Tuesday, March 28, 2006

European IQ

As a general rule I don't place too much stock in so-called IQ tests. Why? I think it's a rather difficult and complex task to gauge somebody's intelligence, and a series of abstract questions only tests your ability to...answer a series of abstract questions*. Secondly, I've met a few academics with supposedly high IQ's who couldn't tell you if their arses were on fire. That aside, I find this recent study amusing:

A new European league of IQ scores has ranked the British in eighth place, well above the French, who are 19th. According to Richard Lynn of the University of Ulster, Britons have an average IQ of 100. The French scored 94.

Top of the table were the Germans, with an IQ of 107. The Brits were also beaten by the Dutch, Poles, Swedes, Italians, Austrians and Swiss

Professor Lynn, who caused controversy last year by claiming that men were more intelligent than women by about five IQ points on average, said that populations in the colder, more challenging environments of northern Europe had developed larger brains than those in warmer climates in the south.

The average brain size in northern and central Europe is 1320cc and in southeast Europe it is 1312cc.

Well, that explains the student riots in France. Mark my words, these results will go straight to the block-heads of the Germans. I should know - my old man is one. Curiously, the warm Mediterrean region is arguably the birthplace of European civilisation. How did they accomplish such a feat? And meanwhile, what were they doing in Scandinavia, I wonder?

I bet the Brits are shouting "lies, damn lies and statistics" for finishing 8th place. Don't be too hard on yourselves, lads. We all know all the bright Brits migrated to Oz years ago;) Some of the craftier ones even stole the odd loaf of bread to hitch a free ride over.

*OK, the truth is I hate anagrams! Who cares if you can make 'echinda' from 'chained' or 'claimed' from 'medical'?

Monday, March 27, 2006

Maths Nerds

I thought it was pretty nerdy, in kind of a cool way, that a lot of the PhD students at my old uni played Sudoku. I had never heard of the game before. It basically entails filling each row and column of a 9-by-9 square grid with the numbers 1 to 9. In the beginning you are given a couple of clues, that is numbers, and you are expected to complete the rest ensuring that a number only appears once in each row and column.

Admittedly, the things are pretty addictive although I think I only ever completed one properly out of my four or five attempts. If you so desire you can have a different Sudoku everyday. But that's only using 9 numbers. Today I saw they, probably the pure mathematicians (the nerdiest of them all) has gone one step futher and play Hexadecimal Sudoku. For those not in the know, the hexadecimal number system is a 16-base system used mainly, I thought, in computing and engineering circles. It uses the numbers zero to nine and the letters A to E.

Pretty nerdy, eh? These guys definitely have too much time on their hands. Unlike me who's busy...

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Jobless Frenchies

With relentless unions, 35-hour work weeks and the chances of being fired nigh impossible, there's no surpise France suffers from crippling youth unemployment. In order to combat the high youth unemplyoment, the French government recently introduced a bill that will make it easier for employers to fire employees under 26 and thus, hopefully, create more jobs. However, French students don't want a bar of it, even though:

Last August a similar bill was introduced to allow small companies, with fewer than 20 employees, to fire new employees during a trial period without the normal prohibitive procedures that make it impossible for companies to hire and fire in response to market demands. In barely five months these small companies created 335,000 new jobs. According to the Parisian research institute Ifop one third of these new jobs were the direct result of the new bill.

French students think allowing employers to fire people, after hiring them, is too "Anglo-Saxon" which is strictly a no-no, of course. That's the funny thing about job-rights. They only affect you if you have a job. This seems to be lost on most French students.

Every since the French people ousted their monarchy a couple of centuries ago they've been under the misapprehension that all protests and riots serve them well. But au contraire, Frenchies. I wager with fierce economic protectionism and inflexible work-regulations, your economy is heading steadfastly to the guillotine.

Update: A relevant article here that points out:

66% of the British and 65% of Germans agreed that the free market was the best system available, the number in France was just 36%. The French seem to be uniquely hostile to the capitalist system that has made them the world's fifth richest country and generated so many first-rate French companies

Friday, March 24, 2006

Roof over my head

Psst. I'll let you in onto a little secret. I was meant to spend tonight, and possibly tomorrow night, in a hostel dorm and hopefully have a permanent place by Sunday. At $30* per night for a 12-bed dorm, I thought that was a fucked idea. Looking around my uni office, and knowing there's a shower in our building, I decided to spend the next couple of nights hiding out here. Pretty clever, eh?

Lucky post-grads get 24-hour access keys or I would be sharing a dorm with drunken Irish and English men. And no-one deserves that.

*It cost me about 15 euro for a dorm in Ireland, the most expensive country in the EU (EU cities like London and Paris excluded).

Isn't England near Britain?

Is it just me or have the Simpsons been doing more international episodes lately? The history nerd inside pissed himself laughing when I heard the usually not-so-cosmopolitan Homer declare that Italy should have remained a "loose confederation of city-states, trading with each other and occasionally warring." Are the Simpsons trying to educate the masses? Surely not.

I've met some very worldy Americans, but a large number of them can be down-right ignorant of anything, well, not American - admittedly Aussies can be rather parochial at times (and completely ignorant of their own history). Apparently, Hollywood can be the solution according to George Lucas:

Lucas endorsed US students studying abroad to help imbue them with more global perspectives.

"Study abroad is extremely important; just for kids to get outside this country and experience the fact there is a big world out there," Lucas said.

"We are a provincial country. Our president has barely been out of the country."

An onus is on filmmakers to be careful with the messages they send because they speak "with a very loud voice", the famed movie director said.

I can see it now. In Episode 7: my young padawan, to fall prey to the dark side of the force is a common error, much in the same way as thinking Sydney is the capital of Australia and New Zealand is inhabited by hobbits and dragons*.

Entertaining? Perhaps not, but neither was Attack of the Clones. BAM!

*Everyone knows it's Hobbits and sheep - I've been to the Auckland airport.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The 'right' answer

Imagine my mortification this morning when I read the headline 'Marks for wrong maths calculations'. Surely not I thought to myself. But alas:

MATHS students will no longer be penalised for arriving at the correct answer using incorrect calculations under Western Australia's controversial outcomes-based education system.

Right...unless I've missed something here, this is the mathematical equivalent of running the Commonwelath Games marathon, skipping the St Kilda leg BUT still ending up at the MCG - the correct place.

Mathematics is not like English. The path you take does matter. Mind you, in various English-speaking countries like Australia teachers have waterered down the grammar and syntax component in school English curriculums. Thus, we have poorer English grammar and it's more challenging for us English speakers when we attempt to either a) teach English as a foreign language, or b) learn another language.*

Surely the right answer is not all that they seek? Why teach a teenager how to calculate the area of a cirlce or triangle with calculus - a very powerful and useful tool - just to let them find the solution with a simple formula they learnt in primary school? I truly hope I have missed something here - probably due to my poor English skills ;)

*I'm only gathering this from anecdotal evidence and various websites I've read over the years. I may be wrong. If you can be wrong in English?

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

To be a house mate

To find a place in the surrounding Uni of Melbourne area you must be at least two of the following:

vegetarian, gay, lesbian, environmentally friendly, creative, and not like TV or any other technology developed in the past 100 years.

Since, arguably, I don't really fall in any of the above categories, I still haven't found a place to live. Someone in my office told me if I wanted to live in a share house I would have to live with hippie-inclinded people. Um, surely not everyone who lives in a share house is a hippie? Right? What happened to the struggling non-hippie uni students? I blame the French.

Needless to say my entries have been far and few between lately.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony

What. The. Fuck? The dreams of a 12-year old? I'll admit I'm not the most inclined to artsy displays, but what was going on last night? Trust Loony Leunig to inspire something so incomprehensible. The sight of thousands of cables, ducks and box-kites made me truly nauseous. And Leunig, a little tip: box-kites and ducks isn't the first thing 12-year boys dream about nowadays, I reckon.

Apart from that I thought the ceremony was entertaining enough - mind you, I was having pints while viewing to keep the entertainment factor up. The AFL references were lost on me, and probably a large part of non-Victoria Australia.

The republican inside me felt a bit ill at the whole royal treatment but the overall visual happiness of the athletes, particularly the African nations, ailed me.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Still looking...

Still looking for a place in sunny Melbourne. Been to some shit-holes and they still cost a fortune. Might have to widen my budget, me thinks. I had this old eerie-sounding former-hippie offer me a room in his two house place yesterday. I think not.

I'm starting to worry about getting in a house with some crazed nut. Best to have a couple of flatmates for backup, I wager.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Silicon, Sun and Money

When I was a wee lad in highschool I considered for the briefest of moments enrolling into a Uni of NSW engineering degree that specialised in solar power. It would appear that solar power is where it's at:

FEW people in Australia outside the confines of the solar engineering laboratories at the University of NSW have ever heard of Shi Zhengrong - but yesterday the Chinese-born Australian citizen was named as one of the eight richest men in the country.

Dr Shi, chairman and chief executive of the Chinese company Suntech Power, established his solar-power panel manufacturing enterprise in 2001 and, according to the Forbes annual billionaires list, he is now worth $US2.2billion ($3billion).

A couple of years out of highschool I read a number of articles discussing new methods of mass-producing silicon. If I had had the cash, I would have bought shares in a silicon-producing company. Back then, and probably today as well, the technologies for refining silicon were largely inefficient according to these articles. This, coupled with the fact that the world's silicon demand for electronics and solar-cells is growing exponentially, makes for a very lucrative silicon business indeed.

Now if I could get some cash and another bright idea for the next big technology, just perhaps I could make a pretty penny or two. Actually, my money is on Aussie uranium mining but that's no secret nowadays.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Computer and Uni Update

Just a quick personal update. I'm still looking for a place. Something will turn up. I have a temporary - possibly permanent - room at uni with a temporary computer. It's an old shitty iMac. But since IT support, the useless bastards, haven't given me my login in details it's nothing but an aqua-coloured paper-weight.

The faculty has a $2000 computer allowance for me. Apparently, if I'm nice to my supervisor, he will chip in the extra cash for a laptop. I have a choice of a Mac or PC. Which one should I get? Everyone else seems to use Macs and they have all the necessary software for a budding PhD student. But I spent so many years learning all the Windows short-cut keys. Ah, the choices.

This entry was written on a shitty iMac which doesn't even have the ability to show the blog-edit page properly.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Queer Greer

Germaine Greer, has-been feminist and admirer of naked teenage boys, is at it again:

GERMAINE Greer wants Australian women to be more outspoken, reject bad female role models, take control of their future and demonstrate modern feminism through pacifism, socialism and environmentalism.

Greer, who would like to "shoot" 4WD drivers, began her speech by attacking Holden over ads for the new Rodeo ute, in which a woman asks a man what his ultimate fantasy is, only to have him imagine driving off-road with a younger, slimmer and "entirely servile" woman.

Why does poor Australia have this problem? Well, apparently:

Greer, who said Holden would have based the ad on market research, said it demonstrated the problem of Australians, regardless of sex, not speaking out.

"Australians are naturally egalitarian, direct, honest, not eaten out by envy, but lazy and too slow to anger," Greer told a crowd of 300 women at the Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre.

She's right. Australians are too lazy to show anger. Aussie blokes never complain about the ads that show women leering at half-naked gardeners or pool-cleaners. Nor do they complain about the countless ads that show a female explaining to the stupid male how a bank loan works or that the dish-washer isn't for cleaning car parts. Us poor men have been victimised by the ad companies for years. Bastards.

Meanwhile, women are truly being victimised in undeveloped countries and, according to recent government campaigns, Australia suffers from an appalling rate of domestic abuse - real problems that should be targetted and fixed. But no. Let's worry about a stupid advertisement designed mainly for bogans.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Ah right: a land of lattés

For one reason or the other, my new uni is obsessed with Macs, which naturally I think is a little strange for a maths school unless you want really pretty graphs, of course.

When I had lunch a month ago with a couple of the PhD students and an academic they spoke about coffee and the various cafés that serve good coffee in the greater uni area - a conversation of which I contributed little to - for about 20 minutes. Yesterday I told a PhD student, much to her dismay, that I didn't really drink coffee (though I do love my Ice Breaks ;). She responded with, 'How can you not drink coffee!'

I replied, 'Quite easily when you come from a place with 35-degree heat and 90% humidity.' Now my mate has discovered and directed me, most definitely on UQ worktime, to this little cartoon.

Interesting. Now where's my beret?

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Testosterone Levels

Turns out being 'manly' could have its drawbacks:

One of the unfortunate side-effects of being male is a higher death rate, at any given age, than if you are female. Part of the cause of this is that testosterone suppresses the immune system, leaving high-testosterone individuals particularly vulnerable to infection. So a man who has made it to sexual maturity despite his high testosterone levels probably has a particularly good immune system, which he can pass on to his children.
That is the good news. The bad news is that a man with high testosterone is more likely to love you and leave you, so you might want to settle for Mr Nice-guy and his more effeminate features.

Shit, eh. Speaking of testosterone levels, Melbourne seems to have an abundance of hot women. And these recent sunny summer days have been a God-send.

Still looking for a potential place of residence.