Hot lunches and cold hearts (5×8 – 2/17/14)

The Monday Morning Rouser, Minnehaha Falls edition:

Maddie Stenglein is a better person than some of the people who have created this mess where kids are having food trays yanked from their hands. She was standing in line last week at Willmar Senior High School, the West Central Tribune reports, when she saw a “lunch lady” take a tray out of a boy’s hands and set it aside. Apparently, he didn’t have enough money in his account to pay for lunch, and he walked away embarrassed.

“His face was red, he was staring down at the table, and he wouldn’t talk to anybody,” she said.

She gave him her lunch.

School officials said it’s not an easy situation and they only pull lunches out of kids’ hands when the parents haven’t responded to repeated requests.

The Pioneer Press’ Ruben Rosario says he got a lot of calls after he wrote about this problem last week. Even a conservative writer from Woodbury told him schools should just provide free lunch. When conservatives and liberals agree on something, other people should notice.

Caller Sonia Murphy of Spring Lake Park calls the denial of a hot lunch a disgrace and wonders when the funding should come from the state’s lottery and environment funds.

“If we don’t have healthy children, we won’t have a healthy environment,” she said.

The column triggered some not-so-pleasant memories of first and second grade for Fran Hebert of St. Paul.

She remembers waiting until she was the last person on the hot-lunch line because she did not have money for lunch. The lunch lady would give her whatever was left.

“People would make fun of me because I did not have the money,” Hebert, who grew up in Howard Lake, Minn., recalled. “That’s still on my mind and I’m almost 80 years old. Why be mean to a child? Why not give them something they would have thrown away anyway?”


Why does mathematics permeate our universe? Maybe it’s because some genius in the future is running a simulation and we’re not really “real life.” Edward Frenkel, a math professor, writes in the New York Times that our world might well be a computer simulation.

Many mathematicians, when pressed, admit to being Platonists. The great logician Kurt Gödel argued that mathematical concepts and ideas “form an objective reality of their own, which we cannot create or change, but only perceive and describe.” But if this is true, how do humans manage to access this hidden reality?

We don’t know. But one fanciful possibility is that we live in a computer simulation based on the laws of mathematics — not in what we commonly take to be the real world. According to this theory, some highly advanced computer programmer of the future has devised this simulation, and we are unknowingly part of it. Thus when we discover a mathematical truth, we are simply discovering aspects of the code that the programmer used.

This may strike you as very unlikely. But the Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom has argued that we are more likely to be in such a simulation than not. If such simulations are possible in theory, he reasons, then eventually humans will create them — presumably many of them. If this is so, in time there will be many more simulated worlds than nonsimulated ones. Statistically speaking, therefore, we are more likely to be living in a simulated world than the real one.


And almost gone…

The results are in for the Nisswa Winter Jubilee snow sculpture competition. The theme is Rock of Ages.

Proof that spring is coming: A guitar melts and collapses.

Third prize:

Second prize:

First prize:

Bonus I: Can your summer do this?

Bonus II: What part of science don’t you understand? All of it, apparently.

Says Mashable:

Covering global warming as a debate has long been a fatally flawed paradigm, considering that the vast majority of climate scientists agree that manmade climate change is real. The actual debate in the scientific community centers on how damaging climate change will be, to what extent global warming’s fingerprints are already visible on our day-to-day weather extremes, and what can be done about it.

Instead, Meet the Press debated the very existence of the problem, and when it came to climate policy, Bill Nye is not the guy to discuss cap-and-trade plans or climate taxes.


Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: The state of community colleges in America.

Second hour: While it may seem counterintuitive, the most powerful, important, and underutilized word in your own vocabulary may be “no.” You’ve likely been told from a young age that you shouldn’t say no – not to your parents, not to your teachers, and especially not to your boss. But when wielded correctly, saying no can be a great benefit in both your personal and professional life.

Third hour: Malcolm Gladwell.

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm) – Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel leads an Aspen Ideas Festival discussion called “The Overtested American.”

The Takeaway (1-2 p.m.) – TBA

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – TBA