Archive for Senate

don’t wear your helmet, you could have a bike accident!

Posted in Kids, Running, Statistics, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 18, 2022 by xi'an

As once in a while reappears the argument that wearing a bike helmet increases one’s chances of a bike accident. In the current case, it is to argue against a French regulation proposal that helmets should be compulsory for all cyclists. Without getting now into the pros and cons of compulsory helmet laws (enforced in Argentina, Australia, and New Zealand, as well as some provinces of Canada), I see little worth in the study cited by Le Monde towards this argument. As the data is poor and poorly analysed. First, there is a significant fraction of cycling accidents when the presence of an helmet is unknown. Second, the fraction of cyclists wearing helmets is based on a yearly survey involving 500 persons in a few major French cities. The conclusion that there are three times more accidents among cyclists wearing helmets than among cyclists not wearing helmets is thus not particularly reliable. Rather than the highly debatable arguments that (a) seeing a cyclist with an helmet would reduce the caution of car or bus drivers, (b) wearing an helmet would reduce the risk aversion of a cyclist, (c) sport-cyclists are mostly wearing helmets but their bikes are not appropriate for cities (!), I would not eliminate [as the authors do] the basic argument that helmeted cyclists are on average traveling longer distances. With a probability of an accident that necessarily  increases with the distance traveled. While people renting on-the-go bikes are usually biking short distances and almost never wear helmets. (For the record, I mostly wear a [bright orange] helmet but sometimes do not when going to the nearby bakery or swimming pool… Each time I had a fall, crash or accident with a car, I was wearing an helmet and I once hit my head or rather the helmet on the ground, with no consequence I am aware of!)

holy war

Posted in Books, Kids with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 1, 2021 by xi'an

In a series of fascinating tribunes in the New York Times, Katherine Stewart points out the frightening anti-democratic views of the Christian extreme-right in the US. As exemplified by

“…a political system that gives disproportionate power to an immensely organized, engaged and loyal minority. One of the most reliable strategies for producing that unshakable cohort has been to get them to agree that abortion is the easy answer to every difficult political policy question. Recently, religious right leaders have shifted their focus more to a specious understanding of what they call “religious freedom” or “religious liberty,” but the underlying strategy is the same: make individuals see their partisan vote as the primary way to protect their cultural and religious identity.” K. Stewart

Panch at the helm!

Posted in pictures, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 8, 2020 by xi'an

Reading somewhat by chance a Nature article on the new Director of the National Science Foundation (NSF) nominated by Trump (and yet to be confirmed by the Senate), I found that his name Sethuraman Panchanathan was the name of a friend of my wife 30⁺ years ago when they were both graduate students in image processing at the University of Ottawa, Department of Electrical Engineering… And looking further into the matter, I realised that this was indeed the very friend we knew from that time, with whom w shared laughs, dinners, and a few day trips together around Ottawa! While this is not the ultimate surprise, given that science administration is usually run by scientists, taken from a population pool that is not that large, as exemplified by earlier cases at the national or European level where I had some acquaintance with a then senior officer, it is nonetheless striking (and fun) to hear of a friend moving to a high visibility position after such a long gap. (When comparing NSF and ERC, the European Research Council, with French mathematician Jean-Pierre Bourguignon as current director also appearing in a recent Nature article, I was surprised to see that the ERC budget was more than twice the NSF budget.) Well, good luck to him for sailing these highly political waters!

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