Archive for July 17, 2009

Tour de France: Colmar

July 17, 2009 Leave a comment


I don’t have much to say about today’s Tour de France stage. From Vittel, it went through the Vosges mountains on a rainy day, ending in the Alsatian city of Colmar. The leaders didn’t try to catch the breakaway, from which the German-Australian rider Heinrich Haussler broke away to win. His emotional response served as a reminder of how important these stage victories are to the riders, even if they add little to the competition for the overall prize.

But I can’t let the Tour pass through Colmar without paying tribute to the reason everyone must visit Colmar at least once in their lives: the Isenheim Altarpiece, Matthias Grünewald’s great rendering of the crucifixion. I mentioned it in May in a post on Alsatian pinot blanc. I saw it in February 1983, and I hope to see it again soon, this time with Gail when we go to France in the fall. What you see above is only a part of it, though the principal part, and photos cannot begin to capture its power.

Maybe Haussler checked it out after his win today.

Categories: Arts, Religion, Sports, Travel

Watson at Turnberry

July 17, 2009 1 comment
Watson celebrates birdie on 18

Watson celebrates birdie on 18

Halfway through this year’s Open Championship, the 59-year-old Tom Watson is tied for the lead. He is five-time Open champion and came close to winning at least two more. But all his victories came between 1975 and 1983, he is long past his golfing prime, and he has already announced that he will play his final Open at St. Andrews next year. When he shot a five-under-par 65 yesterday to sit one stroke off the lead, it was a great story, but no one expected it to last. And indeed, he was following the script when he followed an opening birdie today with 5 bogeys in the next 6 holes. But then the unexpected happened: four birdies and no bogeys from 9 through 18, including birdie putts of 60 feet on both 16 and 18. The result was a par round of 70 today, a cumulative score of 5 under par, and a tie for the lead. He is the oldest player by five years ever to lead a major championship at the halfway point.

I am writing now while he’s still in the lead, because this surely won’t last much longer. Read more…

Categories: Golf

Erdős Number 1?

July 17, 2009 Leave a comment


A hat tip to Arnold Zwicky at Language Log for pointing me to the recent xkcd cartoon above, in which mathematicians the world over are given hope that they might yet be able to acquire an Erdős number of 1.

I described Erdős number in a post last Christmas Eve, explaining that it is how mathematicians measure “their level of connectedness to the late, prolific Hungarian mathematician Paul Erdős. Erdős has an Erdős number of 0. If you wrote a joint paper with Erdős, your Erdős number is 1. If you didn’t, but you wrote a joint paper with someone who wrote a paper with Erdős, your Erdős number is 2. And so on.” (See here for more information.) I also noted the more familiar but essentially identical method of measuring an actor’s degree of separation from Kevin Bacon. The purpose of the post was to measure my Erdős-like distance from mathematician and Iraqi politician Ahmed Chalabi.

A week later I had a post on my Duke Ellington number. At the time, I did some research for a post on my Ty Cobb number, but I never wrote it. Perhaps I’ll do so soon. (I have several two-step connections to baseball players. Fairly serious connections, not just that I saw them at a game. Rather, I know someone well who is a friend or relative of a major league baseball player.)

My own Erdős number is 4. I hadn’t expected it to get any lower, but the cartoon gives me hope.

Categories: Cartoons, Math