Two weeks after the Brexit referendum

Here in Oxford’s spectacular mathematics building, we had our weekly meeting of the Chebfun team yesterday. Looking around the table, I realized that the people here working with me were from Italy, France, Germany, the USA, Pakistan, Iran, Japan, and China — and that I was the only one in the room with the right to remain permanently in the UK.

Seven-and-a-half of our nine salaries are paid by sources outside the UK.

More or less accidentally, the British people seem to have voted to bring all this to an end.

[7 July 2016]

We like sheep

The Bible has much to say about sheep, which are cared for by man as man is cared for by God. Walking the South Downs Way past hundreds of them yesterday, I was wondering about what sheep make of this relationship. It’s hard to put myself in the mind of a ewe, but perhaps an approximation goes like this. She probably knows pretty well that people run the show. She probably has a sense that the man who takes care of her and her lambs is on their side. A caregiver.

Being a sheep, she probably doesn’t reflect much on the question of “why?”  Why does that man take care of us? What’s in it for him? Perhaps she dimly supposes that it’s because he likes us.

It doesn’t occur to her that his actual plan is to eat us.

[4 July 2016]

Jeremy Corbyn and the number 3/4

Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party, was overwhelmingly defeated this week in a no-confidence vote: 40 votes for him, 172 against. That’s 81.1% against.

The press has been describing this fraction sometimes as “three-quarters”.  I heard that expression on Radio 4 when the vote was first announced, and here it is again in yesterday’s Economist: “Jeremy Corbyn has been rejected by three-quarters of his MPs”. In fact, 81.1% is between four-fifths and five-sixths.

The BBC and the Economist are not sloppy. We can assume their choice of words was intentional. I guess in their editorial judgment, “three-quarters” sounds like English and “four-fifths” sounds like statistics.

[1 July 2016]