I write about all sorts of topics when I feel the need or the urge. Other than mathematics: philosophy, politics, law, human rights, anthropology, economics, and more.

  • University forever
    (23/8/20)
    I don’t have anything against people who want to stay at university as long as possible: this is, after all, my life. I think long term economic trends point in this direction though.
  • Sitting out the math wars
    (23/8/20)
    Very few professional mathematicians have been involved in the “math wars”, and when they have, they have not always inspired confidence. I wondered why.
  • The “Australia day” category error
    (17/1/19)
    I don’t believe in any patriotic holidays. But a patriotic holiday on such a terrible date needs to be moved, rebuilt, or abolished.
  • Abstract algebra nursery rhyme
    (14/1/19)
    In the spirit of hilariously advanced baby books like Chris Ferrie’s Quantum Physics for Babies, I have taken to incorporating absurdly sophisticated concepts into nursery rhymes.
  • The last resort of scoundrels
    (14/1/19)
    Patriotism, at least in its usual sense of love of one’s country over others, veneration of the virtue of its people over others, and adoration of its flag, is awful, irrational nonsense.
  • Limitless as that space too narrow for its inspirations
    (3/1/19)
    In which I recall, via neurologist Oliver Sacks, some musings of Sylvester from 1877 on the limitlessness of mathematics.
  • The Doors of Crime Perception
    (2/1/19)
    Crime is uniquely susceptible to the manipulation of perceptions.
  • The disempowerment of positive thinking
    (12/5/18)
    I’m quite skeptical of the “positive psychology” movement, as it encourages the individualisation of some problems that are really social.
  • What is to be done, and the Paradox of Choice
    (11/11/17)
    The real problem is not that we are overloaded with too many ideas about what to do. The real problem is that we do not have enough ideas about where we want to go.
  • Adani: icon of Australian climate infamy
    (26/8/17)
    Here we are, in the year 2017. With now 25 years of climate-change international agreements behind us, here we are still trying to build oil pipelines and coal mines.
  • An Off-the-Record Genocide: Global Resource Extraction Economy Provides Incentives to Destroy DR Congo Indigenous Groups
    (24/8/17)
    By Deborah S. Rogers of Initiative for Equality (IfE). Also published at Truthout. I am a member of the Board of Advisors of IfE. On April 27, 2017, a hapless cow wandered off-course during a seasonal cattle drive in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and ended up over the campfire of some Indigenous hunters. The traditional lands of these groups (Batwa and related groups) are routinely trampled by cattle, cut for old-growth timber, or grabbed for mineral resources including diamonds and coltan — generally illegally. As their wild game diminishes from these impacts, the Batwa have come to view cattle ...
  • At least mathematics is commendable
    (14/7/17)
    The Australian government announced a proposal to force tech companies to provide government agencies with the contents of encrypted communications.
  • Eighty years ago, Spanish people responded to the far right with social revolution
    (4/1/17)
    Eighty years ago to the day, the far right was in its ascendancy, and still rising. Hitler was in complete control of Germany, Mussolini had been in charge of a police state in Italy for a decade. But a little to the southwest, in Spain, war had already broken out.
  • What to do while Rome burns
    (1/12/16)
    From Russell’s Principles of Social Reconstruction (1916).
  • The Eighteenth Brumaire of Donald Trump
    (9/11/16)
    On the Eighteenth Brumaire (9 November) 1799, Napoleon Bonaparte seized power in France. Louis Napoleon did the same in 1851. First as tragedy, then as farce. Tragedy and farce and much more — with vastly greater consequences — have taken place on the Eighteenth Brumaire 2016.
  • On the end of the world
    (23/9/16)
    One can take several possible attitudes to the bleakest of certainties about the future.
  • The story of a paradox
    (10/9/16)
    My story of Bertrand Russell, given at The Laborastory, a monthly science storytelling event in Melbourne.
  • Throughput the Wringer
    (12/8/16)
    For those who care about the long term prospects of civilization, the only way out is a radically different system.
  • Of all the things
    (21/6/16)
    Of all the things, what does Australian electoral politics concerns itself with?
  • Elections — or, how not to gnaw your arm off
    (15/6/16)
    Electoral politics in Australia. The mere thought of it makes me want to gnaw my arm off.
  • The Impact of Impact
    (29/4/16)
    On some aspects of the research funding system in the UK and Australia.
  • Love, the Answer to the Problem of Human Existence
    (28/1/16)
    A paean to, and exposition of, love, extracted as an extended set of quotations from Erich Fromm’s The Art of Loving.
  • More excrement
    (27/1/16)
    Poem about the material economy.
  • Force and restraint
    (28/12/15)
    Simone Weil wrote about the Iliad, how it dealt so beautifully with notions of force.
  • Forty years on
    (11/11/15)
    It is forty years on from the Dismissal, or coup, that ended the Whitlam government.
  • Why your calculator is a weapon
    (1/8/15)
    I gave a talk about the Defence Trade Cooperation Act, encryption, and number theory, as part of the Monash University LunchMaths seminar series, in August 2015. Slides are available.
  • Paranoid defence controls could criminalise teaching encryption
    (9/5/15)
    You might not think that an academic computer science course could be classified as an export of military technology. But under the Defence Trade Controls Act – which passed into law in April, and will come into force next year – there is a real possibility that even seemingly innocuous educational and research activities could fall foul of Australian defence export control laws.
  • The CIA 119
    (2/5/15)
    Years and years on, abuses continue. Only in December 2014 did the US Senate Intelligence Committee release its summary of its report into the The CIA’s kidnapping (“rendition”) and torture programme. It took nearly ten years after the fact for an official report to arrive.
  • The lower classes of things
    (20/4/15)
    Everything is free to move across borders, except… some lesser things, like human beings.
  • Why your calculator (and computer, and phone…) is a weapon
    (19/4/15)
    The Australian government may have classified your calculator — and phone, and computer, and every electronic device you own — as military weapons.