Sunday, May 8, 2016

Dangerous mathematicians

There is a new story buzzing around the internet about a mathematician who was questioned at an airport because he was writing math equations on a plane.  Another passenger thought his equations were a sign of danger, reported him to the authorities, and then of course they decided to investigate.  I am trying to imagine this conversation:

I saw a man writing in a foreign language!


But, it wasn't English.  He must be a terrorist!

So he was writing... in a language that isn't English.


And from this you concluded he is a terrorist?


At this point the conversation should have ended with "You are a racist fucknut, sit down and stop being an asshole."

Instead it ended with "We will question this man on the basis that he is writing in a non English language."

Of course it was just mathematical symbols, not a language, but that point matters not at all.  Obviously the fact that people view speaking a language that isn't English a sign of danger is wretchedly bigoted and xenophobic, but that fact that the people in charge decided this was just cause to disrupt everything for the entire plane is staggering.  Do they have a rule that if anyone thinks another person is suspicious for any reason the 'suspicious' person must be detained?

Just another sign of the ridiculous security theatre that has enveloped airplanes since 9/11.  We surrender all reason and thought and leap to 'terrorist!' without any consideration at all.  Terrorism kills less people than toddlers with guns, less people than falling television sets, less people than moose attacks.  When the excuse for paranoia is outright bigotry and nothing else it is even more embarrassing.


  1. The Moose lobby would like to warn you that these repeated and unwarranted attacks on the fine reputation of everyone's favourite deer is reckless and libelous. The moose is a beloved Canadian icon that contributes millions of dollars to the economy, and it is important to note that the moose industry meets or exceeds all required wild herbivore safety regulations.

    We encourage everyone to come see for themselves with a perfectly safe visit to the Canadian North where they can view these beautiful creatures peacefully foraging.

  2. (re: your embarrassing paranoia and outright moose bigotry)

  3. Don't tell me you are one of those awful moose sympathizers. We ought to lock you people up.