Apr. 6th, 2006

chickenfeet: (death)
First a disclaimer. I am an opponent of capital punishment. I am also a realist who accepts that most states for most of human history have reserved the right to impose the death penalty. I therefore accept that the United States has the right to keep the death penalty in its legal arsenal if that's what its citizens want.

Having got that out of the way I find the way the US legal system deals with the death penalty peculiarly disturbing. First, there's the absurdity of a system that can keep someone on death row for twenty years and then execute him or her. Now, constitutional doctrine appears to evolved to the point where a jury must decide whether the death penalty is appropriate. One might hope that a decision on the life or death of a human being would be made in a sober and analytical way but, as we can see from what's going on in the Moussaoui trial, in practice we are getting something between a farce and "Survivor". Take this from the BBC today:

Prosecutors are said to be planning to read out the names of the 2,972 victims of the attacks, and show their pictures in court.

Now that's just shameless emotional manipulation. What next? The defence brings Moussaoui's kids into court crying about their daddy?

I realise suggesting that American lawyers should show some sense of decency and decorum is a bit like asking a piranha to turn vegan but really.
chickenfeet: (paths)
It's been a really long time since I did any serious mathematics though I occasionally play around with stuff to discover whether I've forgotten everything I once knew or not. I used to be pretty decent at it. I have a 2(i) from Durham in the subject but it was a long tome ago. Also I specialised fairly heavily in probability theory and certain areas of pure mathematics so, even back then, I had the barest minimum of mathematical physics and then there's all the stuff that has become mainstream since I was a lad. So I'm challenging myself to refresh and update by working through my newly acquired copy of Penrose's The Road to Reality. It's neat. It starts with Euclid and works through to twistor theory. I am very interested to see at what point I turn into a gibbering wreck but for now it's fun to realise that I can still prove Pythagoras' theorem or derive Playfair's axiom from Euclid's parallel postulate.


Apr. 6th, 2006 02:06 pm
chickenfeet: (paths)
Gacked from [livejournal.com profile] lemur_man

Go to Wikipedia and look up your birth day (excluding the year). List three neat facts, two births and one death in your journal, including the year

August 8

• 1786 - Mont Blanc in Switzerland is climbed for the first time by Jacques Balmat and Dr Michel-Gabriel Paccard.
• 1876 - Thomas Edison receives a patent for his mimeograph.
• 1974 - Watergate scandal: U.S. President Richard Nixon announces his resignation, effective the next day.

• 1902 - Paul Dirac, English physicist, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1984)
• 1931 - Sir Roger Penrose, British physicist

• 2004 - Fay Wray, American actress (b. 1907)

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