This week’s all-important topic is Rugby. The Rugby Word Cup starts today. But if you are a rugby fan you won’t need me to tell you that – though you will need Eoin O’Connell’s piece to tell you how to predict who will win it. Education is important is a rather different way. Schools are back this week. We have two related pieces, from Andrew McCulloch on whether ‘efficiency savings’ can really compensate for reduced funding of schools; and from Linda Wijlaars on whether girls really do less well than boys at ‘hard’ subjects like maths.
Speaking of maths we have for the philosophically inclined a wonderful article by Lewis Jones on whether mathematics means anything at all and where Bernard Russell went wrong. It is not every contributor to our website who has had personal discussions with the late Bertrand Russell; even fewer contributors - I suspect only Lewis Jones – have told that great philosopher to his face that he is mistaken.
One of their points of disagreement was over whether the universe could be regulated by a pink blancmange. (Lord Russell appeared to think that, mathematically, it might be. Read Lewis’s piece if you don’t believe me.) Which brings me, by a rather stretched link, to Vanessa Narayanassamy’s posting on whether sprouts were in fact the cause of the recent outbreak of e.coli in Germany. It seems that those who ate the sprouts were 14 times more likely to have become ill than those who did not. For the benefit of any eight-year-old children who may be reading, this not a counter-argument to the parental instruction ‘eat up your spouts, dear, they are good for you.’ These were bean-sprouts, not Brussels. And you only get pink blancmange if you eat them all up.
Looking forward, Sunday brings the anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade centre; and Tuesday brings, in London, Significance magazine’s ‘Hot Topic’ conference on Feeding the Cities. Can the world grow enough food to feed the ever-growing urban population? And if it can, how should that food be grown – locally, organically, or genetically modified with the highest technology as a global agro-business? Will that food be affordable to the ever-growing urban poor, and can the planet sustain growing it? The conference is from 11.00 to 5.00 this Tuesday, at the RSS headquarters at 12, Errol Street, London EC1Y 8LX. See this posting for the full agenda; and come if you can. They are complex questions, and interesting questions, and they matter.