Loosen those wallets

October 31, 2012 • 3:03 pm

Click to enlarge. What would you give for this, knowing that every penny will go to Doctors Without Borders? (As lagniappe, I’ll throw in a sheet of Steve Weinberg’s mathematical calculations that he doodled during our workship.)

More in about four weeks. No bidding yet!

Oh, and yes, that’s Baihu’s genuine pawprint (Ben Goren, also a signatory, donated the book).

46 thoughts on “Loosen those wallets

  1. Oh, and yes, that’s Baihu’s genuine pawprint.

    Ous, c’est vrais!

    …it was actually harder wiping the ink off his paw than it was getting him to sign it….


    1. Agreed. It’s a collective memento of a shared, ephemeral experience. One aspect brought out by Massimo’s coverage that resonated with me was Goldstein’s mentioning the importance of ‘mattering’ to each other.

  2. My wife says I can spend $100 (USD).

    Would it increase my odds of winning if I told you I may be building a course for undergrad non-science majors around WEIT for next fall? 🙂

    1. “MAY be building?” Bribery? Extortion? I am going through WEIT chapter by chapter with exactly ONE student this semester. To obtain honors credit, the student is supplementing the usual evolutionary biology course with this extra reading, with the intention of going beyond the science to consider how best to convey evolution to the general (skeptical) public. I was a bit dubious, but it is actually neat to discuss a popular book like WEIT with an undergrad biology major.

      1. Frank — If you’re willing to disclose, I’m curious what college encourages this type of project and access.


        1. My undergraduate institution, Lawrence University, Appleton, Wisconsin, did thing like that regularly. I received lectures on advanced electricity and magnetism from David Cook in an otherwise empty room- and Dr. Cook had also written the widely-used textbook for the course. Another time my room-mate and I requested a course on information theory from the math department, and we received the course in our dorm room from Prof Dick Sanerib. Small liberal arts colleges are great!!!

        2. Barry – it isn’t a college-level thing. Students who graduate “with honors” must do an honors research project, but must also do something “extra” for a certain number of their courses to get honors credit for these courses. I chose to give this student – at Utah State Univ. – seven books in this genre to choose from (all of which I had read and had on my shelf). She chose WEIT. But it was entirely up to me to agree to meet regularly with the student to get her reaction to the WEIT chapters. A minor but worthwhile investment of my time.

      2. I’m waiting to hear if the proposal is approved for next year. If so, WEIT will be one of two required texts for the course. There are a couple of Dawkins’s books I would like to use, but fat chance of that getting approved here in the Bible Belt.

  3. I had to look up “lagniappe” in the Canadian Oxford Dictionary. I found out is US in origin/Louisiana French and is similar to what Canadian department stores call a GWP: gift with purchase.

    1. I’ll see you your bid of worthless dollars, and raise with an offer of real dough.

      Yes, that’s right — I’ll bake a loaf of bread — two, even! — for the right to regain possession of this book.

      I’ll even grind the flour.

      Ha! Beat that!


  4. Oh my that is awesome! I would say it is worth a VERY generous donation to DWB.

    I love the Skepticat drawing, we actually named our sailboat Skeptikatt.

  5. What would you give for this, knowing that every penny will go to Doctors Without Borders

    OK, Monsieur Coyne, I’ll see your “laughing price” of one’s self respect, a “learn CPR” message, and my stone-cold unsober bid is EUR100. And if I’m onshore in your visitation to Scotland, I’ll add a half-bottle of Talisker and a brace of snifter glasses to match. (Talisker is an arguable King of the Malts ; the glasses are from the distillery shop.) Make that two half-bottles ; one to drink, one to take home.
    And a healthy tab to “Les Medicins sans Frontiers,” pourquoi c’est son doit. (Je ne parle pas le Francais!)
    If you have time to hill-walk, or diamond-hunt, these could be arranged. No guarantees on the diamonds!

    1. Talisker is an arguable King of the Malts

      I’d certainly agree with the word “arguable”. I’ve tasted nicer medicine ;-). I would agree that it’s a matter of taste, and mine tends towards a smooth Speyside.

      I hope you make it to Edinburgh. Perhaps we can help educate Jerry on the finer points of real whisky.

      1. Horses, courses.
        I’m trying to think where in Edinburgh to go for a really wide selection of whiskys. Anything over about 150 counting as “wide”.
        There’s Glasgow too, but that’s likely to be a little later in the evening.

  6. “workship” ?? I’m “praying” you meant workshop’ and not ‘worship’!! 🙂 (That was a joke before anyone gets all workshipped up about it.

  7. ” What would you give for this, knowing that every penny will go to Doctors Without Borders?”


      1. Sorry, Jerry.
        But I don’t think anyone is actually bidding.
        We’re all just joking around.
        Certainly I don’t have that sort of money to spend on a book.

  8. Bottom right corner looks like (approximately) “[integral] of D to power 4 [times] x [times] square root of minus g [times] R”
    Which I don’t recognise (and may have mis-read), so provides no clue to who’s illegible scrawl is underneath.
    Any ideas? (JAC presumably knows, but I don’t see it mentioned up-thread)
    The “[times]” are implicit, because there’s no multiplication symbol between the root and the ‘R’ ; however, I was always taught to draw a letter “x” as two curves and a multiplication sign as a cross, so I may just be misreading that.
    ‘R’ makes me think of gas constants. But ‘g’ makes me think of gravity. Could it be something to do with gas distribution under gravity? Atmospheric pressure versus height. No ; that d^4 would imply a very steep gradient with height – more than we observe. I think.

    1. Janna responds:

      “It is the Einstein-Hilbert Action.
      From this one expression, the Einstein Equations can be derived along with their consequences such as the big bang and black holes.

      Details: R is the Ricci scalar, g is the determinant of the metric and the integral is taken over the 4 dimensions of spacetime.

      Einstein really struggled between 1905 and 1916 to get this equation right. And although I don’t know all the details of the history, I know that he published other wrong variants before landing on this one. And I believe the mathematician Hilbert may have gotten there first.

      It’s my favorite equation by far.”

      1. Uh-huh. [Nods, sagely.]
        I’d seen (have you ever tried Googling an equation? Not recommended as a fun sport!) that a “Ricci Tensor” was sometimes represented as an “R”. So, if I guess that tensors are like vectors, but more so (IANA-Mathematician), then seeing a “Ricci scalar” isn’t terribly shocking.
        I remember “determinants” from matrix maths. Maybe. I can’t remember what they’re for, or how to construct them. Matrix [dot] determinant-matrix gives those matrices with a leading diagonal of ones, and everything else zeros? Or have I forgotten something in the 30-odd years since I last worried about matrix maths?
        Hilbert as a mathematician … him of the 23 problems? [Wikis] Yes, that Hilbert ; I’d known that Einstein collaborated with some high-power mathematicians in the development of GR, but I’d not known that it included that mathematician.
        Isn’t it … nice … the way that if you pull on one thread in the tapestry of science, you eventually see other threads that you’ve met previously being tugged. Almost as if it were a coherent self-consistent whole.

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