Archive for David Allen Green

A Problem of Sons

Posted in Cute Problems with tags , , on January 31, 2019 by telescoper

I’m posting this in the Cute Problems folder, but I’m mainly putting it up here as a sort of experiment. This little puzzle was posted on Twitter by someone I follow and it got a huge number of responses (>25,000). I was fascinated by the replies, and I’m really interested to see whether the distribution of responses from readers of this blog is different.

Anyway, here it is, exactly as posted on Twitter:

Assume there is a 50:50 chance of any child being male or female.

Now assume four generations, all other things being equal.

What are the odds of a son being a son of a son of a son?

Please choose an answer from those below:


UPDATE: The answer is below:


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Have you been threatened with legal action by “Scientists for Britain”?

Posted in Politics, Science Politics with tags , , , , , on April 3, 2016 by telescoper

Back in circulation after a short break I hope to write a few pieces about why I support the case for the United Kingdom to remain in the European Union, partly because it’s good for science, but also because it’s good for many other reasons.

But before I do that, I feel I have to do a quick post about the extremely unpleasant antics of an organization called “Scientists for Britain“, or rather the anonymous person or persons operating their Twitter feed.

Last Saturday I found myself in receipt of a message, apparently sent by this outfit, that explicitly threatened legal action on grounds of libel because of a comment I had made on one of their posts on Twitter which was alleged to be “disparaging”. I was refrained from referring the sender of this intentionally intimidatory message to the response given in Arkell versus Pressdram but it soon became clear that a number of other scientists on Twitter had received similar threats.Then, fortunately for us, in stepped renowned legal journalist David Allen Green, who blogs as Jack of Kent and is something of a specialist in libel law. He made it quite clear that the threats sent out by Scientists for Britain had no basis whatsoever in law, not least because you can’t libel an anonymous person. I hadn’t said anything even remotely actionable anyway.

Within hours, all the threatening messages had been deleted by Scientists for Britain, and they also blocked those of us to whom they had sent them in the first place, including myself. There are such things as screen grabs, however…

This social media car crash would be very funny were there not something very sinister behind it. I’m all for healthy robust and vigorous debate on the issue of the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union ahead of the forthcoming referendum, but bullying those you disagree with by means of threats of legal action is no way to make your case. Also, for the record, I will point out that I have seen no evidence that the anonymous operator of the Scientists for Britain Twitter feed, who delights in issuing unwarranted libel threats, is a actually scientist at all. I very much doubt that is the case, in fact. Why else would Scientists for Britain be so obsessive about their anonymity? Even their response to a letter signed by 150 Fellows of the Royal Society is unsigned….

I am posting this information here in an attempt to find out how many other scientists  Scientists for Britain have tried to silence through legal threats.  If this has happened to you, please let me know via email, Twitter, or via the comments box  of this blog (below).

If Scientists for Britain wish to comment they are welcome to do so below, although please note my comments policy: I do not accept postings from anonymous individuals.