Napoleon and Laplace

Today I got a comment from RRRG mentioning a classic story about Laplace and Napoleon that I posted in an old version of this blog in 2006. Unfortunately that blog is no longer available—I need to do something about it—so I looked for the original text (which is in Wikipedia with numerous sources) and I’m reposting it now, for your reading pleasure:

Laplace went in state to Napoleon to accept a copy of his work, and the following account of the interview is well authenticated, and so characteristic of all the parties concerned that I quote it in full.

Someone had told Napoleon that the book contained no mention of the name of God; Napoleon, who was fond of putting embarrassing questions, received it with the remark, ‘M. Laplace, they tell me you have written this large book on the system of the universe, and have never even mentioned its Creator.’

Laplace, who, though the most supple of politicians, was as stiff as a martyr on every point of his philosophy, drew himself up and answered bluntly, ‘Je n’avais pas besoin de cette hypothèse-là.’ (“I had no need of that hypothesis.”)

Thanks RRRG!

What a relief

Study finds immigrants commit less California crime (via Guerra Eterna):

“According to the report’s authors the findings suggest that long-standing fears of immigration as a threat to public safety are unjustified. The report also noted that U.S.-born adult men are incarcerated at a rate more than 2 1/2 times greater than that of foreign-born men.”

I can sleep peacefully now, I was about to kill myself when I discovered that my neighborhood has a 43% of foreign population.

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Note: I prepared this entry before what happened the other day, but I still think it’s perfectly valid.

Let’s burn the flag of the United States, in the White House

This is a cut from The West Wing, you can blame this TV series of not answering your e-mails lately. Well, actually you should blame my new flatmate, a politics freak –he’s a nice guy tough– traveling with the seven seasons of The West Wing in his laptop.

But what I really wanted to show you is this couple of magicians, Penn and Teller, they’re absolutely crazy! I highly recommend you to have a look at some of their videos (like Cups and Balls), unlike other magicians, they love showing how they do their tricks. Terrific.

Control, what control?

Yesterday I had an odd conversation with a friend, he enumerated the ways Governments around the world control us. He didn’t mention laws “inspired” by corporations or lacks in our democratic systems. He spoke about satellites spying us, videocameras in the streets, Echelon reading our e-mails, the strange security measures in the airports, and I don’t know what about a new deal involving the European Union. You know what I mean, the classic conspiracy theories and big brother paranoia.

Sure they are violating our privacy (for better or for worse) but honestly, are they really controlling us? I wonder which one of these measures is stopping us from changing the world.

Taking decisions

It’s official! Some days ago I got the documents from Granada saying that I’m no longer registered there but in the Consulate. For the first time in my life I moved my residency, abroad… alright, now I feel a bit dizzy. I did it because we have general elections in Spain in a few months –March– and I wanted to be sure I can vote (being registered in the local Consulate is the easiest way to do postal voting).

Today in spite of being (again) a rainy day I felt like taking decisions. For example, I decided the party I’m going to vote in three months time. At the beginning I thought: “How the hell can I decide that now? OK, let’s try to go for simple reasons“. What about this one? It tends to be useful to judge people (and so political parties) by the things they do and not by the things they say; don’t ask me why but it works. And they had four years for doing their job, each party in its role, government and opposition. From here to March we’re going to have just electoral campaign, mainly the time of words (promises, promises and more promises). Just words!

Maybe it isn’t that crazy after all. Today we all should hold on for a second and say to ourselves: “Hey, we can decide the vote now, we actually have all the elements we need to decide“. A quick look at the list of political parties in Spain shows that although we don’t have a pure two-party system, we’re close to it (or at least this is the way I feel it). I don’t consider myself nationalist or regionalist, and therefore, I only have three real options (in alphabetical order): Popular Party (right-wing/conservative), Socialist Party (social-democratic) and United Left (let’s say green euro-communist). The rest of the parties either aren’t national or are minor parties, in the sense that they don’t have a thorough program.

The incongruence of the big political parties drove me several times in the past to vote for the United Left. Also incongruent, but less then the others. They used to have a clear and pure message, close to my ideas and, yes, charismatic leaders. Used to have. Now it’s a political chaos with tremendous internal fights. I don’t see, as before, the program as the central issue. Let’s rule them out of the list.

I know it’s scary but in the end we have to decide between two: the Popular Party or the Socialist Party. [Parties: I don’t think this is about Rajoy or Zapatero. You may have your opinion about their personalities and ideas, and I bet you have them, but I don’t consider that it can definitely decide anything.] During the last four years I kept a kind of mental record, while I was reading the news I was saying to myself: this is wrong, this is right (meaning a point or anti-point for the corresponding party). Perhaps I should have done a deeper political analysis but sometimes life is easy!

And now I look back and see a pretty clear picture. Both parties have made a long list of mistakes and good choices but, ops, it’s not balanced by any means. The Socialist Government has been a true government, pushing forward several important proposals, some of them really brave, some of them absolute failures (and sometimes they’ve even recognized it). However, the opposition of the Popular Party has been fundamentally non-constructive. They have used terrorism as a political weapon, and I can barely remember a sound positive contribution to any political agreement. I will not reward unfair playing. Any doubt which party I’ll go for?

Voilà.