, protecting a $7 billion fishery. It could allow lamprey managers to examine whether they have switched to other fish species as food sources, or whether lamprey and trout numbers in particular regions of Great Lakes should be more closely reviewed — helping direct their limited resources to hold back the invaders.

"When we saw the lake trout population go up, we would expect to see the wounding rate go down, or, if we saw the sea lamprey numbers go up, we would expect the wounding rate to go up. And we did, for the most part, see those things on a year-to-year basis," said Jean V. Adams, a biology statistician with the U.S. Geological Survey based in Wisconsin. .........(more)


Come again?

Police in Vietnam said they found about 320,000 recycled used condoms that were being repackaged as new, local media reported on Thursday, according to the Associated Press.

Market inspectors in the Binh Duong province raided a factory near Ho Chi Minh City, where they discovered used condoms being repackaged to be sold at the market. An inspector said the factory's 34-year-old owner, a woman, confessed they purchased the condoms from someone else, the state-owned Tuoi Tre newspaper report .......(more)


The US supreme court has become a threat to democracy. Here's how we fix it

The US supreme court has become a threat to democracy. Here's how we fix it
Sabeel Rahman

The court has been weaponized to skew political power and insulate extreme conservative coalitions from accountability

(Guardian UK) Just a few days after Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s passing, Donald Trump and Senate Republicans are moving quickly to appoint and confirm a replacement. A growing number of moderates, such as Eric Holder, are warning that should Republicans ram through an appointment, this fact, plus the deliberate blockade of Barack Obama’s appointment of Merrick Garland in 2016, would justify a new Democratic administration and Congress to add seats to the supreme court to restore balance.

With voting already under way in the 2020 election, a rushed appointment and confirmation in this moment would be a clear partisan power play, and further collapse the legitimacy of the supreme court. But more broadly, the firestorm over Justice Ginsburg’s replacement is a reminder of how the modern supreme court has too much power in the first place. It is critical that our democracy reform agenda also consider how to reform the judiciary.

First, courts have too much power to radically remake our social and economic life. If this latest Trump appointment goes through, the resulting 6-3 far-right majority on the supreme court would have the power and opportunity next month to invalidate the Affordable Care Act (in the middle of a deadly pandemic). They would be positioned to further gut voting rights, reproductive rights and rollback anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ+ and Black and brown Americans, while further shielding police departments and immigration officials from accountability for racist state-sponsored violence against people of color. While courts have at times also ruled in more progressive directions to advance rights and equity, on balance this concentration of power without sufficient accountability is a threat to democracy – and to the ability of our communities to thrive.


Second, we need to protect democratic politics from being upended by the idiosyncrasies of an individual justice, or the randomness of when a justice might step down or pass away. That means regularizing the replacement process by establishing fixed and staggered term limits for justices. We could also expand the size of the supreme court, and move to a model akin to circuit courts of appeals, where cases are heard by randomly drawn smaller panels, with an option to appeal to the larger full circuit. ..........(more)


Florida man suing McDonald's, claims he was injured by Chicken McNugget

This was a pretty unhappy meal.

A McDonald’s customer is suing the company after he says he was hurt biting into a Chicken McNugget. The man claims he cracked one of his teeth on a piece of bone inside one of the nuggets.

Alexei Stolfat is suing McDonald’s for $1.1 million and is calling for a recall of all McNuggets, the Sun-Sentinel reports. He ordered the food through Uber Eats from a West Palm Beach restaurant.

Stolfat says he felt pain in his mouth and suffered headaches for three days after biting into the bone. After going to the dentist, he reportedly discovered that his tooth was cracked in two places and would need surgery to replace it. ...........(more)


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