STUMP » Articles » Mornings with Meep: Happy Father's Day! » 17 June 2018, 10:44

Where Stu & MP spout off about everything.

Mornings with Meep: Happy Father's Day!  


17 June 2018, 10:44

Today’s video:

And Here’s a direct link.

And I misspoke re: the intransitive dice – I described the results incorrectly. It’s that you can always pick a die that usually beats the one the other picks (that is, has a greater than 50% chance of winning.) Not that it always wins.

That said, he did describe a card game where hand A beats hand B beats hand C beats hand A. That one is trickier. It’s a lot of fun.


I read this Washington Post piece by Megan McArdle:Happy Father’s Day, Dad. Boy, did you matter.

Key part:

Certainly so in my case. I credit both my parents with giving me a good start toward a career, of course. But as in many households of that era, my mother was usually the one who dressed wounds if you fell off the jungle gym; my father was the one who encouraged you to climb a little higher than felt strictly safe.

In a world of helicopter parents, we’ve forgotten how much it matters to have someone like that. We need our parents to make sure we don’t drink the drain cleaner or stick our hands in a closing door. But sometimes we also need them to nurture our daring — and to give us courage simply by standing there, so that we know nothing can go too badly wrong.

I wrote a short remembrance of my own dad.

In my own case, my dad has been dead for about 28 years now.

Call your dad (if he’s still alive). Call your stepdad (I just did! Hey, John!)

Don’t wait. Do it now.

Well, when he’s awake. Be considerate, for crying out loud.


Some links and additional words.

Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid is one of those books that just inches into your brain and sits there for decades, kicking off “aHa!” thoughts from time to time. I have owned at least three copies of this book, having destroyed at least one through “over-reading”.

I originally wrote a review in Spring 1990, before my dad died, and posted it on Amazon in August 2001.

Key part:

GEB is an unique “nonfiction” book — it does not address one subject, or even several “closely related” subjects. Even though published in 1979, many parts deal with research still going on today [this is still true in 2001, as it was in 1990]. For example, Hofstadter presents a possible model for a brain to be used in artificial intelligence in computers — one of many models being studied today in that field. In one short section, he presents recursive graphs that were generated in theoretical experiments — graphs that bear some similarity to the modern study of fractals. Especially in the area of computer science, Hofstadter leaves several goals for people to attain — goals that may never be realized, but perhaps goals that will enlighten us as we seek to attain them.

It’s still true in 2018.

There are some really sticky “problems” in my brain from fields I used to study in depth (though I’m pushing into other things right now, I may circle back to them) — and one comes from this book: where does “consciousness” come from? I don’t mean in any mystical sense – I mean the cognitive phenomenon of our brains that we experience as “Consciousness”.

I read other books that Hofstadter was involved with: The Mind’s I as a followup on consciousness, and Metamagical Themas, which is something else entirely…and made me a singular they-ist (that’s a different story).

Martin Gardner was something different — I don’t think my dad actually owned any of his books, but I believe we did have a Scientific American subscription back then (before it became really stupid). Martin Gardner had a column called Mathematical Games (which is where Hofstadter got the anagram Metamagical Themas), and there are several compilation books that came out of that.

I have a funny story about one of Gardner’s books – my sister had to do a report on the 4-colo(u)r theorem, and I said that the only thing I had was in this one Gardner book, but… (and this is where she tuned her lecturing sister out)…it’s an April column, so everything in the column is false or a joke. Just read the appendix/footnotes to get more information.

Well, that April Fools column by Gardner had a supposed counterexample to the 4-color theorem. Here it is:

As part of her presentation, my sister made copies of that and handed it out to the class.

So another girl in the class remembered that the four color theorem had been proved. How can there be a counterexample? She broke our her colored pencils and dang if she didn’t 4-color the map (yes, the 4-color theorem has been proved, but that doesn’t mean it’s trivial to 4-color a complicated map). Anyway, yadda yadda yadda, I told my sister to listen to everything I say next time, and that you really need to read carefully. (Because the appendix/footnotes had comments about the bogosity of it all, and had serious comments about the proof of the theorem, etc.)

There are loads of Martin Gardner books, so here are a few I highly recommend to newbies:

Aha! Insight — adapted from an obvious filmstrip format, it’s about some very simple-to-understand mathematical/logic concepts. It inspired my original Meep’s Math Matters videos.

Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science — some of the items in this book, originally published in the late 1950s, are of an amusing sort “Oh they were so quaint back then”, but if you pay attention, you can extend the exposure of these idiocies to current stupidities, like anti-vaxxers. This, along with James Randi’s Flim Flam! inspired my general skepticism about grand claims… like POBs are free money.

Hexaflexagons, Probability Paradoxes, and the Tower of Hanoi – I had to pick one of his compilation books – there are loads of them. I’ve read many of them, but I decided to pick hexaflexagons, etc., because you can make them and play with them! The one thing I haven’t done yet from his books that I wanted to was his game-playing matchbook machine. (I am thinking of just coding it, but a physical system is a lot more fun.)

The Annotated Alice – this is a bit of a cheat, but it’s a gorgeous book, and you should get it.

Finally, Isaac Asimov. Well, he was very prolific, too. I already talked about the Foundation series, but there are several other classics that are good starting points for reading Asimov. Asimov’s fiction is plot/problem-driven…except when the point is a punchline (and don’t worry – if he’s doing that, it’s a short story.)

First, I, Robot, which is a collection of short stories. It gives the “Three Laws of Robotics” which drives all the problem plots. The reason it is a classic is that there is that structure of those Three Laws, and showing how they can go wrong. There is a loose structure/connection between the stories, but it’s mainly about the Three Laws.

Second, The Caves of Steel, which does intersect with the Three Laws, but is a murder mystery a la Agatha Christie – he does story construction very similar to Christie, and his style is just as transparent. It’s about someone who is murdered…. and it seems that a robot may have murdered the person.

Third, The Gods Themselves. This is a standalone novel, and really my favorite. I really loved the concept behind this one…it involves parallel universes, and some other interesting ideas.

Fourth, Buy Jupiter — one of the compelling aspects of Asimov is his humor. It’s a lot of wordplay more than “that’s what humans are like” humor. This short story collection has some really amusing pun-ch-lines. Not every story in here is based on a pun… but be warned by the book’s title.

Fifth, Puzzles of the Black Widowers — again, a lot of humor, and these stories are more based in the style GK Chesterton’s Father Brown stories. They’re puzzle mysteries, and not sci-fi. It’s a lot of word trickery more than GKC, but I think the big guy would have bellowed a laugh on some of them.


It was a bit skimpy last week:

Well, I don’t know if I’ll be keeping up with even that level of production. I’ll keep up with the Mondays, but I can’t promise past that.