Small Stuff


Further evidence that there's some deep connection between math and language: it would seem that I can't add in Hebrew (I mean, even more so than my calculus-addled brain generally has trouble with arithmatic). This evening I walked down the block to grab a snack. The drink was three shekels, and a handful of nuts was seven or so. Yet I didn't blink when I mis-heard ten-seventy as seventeen1 and tried to give the shopkeeper way too much lucre.

That reminds me of a wonderful book review I read the other day2. Excerpt:

The precise mathematical formulation that is Gödel's theorem doesn't really say "there are true things which cannot be proved" any more than Einstein's theory means "everything is relative, dude, it just depends on your point of view."

The commentary that led me there from CT is, as always, lots of fun as well.

And hang in there. I've been busy, but there'll be more photo posting tomorrow.

1 Roughly, esser shivim, ten-seventy, versus esser ve sheva, which would be a silly but marginally acceptable way to say seventeen (correctly, sh'vah-essreh).

2 Don't see the connection? You need to re-read your Hofstadter!


Sure that statement is not precisely Gödel's theorem but that doesn't make it false; just improperly attributed. Certainly we wouldn't even have the pursuit of knowledge if it weren't so that there are true things we haven't proven yet. Anyway it's an interesting sociological comment since something seems to drive humans to look for greater truths in already profound statements.

Well, as The Onion once reported, "Science is hard." Things like relativity and quantum mechanics get so much simpler if you just strip away all that tricky context about when and how they apply. Voila! Instant aphorism.

I've never seen a convincing argument that Einstein had any great impact on the rise of relativist social theories, but he surely did help inspire the breed of hippie parodied above. They're cute, so I guess that's allowed. But the article also makes the good point that similar lines of reasoning, especially related to Heisenberg uncertainty and Gödel incompleteness, can lead to a much more pernicious distrust of scientific knowledge itself.

To quote a smidgeon more from the linked review,

Yet, Gödel is routinely deployed by people with antirationalist agendas as a stick to whack any offending piece of science that happens by. A typical recent article, "Why Evolutionary Theories Are Unbelievable," claims, "Basically, Gödel's theorems prove the Doctrine of Original Sin, the need for the sacrament of penance, and that there is a future eternity."

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This page contains a single entry by Milligan published on March 30, 2005 10:26 PM.

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