NPR’s Word Puzzle

NPR’s Sunday puzzle last week was the following: find a five-letter word in which the position, in the alphabet, of the first letter is equal to the sum of the positions of the last four letters.

This week they gave the following answers: maced, table, whack, and zebra.

More generally, one could ask the same question for words of other lengths. Here are a few I found:

cab
hag
jade
leaf
leg
mage
mica
mid
need
pig
rale
real
ride
same
sand
seam
toad
toe
vial
vim
weeded
wend
who
wick
win
yet
yip
zeta
zinc

So “weeded” seems to be the longest word in English with this property. Can you find a longer one?

They also talked about words like “easy” in which the position of the last letter is equal to the sum of the positions of the preceding letters. I found the following other examples:

abbot
ally
away
babe
bail
bendy
bidet
bleat
boar
cachet
debit
dim
draw
eager
fag
feces
flew
gnu
habit
hair
hem
hoax
how
idly
jaggy
joy
kit
lam
man
neat
pact
paddy
sex
tabby
tau
wax

So the longest seems to be “cachet”. Can you find a longer one?

They Offer Nothing But Lies, 6

Once again, the creationists are telling fibs about information theory. Are they dishonest, or just stupid? In the case of Denyse O’Leary, I’m inclined to suspect the latter:

The belief that randomness produces information (central to Darwinism) is obviously false. It’s never been demonstrated because it can’t be. It is assumed.

No, it’s not “assumed”. It’s proved. It’s one of the most basic results in Kolmogorov information theory, demonstrated every year in the classes I teach. With high probability, a randomly-generated list of symbols will contain a lot of information. To understand this you can use one of Dembski’s own metaphors: the combination lock. Which will be harder for someone to deduce, a combination that is your birthday in the form mmdd, or the first four digits of pi, or a randomly-generated 4-digit code?

This does not seem to penetrate the skull of the rather dense Ms. O’Leary, who then tries to weasel out of her claim by saying

by “information,” one means here complex, specified information, produced in vast interlocking patterns on a regular basis.

Oh, so she’s not talking about “information” in the way it is used by mathematicians and computer scientists. She’s talking about creationist information, that vague, incoherent, and self-contradictory mess invented by Dembski and used by basically no one except creationists.

That mess was debunked years ago.

Here’s an example: take any English text T, like the first 10 lines of a Shakespearean sonnet. Now apply any decent encryption function f to it that is not known to an adversary, getting U. To the adversary, U will look like random noise and hence be “unspecified”, so it will not constitute creationist information. Now I come along and apply f-1 to U, getting T back again. Voilà! I have now magically created information deterministically, something Dembski claims is impossible.

No matter how many times you explain this, creationists offer nothing but lies in response.

Another Day, Another Right-Wing Quote Lie

It seems that pretty much every day of the week, one can find right-wing spokesmen using fake quotes to justify their beliefs.

Today’s lying wingnut is Sarah Palin, who gave a sing-song speech-like thingie in Wisconsin supporting Donald Trump to barely any applause at all. Near the end (at the 20:30 mark of the video), she says,

“Well, General George Patton, he said it best, he — leading the greatest generation — he said
‘Politicians are the lowest form of life on earth’, he said it, I didn’t, OK? he said it. And he said, ‘Liberal Democrats are the lowest form of politicians.’ ”

Well, no, Patton didn’t. This was debunked months ago.

Sarah Palin, like most of her wingnut friends, is completely uninterested in the truth. All she cares about is having a cudgel to beat Democrats with.

These Lawyers are All ASSoLs

This is pretty funny: two donors paid off George Mason University to the tune of $30 million to change the name of their mediocre law school (rated #40 in the US by one measure) to the “Antonin Scalia School of Law“.

I guess nobody noticed at the time that the acronym “ASSoL” was really, really appropriate. At least not for a while. But now they’ve quietly changed their public presence to the “The Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University”.

That won’t prevent everyone else from calling them ASSoLs, though.

Cold-FX Lawsuit May Be a Remedy for False Health Claims

Cold-FX, a drugstore remedy hawked by Canadian fashion icon Don Cherry, is the subject of a lawsuit alleging the makers “ignored their own research and misled consumers about the short-term effectiveness of the popular cold and flu remedy”. Cold-FX is basically just some sort of ginseng extract, although they give it the fancy name “CVT-E002”. The suit was brought by Don Harrison of Vancouver Island.

Questions about the efficacy of Cold-FX have been raised for years.

Whether or not the claims of Cold-FX are false — nothing has been proven in court yet — there is no question that there is a lot of fraud in the over-the-counter pharmacy market, including worthless homeopathic remedies marketed as being effective against a wide variety of illnesses.

Hopefully this lawsuit, whether it succeeds or not, will make pharmaceutical companies much more diligent about ensuring the veracity of their claims.

Introducing Recursivity

This is Recursivity, a blog about mathematics, science, evolution, politics, musics, and whatever else interests me.  Welcome.

I’ve been blogging at blogger for more than 10 years, so I guess this is a step up, although most posts here will still be cross-posted to blogger.  I’m pleased to join fellow bloggers such as P. Z. Myers and the Digital Cuttlefish.

A little about me:  in my real life, I teach computer science at the University of Waterloo in Waterloo, Ontario.   However, I’m an American citizen, and most of my views are informed by an American, rather than Canadian, view of the world.   You can visit my home page at the link in the previous sentence to see my research interests.