“Narrative & Proof”: A Mathematician’s Perspective


Recently, I stumbled upon a Guardian article by mathematician and BBC presenter Marcus du Sautoy. I’d missed it when it was originally published in January as I was travelling then. If you are not familiar with Marcus’ work you can access his podcast “A Brief History of Mathematics” (10 episodes) and watch clips of his BBC Four programme “The Story of Maths” (currently not available on iplayer).

Sautoy’s  works remind me of another mathematician Ian Stewart of the ilk who write for the general audience. Stewart’s book entitled “Why Beauty Is Truth: The History of Symmetry” is a real delight to read. I also realised how little I originally understood mathematics when I first read Stewart’s “The Problems of Mathematics”.

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Breaking the Silence: Monologues on Gender, Voice and Violence

Last Friday, at the United Nations in New York, the Liechtenstein Institute on Self-Determination co-sponsored an event entitled “Breaking the Silence: Monologues on Gender, Voice and Violence”.

Here’s more information and a video link.

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Quotes From Davos 2015


The World Economic Forum 2015 may have been fetishizing success. I hope not of course, but listening to all the leaders, it did cross my mind. We’ll really only know decades from now. When there might be enough hindsight so as to be accurate, and, a whole lot less complicity so as to be honest.

What do I mean by fetishizing success? Google offers a definition for fetish as having “an excessive and irrational commitment” to a course of action and success as “the accomplishment of an aim or purpose.” In that sense, I use the phrase ‘fetishizing success’ to denote a cultural metaphor.

That ‘we’ – as members of the public, the collective total of all social units – and ‘businesses’ (still ‘we’) – as social units of private interests – wish to converse with each another. (Arguably, it is more than ‘wish’ but perhaps ‘need’.)

Yet, it appears that the functional difference between businesses (make profits, create jobs, etc) and people (earn and income, be better members of society, etc) has made each function polarised with respect to one another and the conversation rather asymmetrical. More monologue than dialogue. More instruction than discussion. That somehow interests are, and, could be mutually exclusive.

In this sense, Davos is trying to offer an alternative means for dialogue. Davos intends to make the conversation less mutually exclusive. However, there have been similar targets and agendas which we’ve yet to meet. And no matter how much one learns to speak nicely and with good intentions, are the people we hope to be nice towards even listening?

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What is money?


What is money? A question borne from my ignorance of the subject. Money is not one subject but a whole series of subjects. Money is, amongst other things, about trust in the value of things, about exchanging in currencies, about measuring the capacity to own property.

Think of the kissi pennies. Or cowrie shells as earliest chinese currency in use between 16th-8th century BC. The largest ever bank transfer note in US currency was a $100,000 note in 1934 featuring Woodrow Wilson. The UK equivalent is a £100 million note called titan found only in the vaults of the Bank of England. The history and continuing importance of money is rather intriguing.

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Raymond Williams & Jacques Derrida In Discussion 1986

One of the fabulous things about online video providers (eg. youtube) is the constant expansion of their content. There are downsides to the wealth of content. Perhaps, the biggest downside is that I miss the feelings that arise, like a sense of specificity, as I make time and resource consuming journeys to listen to speakers. I think it has something to do with how human beings recollect faces and spatial interactions as opposed to recollecting text and meaning. A grand distinction, I know. Continue reading

Reflections From Beijing

My recent visit to Beijing brought to mind a number of themes relating to international legal theory/history. Themes that I’ve not, at least since I’d started my doctoral project, had the opportunity to read and reflect upon. Themes such as Cháogòng tǐzhì (‘Tribute system’) and Sinocentrism. These themes are arguably defunct as appropriate descriptions of international order or international ideology these days, but, I think those themes continue to serve as useful prisms through which to understand some aspects of contemporary Chinese diplomacy.

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CFP: After Empire: The League of Nations and the former Habsburg Lands

Originally seen on ESIL’s interest group on the History of International Law blog (http://esilhil.blogspot.com/)

Call for Papers:

CFP: After Empire: The League of Nations and the former Habsburg Lands (Vienna, 11-12 December 2015); DEADLINE: 31 January 2015

The call for papers for this workshop is now open. If you would like to apply please submit a paper abstract of around 200 words by the end of January 2015 to peter.becker@univie.ac.at or ngw2103@columbia.edu.

If the Austro-Hungarian empire gave way to a new order of nation-states at the end of the First World War, the birth of that order coincided with a broader new international settlement with the League of Nations at its heart. Continue reading