Monday, May 15, 2023

An ideal learning community(?)

"The fundamental academic freedom is the freedom to study according to one’s convictions and interests. Those who are called ‘teachers’ are essentially experienced and continuing students who have special responsibilities to those less experienced of their fellows who are called ‘students’; study is both a private and a public activity, involving discussion in speech and writing with one’s fellows to achieve a better development of one’s understanding and in some circumstances an assessment of that understanding for the sake of public recognition."

- Peter Campbell, 'Affluence, Academic Authority, and University Government' Political Studies (1975), at p. 147.

One of my colleagues has been known to say something along these lines at open days. I'm not sure how it goes down with prospective students, being told that they'll pay over £9,000 per year to learn from those who are still learning themselves, though it is of course true - we are all studying continually.

Friday, May 05, 2023

Why my vote wasn't counted

I didn't vote yesterday, but that's because I registered for postal voting and had posted my ballot last week. As it turns out, the election in my ward was declared void when one of the candidates died. My condolences to his family.

I didn't hear the news until later, and I doubt that many did, so I don't know how much effect it would have had one voting. However, this does highlight some interesting things about voting.

First, discussions of contraction consistency sometimes consider the effect of one candidate withdrawing. It is sometimes assumed that if A wins a three-way contest between A, B, and C then A should also beat B (or C) in a two-way contest. But this is not the case in many voting systems.

Second, this case also highlights the fact that - in the UK - voters elect individuals, not parties. If the votes were cast for the Conservative Party, rather than for Mr Galton, then he could presumably be replaced with another party nominee. But the votes are for the individual. This is relevant when elected officials decide to change party. It is sometimes suggested that this ought to trigger a by-election, though this is not the case.

Monday, May 01, 2023

Mordheim undead

I haven't posted any hobby content in a while, but I just finished painting this set of undead heroes for Mordheim and I'm pretty happy with how they turned out:

Friday, April 21, 2023

Disrespecting a game

Luke Maring has a paper on voting that begins with a discussion of a basketballer whose actions are said (by some commentators) to disrespect the game. While I understand the point being made, this example isn't one I'm familiar with. Earlier today though, I witnessed a similar example in the snooker.

Hossein Vafaei played a very unusual break-off shot against Ronnie O'Sullivan, simply smashing into the pack of reds. You can see it here or here. Commentator John Virgo described it as "disrespectful" but, despite the headline on the linked page, I don't think he was explicit about who or what was disrespected. (Actually, I think someone said he was disrespecting his own ability, but this may have been co-commentator Stephen Henry.)

However, studio pundit Steve Davis was more specific, saying "I don't think it is necessarily disrespectful to Ronnie, but it is maybe considered disrespectful to the game of snooker". (These remarks are quoted in various places, including the Guardian and Independent.)

I doubt many of my students are snooker fans, but this example of alleged disrespect to a game is at least more recent, if not more relatable for them...

Thursday, April 06, 2023

Why punctuation matters

Here is a good example to illustrate the importance of "quotation marks"... In case it vanishes from Twitter, image copied below.

Sunday, March 26, 2023

Voting age in New Zealand

I was aware that the minimum voting age has been challenged in Canada. That's something I mentioned a while back. However, I only very recently learned of some similar developments in New Zealand.

I gather than their Supreme Court has already ruled that restricting the vote to adults (18+) amounts to age discrimination against 16- and 17-year olds. Nonetheless, according to this article on The Conversation, it seems that proposed legislation to lower the voting age for national elections is unlikely to proceed - although it seems that the age may be lowered for local elections only, partly because this change only requires the support of a simple majority, rather than a 75% super-majority, of MPs. That may also be of interest when I teach about majoritarianism and constitutional entrenchment.

Thursday, March 23, 2023

Is economics a social science?

I'm set to teach philosophy of social sciences next year (in the autumn), so I've been on the lookout for things about (social) science. I was struck by the title of this press release: a funding boost for economics and social sciences. 

This seems like rather odd phrasing to me. I would have thought that 'social sciences' already included economics, but separating them in this way suggests otherwise.

Institutionally speaking, the Department of Economics is part of the Faculty of Social Sciences. This may not be decisive, since our Faculty also includes Mathematical Sciences and I wouldn't ordinarily consider mathematicians to be social scientists. However, the inclusion of economics does not seem similarly incongruous. If anything, it's arguably the social science par excellence.