Saturday, March 03, 2007

Statistics in Religious Archaeology

Scientific American: Special Report: Has James Cameron Found Jesus's Tomb or Is It Just a Statistical Error?

Tomorrow night on the Discovery Channel there is scheduled to be aired a special about an ossuary in Jerusalem that some are claiming could belong to the family of Jesus (as). Some, of course, would then go so far to suggest that Jesus's (as) bones are there as well - although that is a much more wild claim. An interesting aspect of the names in that ossuary is that they may include the name of Mary Magdalene.

The article above is about a hypothesis test calculated around the probability of the names mentioned in the ossuary existing in that particular combination. Based on certain assumptions and research about naming in Jerusalem at the time, a statistician calculated 600 to 1 odds that that particular set of names belonged to the family of Jesus (as) and not another family with similar names.

This is actually the kind of stuff we're studying in my AP Statistics class right now. The kids are learning to conduct hypothesis tests, so maybe we will discuss this article next week and see if the students can determine what his assumptions were, what his null hypothesis was, etc.

As for other stuff going on recently in the land of Otowi:

1. I am going back to work at Sylvan Learning Center on Saturdays. So, I will once again be officially in the realm of the two jobs. I worked at Sylvan several years ago and did their SAT prep course off and on for a while after that and the couple that owns the Center asked me to come back. I tend to say yes to requests from people I know and like, and I could use the money in my ongoing quest to try to keep a balanced budget. The vast majority of my paycheck is gone on the second of the month - the day I pay bills - mortgage, utilities, school loans, old debts, etc. As we all know, debt sucks, and I have an ongoing goal to pay it down and not increase it.

2. The past week was Luau week at Coronado. It is a school tradition to have a luau dance once a year - a dance and opening of the pool combined. So every day was a different dress up day - crazy shades (sunglasses) day, class colors day, pirate day, lifeguard/scuba day, and beach day. We had snow this week and that may have been a factor in that kids did not seem to be dressing up in high proportion. I dressed up for class colors day and beach day and managed a very vaguely pirate-ish hijab for pirate day. But for beach day I ended up wearing my Islamic swim suit, aqua socks and favorite hibiscus beach towel. Several students enjoyed that.

3. My mom's birthday is Monday. Brother and I are taking her out to dinner tonight (along with brother's family, of course). I hope dad will go, too - he often decides not to participate in things. I did get her a present, but she knows she will have to wait for it, because it isn't released for a few weeks yet. Mom really liked Casino Royale, so I ordered it for her on DVD, and I will give her tickets to Trace Bundy, although those aren't really a gift. Trace Bundy is the most incredible acoustic guitarist I've ever seen or heard. My student mentoree who runs the guitar club at Coronado has a connection with Trace Bundy and did all the work to bring him out for a show. I believe his music falls within what is permitted Islamically on the basis of the rulings of Ayatollah Seestani and several others who have the same ruling. If The Police tickets weren't so outlandishly expensive, that is another concert I would've been tempted to attend even with my misgivings about where the music would fall in the context of rulings. The Police has always been a favorite of my mine. Synchronicity was worn out on my cassette player when I was a kid.

4. Blake, another teacher in the math department, is a fan of Terry Brooks. We were talking about The Silmarillion as I had been reading it because he had started it and never finished it, so then we started talking about The Sword of Shannara trilogy by Brooks. He just started re-reading it, so I got a copy for 1 cent off Amazon and started reading it, too. So far it isn't impressive (two chapters in) but not bad either. Clearly it isn't a Tolkien, but that doesn't mean it can't be enjoyable. I am often not impressed by books in the first few chapters and they still can turn out to be good. Now Harry Potter books are usually good from the get-go (children's books are often better at that), but that's another story - literally.

5. The Diary of a Wimpy Kid is coming to print! I just had to pre-order it....

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