from items published in the
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(See the category index for more.)

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Mitch Pearlstein
“To save world, set a deadline. Easy!”

published in the Star Tribune April 26, 2010

An optimist is someone who believes that this is the best of all possible worlds. A pessimist is someone who agrees.

Topics:

Optimism

Pessimism

text checked (see note) Apr 2010

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David M. Perlman
COUNTERPOINT
“Playing the odds on global warming”

published in the Star Tribune December 8, 2009

But there is no such discipline as “the mathematical sciences”; we don’t have to call our field a science because there is absolutely no doubt that it is a science.

The same goes for chemistry, physics, geology, etc.

The fields of study that do include the word “science” are, by and large, the ones that need to remind people to take them seriously — for example, social science and behavioral science. Those fields of study are on fairly solid ground but use probability and statistics to draw conclusions. There is nothing wrong with that except that it can be grossly misunderstood by the general public.

Topics:

Mathematics

Science

For argument’s sake, let’s say there is only a 99 percent chance that the trend we observe is real. If you were in Las Vegas and offered a bet that a randomly picked number between 1 and 100 was 50, would you be willing to bet even money?

Topics:

Gambling

Climate change

text checked (see note) Dec 2009

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Alexandra Petri
“In the age of Twitter, it’s easy to be an idiot”

from the Washington Post,
published in the Star Tribune June 8, 2011

Nothing I have seen in my brief existence has contradicted my belief that people will do the dumbest thing possible with any technology available to them. Visit an emergency room where Ray has gotten his tongue trapped in the backhoe, and tell me that I am wrong.

Restraint? We know what it means but not how to exercise it.

Topic:

Technology

But Twitter also magnifies our most asinine urges by eliminating the possibility for subtlety. It is easy to be racist or sexist in 140 characters. It is impossible to be sublime.

text checked (see note) June 2011

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David Quammen
“Grizzlies aren’t out of the woods”

from the New York Times,
published in the Star Tribune January 20, 2006

Some people have argued that it’s important in principle to de-list the Yellowstone grizzly, in order to show that the Endangered Species Act can yield success stories. That’s like arguing that we must claim success in our wars, early and often, in order to preserve faith in America’s military.

Topic:

Logic (examples)

text checked (see note) Jan 2006

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Charlie Quimby
“A Ponzi scheme? You’re living it.”

published in the Star Tribune October 22, 2008

The Iraq war, the mortgage bust, a demoralized financial market, unsustainable population growth, climate change, and the mother of all meltdowns, the world’s declining supply of oil, are all built on the same shaky scaffold. We are living off dwindling financial and fossil credits, while fantasizing rescue from the consequences — by technology, free markets, space aliens, or God.

But there is no way to flip this property and move on. Our children will have to live here, so we’d better make the best of it.

text checked (see note) Oct 2008

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Background graphic copyright © 2003 by Hal Keen