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Two interesting stories surfaced this week about people who suck at math.
The first had to with an American Institutes for Research report that’s created a new international grading index to compare state and national math scores with those of other countries. And guess what? The U.S. sucks at math, earning a C+ overall and coming in 12th in the world. Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, and Japan scored the highest in that order. (Dude. Even Kazakhstan and Latvia punked us.)
But whatever, the U.S. lagging behind Asian countries in math is not really news, right?
The other story about people sucking at math that’s a bit more surprising has to do with the Iran election. First came the report from British think tank, Chatham House, which showed that Ahmadinejad received 13 million more votes than he and other conservatives got in 2005, an unlikely occurrence considering his waning popularity. They also found that in two provinces, Mazandaran and Yazd, turnout was more than 100 percent.
Then Bernd Beber and Alexandra Scacco, two Ph.D. candidates in political science at Columbia, performed their own mathematical experiment, publishing their results in a Washington Post op/ed. Beber and Scacco looked at “digit frequencies” in the vote counts–when numbers recur at certain rates it suggests human tampering–to come up with a statistical probability that the election was fair.
And, according to their findings, the probability that the election was fair came out to .005 percent.
What does all this mean? The Iranian election riggers–Ahmadinejad & Co.–really really really suck at math. But perhaps what makes them even stupider is that they didn’t have the good sense to outsource that numbers-tampering shit to people who don’t suck at math. To people, say, in Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, or Japan (duh!).
Hails from: Tehran, Iran
Known for: Sharing images with the world. While walking to Tehran’s Freedom Square for a demonstration Saturday, this young woman and fellow protesters were stopped and beaten by Iranian paramilitary forces. Though she had recently wept over the fallen body of fellow protester and the weekend’s public martyr, Neda, the 19-year-old woman made a risky decision to trick the officer accosting her into believing that she surrendered her digital photos of the protest on a disk. Instead, she escaped with the images and shared them immediately with CNN.
See more of her photographs (and catch repeats of her phone interview) on CNN‘s live news broadcast. A selection of the photos is also available here.
Like us, you’ve probably been following what’s been happening in Iran over the last week–a stolen election, the violent government crackdown on pro-democracy protesters–and thought, WTF. But thanks in part to technology, you don’t have to be a helpless spectator like you might have been in the past. Here are a few simple things, via the Utne Reader, that you can do to show your support for the protesters.
1. Provide Cover: If you are Twittering about events in Iran from outside Iran, you have the luxury of not worrying about that knock on the door. Not so for Iranians. There is a movement afoot to provide cover for Iranian cyber-dissent by changing your Twitter profile to match the time zone and location of the Iranians brave enough to tweet the updates and calls to action. To do this, simply open the settings page and select “GMT+03:30 Tehran” and change your location to Tehran, Iran.
2. Change Your Facebook Picture: We did! It’s a small thing, but a show of support on Facebook is something Iranians can see, so long as the government doesn’t shut down the internet completely.
3. Spread the Stories: Iran is a deeply misunderstood place. Stereotypes abound and are typified by the front page of today’s New York Post, which featured a photo from the protests and the headline: TURBAN WARFARE. Powerful narratives are emerging from inside Iran. Put them in your Twitter feed, on your Facebook page, on your blog, or send them out via email. The best place to find these narratives is over at Andrew Sullivan’s Atlantic blog The Daily Dish or through a Twitter search for tweets about Iran.
Read our friend Reza Aslan’s blog post over at The Daily Beast, “Iran’s Military Coup,” about the scary implications of this stolen election. And finally, show your solidarity by wearing green. This takes zero effort and, besides, green is an awesome color. And these days, it’s also the color of freedom.