The LHC finally smashed together some sub-atomic particles and, lo and behold, we are all still here (I think).
Archive for March, 2010
Well, today is the late Paul Erdös’ birthday (he would have been 97). As it so happens, my Erdös number is officially 6, though if you believe the citation method employed by APS, AIP, and the Smithsonian/NASA Astrophysics Data System which all have me listed as a co-author of Nobel Laureate Frank Wilczek (I suspect both Wilczek and I would dispute this), my Erdös number is actually 4. But what I really want is an Erdös-Bacon number, something my father actually possesses (at least as legitimately as Hank Aaron).
Thanks to this discussion I now have a new idea that popped into my head:
Is mathematics an emergent phenomenon?
Hear me out on this one. Obviously we have to distinguish between a) that which mathematics describes and b) the formalism itself. But I think that in some cases an argument could be made that this line is blurred a bit. In any case, as we go “down the food chain,” so-to-speak, the understanding of mathematics that species have most likely decreases (for example, I would be shocked if ants could figure out a square root). Presumably the phenomena described by the mathematics is still there though. Where does complex mathematics “emerge” from this (if it emerges at all – perhaps it’s simply “there”)?
I don’t know why the nature of mathematics is so on my mind lately, but there you have it.
Not that I have a tremendously high readership for this blog, but for those loyalists out there who might be interested to know why I haven’t posted in awhile, I’m in Oregon at the APS March Meeting while simultaneously trying to put together a $15 million NIST grant proposal (plus a much, much smaller FQXi proposal), finish the Quantum Times, finish my presentation for Friday, and organize departmental functions in my absence (I’m chair, God help me). But I did take a therapeutic afternoon off to go fly fishing yesterday afternoon…
I listened to a BBC program yesterday that interviewed the newly installed president of the Flat Earth Society. This is not an elaborate joke (though this is). At first I found this really scary – that someone could deny something as ridiculously simple as this. But my second reaction was anger – anger at the willful denial of science while simultaneously accepting and using the technology built from that science. Science is not something you can pick and choose from – it’s not a smorgasbord. Personally, I think these people – and I include global warming deniers in this category – should fork over all their technology – their iPhones, their computers, their cars, their glasses and contact lenses, their medicines, everything – if they are going to deny basic science since they don’t deserve to reap the benefits of it. God help humanity. And if it turns out there is no God, well, then we’re even more screwed than we were before.
I saw this multiple places including at his Pontiffness’ blog and on Facebook thanks to several friends. It is just way too cool. .