Tag Archives: crime

Math on Trial, by Leila Schneps and Coralie Colmez

The arithmetic geometer Leila Schneps, who taught me most of what I know about Galois actions on fundamental groups of varieties, has a new book out, Math on Trial:  How Numbers Get Used and Abused in the Courtroom, written with her daughter Coralie Colmez.  Each chapter covers a famous case whose resolution, for better or worse, involved a mathematical argument.  Interspersed among the homicide and vice are short chapters that speak directly to some of the mathematical and statistical issues that arise in legal matters.  One of the cases is the much-publicized prosecution of college student Amanda Knox for a murder in Italy; today in the New York Times, Schneps and Colmez write about some of the mathematical pratfalls in their trial.

I am happy to have played some small part in building their book — I was the one who told Leila about the murder of Diana Sylvester, which turned into a whole chapter of Math on Trial; very satisfying to see the case treated with much more rigor, depth, and care than I gave it on the blog!  I hope it is not a spoiler to say that Schneps and Colmez come down on the side of assigning a probability close to 1 that the right man was convicted (though not nearly so close to 1 as the prosecution claimed, and perhaps to close enough for a jury to have rightfully convicted, depending on how you roll re “reasonable doubt.”)

Anyway — great book!  Buy, read, publicize!



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Madison retail, red in tooth and claw

People are nice in Wisconsin, right? Right, but business is business. My local bike shop, Budget Bicycle Center, filed a complaint in 2005 againt Williamson Bicycle Works, for registering the domain name budgetbicycleworks.com and redirecting it to willybikes.com. The National Arbitration Forum denied the complaint:

The panel finds that Complainant has not proved its case in that while the domain names are confusingly similar to a mark in which Complainant has rights, it has failed to establish that the use of the domain names made by Respondent was without legitimate interest and in bad faith.

And in 2007, Budget Bicycle Center still doesn’t have its own website.

Meanwhile, the owner of the State Street restaurant/theater The Orpheum was caught last month keying the car of his former partner, now competitor, who operates Crave around the block. (Warning: Crave’s website automatically plays music when opened, which to my mind is more than enough justification for keying the proprietor’s car.)

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