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Torture

[Note: this article was written around September 2003, but I feel it is relevant now. It is also unfinished, as should be obvious.]

In recent years, a longstanding disgust at the concept of torture has begun to be challenged. Torture is beginning to be seen as an acceptable weapon in the war against terrorism. The US has used “torture lite” on the prisoners held at Guantanamo bay. A British court recently ruled that a piece of evidence acquired through torture was admissible. In Germany, a policeman used the threat of torture to extract information from a suspect. [This whole paragraph needs researched in depth and expanded.]
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Criticising war-mongering is to show true respect for the dead

I wrote this article on September 24th 2001 jointly with Sean Hartnoll for Take Issue! - I still stand by what we said then.


It is difficult to say much about the recent tragedy in New York and Washington that has not already been said. Many people have been shocked by the appearance of criticism of the US or concern about what they will do in response to this event. It is our aim to make clear why this criticism is not the product of a hatred or envy of North American people, nor of a disregard for human life and suffering, but is actually the product of an equal concern for all human life, regardless of nationality.


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Civil liberties and terrorism

This article was published in Take Issue! in February 2002. It's a little dated now, but I think I stand by most of what I wrote then.


As part of the "War on Terror" many governments around the world have proposed and even implemented new "emergency" legislation to deal with the threat of terrorism. Some of this new legislation is fundamentally at odds with the principles of liberty that are part of democratic society. In the UK, this new legislation is the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 which continues the work of the Terrorism Act 2000 (you can find the text of the two Bills by starting from http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/atoz/terrorists.htm).

Civil liberties are important because they protect the innocent, not the guilty. The requirement that police officers need a warrant before they can arrest someone or search people or premises, the right to a trial by jury, the right to be innocent until proven guilty - all of these are designed to protect innocent people from undue interference in their lives and harassment by the state. In the UK we no longer have any of these rights. For example, the Terrorism Act 2000, now part of UK law but drafted before the September 11 attacks, states that "A constable may arrest without a warrant a person whom he reasonably suspects to be a terrorist." (In other words, you now no longer need to be seen committing a crime to be arrested without a warrant.)


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Critical review of Robert Nozick's "Anarchy, State and Utopia"

Robert Nozick's "Anarchy, State and Utopia" is undoubtedly a highly original and intelligent work. It has three major flaws though. Firstly, his idea of a minimal state requires not only that the state itself respects individual liberty to an unparalleled degree, but also that the population uniformly respects others' liberty to a high degree. Secondly, there is no discussion of power relations and the possibility of actually achieving a minimal state; the introduction of a minimal state today would not, and perhaps could not, have the effect Nozick desires, and there is little indication of what sequence of events could lead to a minimal state which would work. Thirdly, the "entitlement theory of justice" is inherently dualistic, a distribution of holdings is either just or unjust, but to defend it against the charge that a just distribution of holdings is impossible to achieve in practice, one would probably have to introduce a variable scale of justness, which would be antithetical to the spirit of the theory.

The use of mathematics in computer games

This article for NRICH is an introduction (suitable for ages 14+) at the mathematics used in programming computer games. It covers some aspects of geometry and vectors, 3d graphics, graphs and path finding, and some physics.

Published on NRICH (May 2000)


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Solving Impuzzable

This article for NRICH describes how I used QBASIC to solve a particularly difficult jigsaw puzzle called Impuzzable. Suitable for ages 14 and up.

Published on NRICH (February 2001)

 


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An introduction to complex numbers

This is an article for NRICH. It introduces the topic of complex numbers for mathematically inclined school children of ages 15 or 16 and up, in a way which resembles the way university maths is taught rather than the way school maths is taught, with less emphasis on rote learning and calculation and more emphasis on the intuition, abstraction and creativity required for higher maths. For this reason, it may be more difficult than a school level introduction, but I think that those interested in studying maths at university would benefit from the change in style.


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An introduction to Galois theory

This is an article for NRICH. It introduces the topic of Galois theory at the level of a good 17 or 18 year old school student student. The two primary motivations for studying it that are given are solving equations by radicals and geometric constructibility proofs.

Published on NRICH (February 2002)


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