Time for a bit of mockery
Posted by aogMonday, 01 June 2009 at 09:57 TrackBack Ping URL

Perhaps I am just a bit narrow minded, but when I read this article in The Atlantic all I could think about was how embarassingly incorrectly the author used the terms “irrational numbers” and “real numbers”. It was like going to a Harry Potter movie and having your three year old daughter void her bladder on your lap. Suddenly you can no longer think about the movie, only about where the nearest towel selling store is1. Except in this case, it was if the script writer had sent the child.

Sometimes I am just not as tolerant of non-geeks as I should be.

1 This is why I have never seen a complete Harry Potter movie.

Comments — Formatting by Textile
Bret Monday, 01 June 2009 at 10:39

I’d say you’re having an irrational reaction to real information. :-)

Harry Eagar Monday, 01 June 2009 at 13:58

My guess is that the author, at some point in the distant past, was taught the concept of irrational numbers but — since most of us don’t use this concept very often — forgot the terminology. You wouldn’t misuse the term irrational if you hadn’t at some point known about it.

His wider point, aside from sloppy writing, is valid. The hysteria about creeping socialism is a more potent source of confusion and bad policy making than widespread ignorance of mathematical definitions.

Annoying Old Guy Monday, 01 June 2009 at 14:20

He got “real numbers” very wrong as well. But I took his point as a very narrow one regarding the specific claim

now that it [the federal government] has become the owner of a significant swath of Corporate America.

He’s just attacking a single example of hyperbole, which not at all what you seem to think he wrote. I certainly do not hold with the school of thought that one mustn’t critize a trend until it’s too late to stop. Clearly you don’t either, or you wouldn’t go off on those violent prone 2nd Amendment crazies.

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