Have a resolution to think critically

As we enter 2017, most people will start to think about resolutions – “new year, new me”.  The main resolution seems to be to get healthier: drink less, more exercise, eat better.  Year after year the resolutions will mainly peter out, leaving us all the ability to reuse the same ones next year.  What I’ve seen over 20161 is a worldwide lack of critical thinking.  Social media posts are the main sources of the problem, but recently news outlets have fallen foul of this too.  It worries me that all it seems to take is an image and some text and then something becomes “true”.  What’s really irritating is this has all been made acceptable by saying we live in a post-truth era, without anyone really trying to do anything about it. Continue reading Have a resolution to think critically

Artificial images: seeing is no longer believing

Loom.ai can generate a 3D avatar from a single image

“Pics or it didn’t happen” – it’s a common request when telling a tale that might be considered exaggerated.  Usually, supplying a picture or video of the event is enough to convince your audience that you’re telling the truth.  However, we’ve been living in an age of Photoshop for a while and it has (or really should!!!) become habit to check Snopes and other sites before believing even simple images1 – they even have a tag for debunked images due to photoshopping. Continue reading Artificial images: seeing is no longer believing

Using OneNote for Open University TMAs

Image from windowscentral.com.

I get a lot of attention when using my surface for note taking at work, studying on the tube or train and during OU tutorials, making full use of multiple notebooks, tabs and pages in OneNote.  I’ve written before about using the surface but following a discussion after my most recent tutorial I realised I hadn’t covered the way I use it along side the OU’s electronic TMA submission process1.  A lot of people on the same maths course as I am tend to use \LaTeX and typeset their marked assignments.  While I am a great fan of \LaTeX and appreciate how clear this is for the tutors to mark, I have always preferred to hand write assignments.  While there is some aspect of writing by hand helping to cement ideas more than those typewritten, the main reason I prefer to handwrite is that the exam is handwritten.  If I don’t force myself into regular, neat mathematical writing then it’s easy to make mistakes in the time pressure of the exam.  Simple things like forgetting to underline vector or matrix definitions can cost marks and if the examiner can’t distinguish a 0 from a 6 then you’re going to be in trouble! Continue reading Using OneNote for Open University TMAs