Friday, July 28, 2006


We have a new flat mate. He's an English fella, and he's actully pretty good value ( strange for a pom, I know ;) My old flatmate, the bitch, paid five weeks of rent while not living with us. Unlucky, I say.

In other news, I'm hungover but I need to have Friday arvo beers with the maths crew. The things we do.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Lottery - A Fool's Errand

Last year I asked my probability lecturer (a Princeton graduate) if he gambled. He responded drily with, "I loathe gambling. I think the lottery is a scam and is no doubt only followed by people in poorer demographs." Fair enough, I thought, but Aussies love their lotto according to this interesting article:

One in seven Australians are banking on winning the lottery to deliver them financial security.

After calculating the odds of winning lotto in highschool, I've been convinced it's a complete waste of time ever since. Instead of recalculating the odds for you, I've looked up them up here. For a comparison, I looked up the statistics of being struck by lightning in Australia. If we say 200 people are stuck by lightning each year, you have roughly a 1 in 100 thousand chance of being stuck by ligthing, which is about 80 times better than winning the first division in Saturday lottery. If you're feeling really lucky, you can try your chances at Power Ball, which gives you about 1 in 55 million chance of winning the first division. Hence, you have 500 times better chance of being struck by lightning than winning first division Power Ball.

Naturally, the ligthning statistics is a rough, though generous, estimate. Certain lifestyles and occupations increase your risk of being struck by lightning, and with Australia's aging population, and subsequently, increase in golf players, the number of lightning strikes will increase slightly. Still, you'll have a better chance of being lit up like a Christmas tree than winning division 1 or, even division 2 for that matter. Good revenue raiser for the government, nonetheless. Beats taxes.

Monday, July 24, 2006


Well lads, it was bound to happen sooner or later because it is a DISEASE:

A DUTCH clinic that has begun offering the world's first treatment for computer game addicts has been overwhelmed with pleas for help from parents and children all over the world.

"It's amazing, I've never seen anything like it," said Keith Bakker, the American director of the Smith & Jones clinic in Amsterdam. "The phone has been ringing constantly. Computer game addiction is obviously an even greater problem than we imagined."

"These are perfectly decent kids whose lives have been taken over by an addiction," said Mr Bakker, a former drug addict. "Some have given up school so they can play games. They have no friends. They don't speak to their parents."

After seeing WOW (that's World of Warcraft for those not in the know) can do to people, I understand the need for these clinics. Luckily, I don't have a gaming problem - they won't let me install games on my uni machine :( Now if they only had a clinic for ice coffee milk addicts. Oh wait. That's right, I don't have a problem. I could stop if I wanted to.

Update: The Dutchman must be laughing:

Treatment for excessive game playing is not covered by health care insurance, so patients have to cover the cost themselves -- 500 euros ($640) a day.

The hell. That's more expensive than prostitution in any country. And the sad reality of this all is that apparently:

After the treatment, patients must come to terms with an uncomfortable truth: Their addiction will always be there.

Private Schools Obsession

The author John Birmingham remarks in his entertaining read "He Died with a Felafel in his Hand" that Melbourne is all about the private schools. Having now lived in the so-called cultural capital for a few months, I would have to agree. I'm a public school boy, and with good reasons. I grew up in reasonably rural towns where private schools weren't an option, my parents would not have forked out the money (insert random poor immigrant story here), and my family has no faith - the godless heathens.

I once remarked to a fellow PhD student here that we couldn't afford graphining calculators at my old public school. He replied that he was a public school boy as well, and that we were rare at the Uni of Melbourne. Addionally, last week I was playing pool with a couple of country Victorian lads now living in Melbourne. They had observed that Melbourne people often asked which school you attended. Like it matters?

I'm not sure if it's a big city phenomena (I realise now I don't actually know many people from Brisbane public schools), or is it just Melbourne. Perhaps Sydney is the same, and all cities with with wealthy families send their beloved litle ones to their local rugby-playing private schools. Whatever it is, the trend appears to be on the increase:

More and more parents are willing to make big sacrifices to send their children to private schools. And the schools are coming up with ways to help them pay.

Judging people by their schools and unis. I still laugh when people respond with "Oh, you go the Uni of Melbourne". Pfft. Like I care. I did my undergrad at Griffith Uni - the underdog of Brisbane (though it does get more research funds than QUT). I wonder if UQ students get the same reaction? Not from me, I can assure you.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Two Wongs

It's incredibly annoying when you learn an alleged fact, and walk through life thinking it's true, only to learn later on it's not. We learnt in year 10 history that Labor Immigration Minister Arthur Calwell wasn't the most open pereson to multiculturalism and was infamous for making a racist quip. Apparently, it wasn't so:

History has largely portrayed Calwell as a symbol of the White Australia Policy. His name is now most closely associated with his infamous pun that “two Wongs do not make a White” (not a racist witticism, as commonly believed, but a bad joke made in parliament about two men called Wong and an MP called White). However Lindsay Tanner, federal member for the seat of Melbourne, which Calwell held from 1940-72, has argued that Calwell was the man who made the end of White Australia possible. In a 2003 speech, he said: “Calwell pushed the boundaries of racial inclusion at a time when it was extremely politically risky to do so.”

The Labor party have been seen as anti-Asian immigration in the past due to their fear that our Aushtrayan workers would lose their jobs to cheap Asian workers. In fact, Kim Beazley seems to be whistling that same tune again after John Howard made the blunder of doing so in the late 80's.

Regardless, least I know Calwell wasn't the racist bastard I thought he was (according to the former "Australia for the White Man" magazine). It only took me 9 years or so to learn the error of my ways.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Looks and Success

I knew there was a reason why the uni recently hired our new new school secretary from Sweden. It's because she's hot:

Beauty may be more than skin deep after all. New research suggests that good-looking people do better in exams and thus probably in later life, than the plain or downright ugly.

In the study, better-looking students achieved superior results in both oral and written exams -- the latter marked anonymously -- suggesting that success is not just down to teachers favouring attractive students but to superior natural ability

As the article suggests, I'm thinking this correlation is related to confidence. Looks can also affect your jobs prospects:

A survey last year of 11,000 33-year-olds by London Metropolitan University found that unattractive men earned 15 per cent less than those who were deemed attractive, while plain women earned 11 per cent less than their prettier colleagues.

That's blatant sexism. They're hiring men based on their looks! I'm so appalled. Meh. Now for the obvious result:

Previous research has shown that better-looking people have more success at job interviews and in finding a spouse.

Who would have thought?

Why Zidane?

The hell? What was Zidane doing? What did that Italian say to fire him up so?

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Italy in the Finals

They did it. Those dirty, cheating Italians beat the Germans spectacularly, thus making it to the finals. They couldn't win a tank battle to save themselves (or make a decent car without it costing over half a mil and taking a month to assemble), but getting to the finals? No worries.

Consolation for Oz for coming so close to beating Italy? Perhaps.

I recall reading an article in New Scientist, in which they calculated the percentage of confidence for whether a team "truly" won the English Premier League. I wonder what the analysis would say about Italy's final standings in this World Cup?

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Spinach Myth

All parents should read this:

In popular folklore, spinach is a rich source of iron. In reality, a 60 gram serving of boiled spinach contains around 1.9 mg of iron. A good many green vegetables contain less than 1 mg of iron for an equivalent serving. Hence spinach does contain a relatively high level of iron for a vegetable, but its consumption does not have special health connotations as folklore might suggest.

The myth about spinach and its high iron content may have first been propagated by Dr. E. von Wolf in 1870, because a misplaced decimal point in his publication led to an iron-content figure that was ten times too high. In 1937, German chemists reinvestigated this "miracle vegetable" and corrected the mistake. It was described by T.J. Hamblin in British Medical Journal, December 1981.

"Go on. Eat your spinach. It has plenty of iron." Not as much iron as delicious steak though. Mmmm steak.

Old Murdoch

It's no secret that Australian-turned-American media mogul Rupert Murdoch wields the power of the masses in much of the Anglosphere, but you'd think he'd be a little subtle about it:

Rupert Murdoch has called on British Prime Minister Tony Blair to quit at least a year before the next election, heaping further pressure on the embattled premier to announce a timetable for his departure.

Mr Murdoch said voters must be given time to size up Mr Blair's likely successor, Chancellor Gordon Brown, ahead of the next national election, which is due in 2009 or 2010 at the latest.

The News Corporation chairman, whose best-selling tabloid The Sun helped catapult Mr Blair to power in 1997 when it backed his Labour Party, said it was possible he could switch support to the youthful new leader of the opposition Conservative Party, David Cameron.

"We've been very big supporters of Tony on big issues, he's been a very courageous world leader," Mr Murdoch said in an interview published by The Australian newspaper today.

"But for no reason other than the dynamics of British politics we would like to see at least a year to 18 months' standoff between Gordon Brown and David Cameron so we can decide which of those most coincides with our views," he said.

Well, at least old Rupert is honest. And after Buffett's awe-inspiring charity pledge:

Rupert Murdoch said he wouldn't be giving away his money, preferring to "make a difference" through the social and political influence afforded by his international media empire - but making a difference is not the same as philanthropy. (Murdoch's New York Post ran an editorial this week gently chastising Buffett and arguing there was nothing wrong in giving your children your wealth.)

Good old Rupert is going to keep his wealth and make a difference otherwise. What a champion. It's a good thing his mother, Elisabeth Murdoch, is a marvellous woman, and apparently has a strong influence on him. Be frightening to see otherwise.