Tag Archives: Richard Feynman

Be Sex Binary, We Are Not

Content warning: suicide.

The following sentence is bold in the last paragraph of an essay: “the science is clear and conclusive: sex is not binary, transgender people are real.” I don’t know what the writer means by this. As far as I can tell, as a biological concept used for explaining reproduction, sex has two kinds or parts or sides or aspects, and the essay tacitly affirms this; at the same time, obviously persons called transgender exist.

☾ ♂ ☿ ♃ ♀ ♄ ☉

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Salvation

Because Herman Wouk was going to put physicists in a novel, Richard Feynman advised him to learn calculus: “It’s the language God talks.” I think I know what Feynman meant. Calculus is the means by which we express the laws of the physical universe. This is the universe that, according to the mythology, God brought into existence with such commands as, “Let there be light.” Calculus has allowed us to refine those words of creation from the Biblical account. Credited as a discover of calculus, as well as of physical laws, Isaac Newton was given an epitaph (ultimately not used) by Alexander Pope:

Nature and Nature’s laws lay hid in night:
God said, Let Newton be! and all was light.

I don’t know, but maybe Steven Strogatz quotes Pope’s words in his 2019 book, Infinite Powers: How Calculus Reveals the Secrets of the Universe. This is where I found out about Wouk’s visit with Feynman. I saw the book recently (Saturday, February 22, 2020) in Pandora Kitabevi here in Istanbul. I looked in the book for a certain topic that was of interest to me, but did not find it; then I found a serious misunderstanding.

book cover: Steven Strogatz, Infinite Powers Continue reading

On Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem

This is an appreciation of Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem of 1931. I am provoked by a depreciation of the theorem.

I shall review the mathematics of the theorem, first in outline, later in more detail. The mathematics is difficult. I have trouble reproducing it at will and even just confirming what I have already written about it below (for I am adding these words a year after the original publication of this essay).

The difficulty of Gödel’s mathematics is part of the point of this essay. A person who thinks Gödel’s Theorem is unsurprising is probably a person who does not understand it.

In the “Gödel for Dummies” version of the Theorem, there are mathematical sentences that are both true and unprovable. This requires two points of clarification.

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Academic Freedom

(See also other articles in the Freedom category.)

Yesterday (March 24, 2016) was the first day of the sixth Models and Groups Istanbul meeting. There were participants from the Middle East, Europe, and America. Kıvanç Ersoy was to speak about his own mathematics. He could not speak, because he was in prison. He, Esra Mungan, and Muzaffer Kaya were in prison, because the three of them had publicly insisted that the government of Turkey make peace in the southeast of the country. Absurd, but true. Continue reading

Nicole at the Golden Horn

The setting was gorgeous. We were atop a hotel (and former convent) opposite the compound of the Italian Consulate—the Italian Embassy, in Ottoman times, before Mustafa Kemal founded the Turkish Republic and moved the capital to Ankara. We looked out over old trees. The street just below us was closed to cars; off to the right it became a stairway and a narrow passage up to İstiklâl Caddesi. Beyond the trees of the Consulate were the Golden Horn and Seraglio Point, with the Bosphorus and the Sea of Marmara beyond. As night fell, electric lights illuminated the Seraglio itself—Topkapı Palace—along with the Hagia Sophia.
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