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New Comic Book About Logic, Math, and Madness

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 4 years ago | from the only-math-some-kids-are-likely-to-get-these-days dept.

Math 99

areYouAHypnotist writes to tell us the New York Times has the scoop on a new comic book about the quest for logical certainty in mathematics. "The story spans the decades from the late 19th century to World War II, a period when the nature of mathematical truth was being furiously debated. The stellar cast, headed up by Bertrand Russell, includes the greatest philosophers, logicians and mathematicians of the era, along with sundry wives and mistresses, plus a couple of homicidal maniacs, an apocryphal barber, and Adolf Hitler."

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99 comments

Too hard? (2, Funny)

Threni (635302) | more than 4 years ago | (#29621593)

Reading all those words...turning all those pages. I don't suppose they're going to do a cartoon version? 90..no, make that 60 minutes long, with explosions. Plenty of explosions.

Cartoon version (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29621607)

New comic book about niggers [goatse.fr] , homosexuals [goatse.fr] and racists [goatse.fr] .

Re:Cartoon version (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29621613)

nigosexualists?

Re:Cartoon version (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29622173)

MightyMartian [slashdot.org] did my ass last night, bitch!

As a troll... (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 4 years ago | (#29621829)

You are one dimension short of being a cartoon yourself.

Re:Too hard? (1)

dominious (1077089) | more than 4 years ago | (#29621769)

I don't know... I read the first page and I actually laughed:) Ofcourse I was dealing with automated reasoning for a year in my degree maybe thats got to do something with it...

ahem (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29621597)

NERDS!!!

It's like dinosaur comics (1)

Neil Blender (555885) | more than 4 years ago | (#29621615)

Without the humor.

Re:It's like dinosaur comics (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 4 years ago | (#29622099)

But hopefully with a little more variety in the art...

Math: The Musical! (1)

mikep554 (787194) | more than 4 years ago | (#29621639)

I can't wait until "Math: The Musical!" is making the rounds off Broadway.

Yeah... (2, Funny)

BigSes (1623417) | more than 4 years ago | (#29621649)

If sex, violence, and drugs didn't bring the kids flocking back to comic books, I'm POSITIVE this will do it.

Hmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29621699)

The stellar cast, headed up by Bertrand Russell, includes the greatest philosophers, logicians and mathematicians of the era, along with sundry wives and mistresses, plus a couple of homicidal maniacs, an apocryphal barber and Adolf Hitler."

God, this is going to wind up being a badassed comic!

Lovelace and Babbage (5, Informative)

KuNgFo0 (519426) | more than 4 years ago | (#29621717)

For those looking for a more fun and lighthearted but still very nerdy comic, Check out the brilliant webcomic "Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage" at http://sydneypadua.com/2dgoggles/ [sydneypadua.com] One of the my most favorite things I've found on the internets :)

Re:Lovelace and Babbage (1)

invalid_user (253723) | more than 4 years ago | (#29624445)

This is the greatest comic I have ever read! A few pages into the comic and I am already a fan. There's just so many excellent insights.

"As an initial tactic, I've had some bankers shot this morning to keep up confidence."

The Duke of Wellington for the new Federal Reserve Chairman!

Re:Lovelace and Babbage (1)

megrims (839585) | more than 4 years ago | (#29624541)

It looks good, but I really wish web-comic authors would choose reasonable web-interfaces. Blog software makes for irritating comics, and having to scroll down to see the most important part of the page is ridiculous, let alone having to scroll to see a three-panel comic.

Spoiler requested... (0)

NecroPuppy (222648) | more than 4 years ago | (#29621781)

Does it have a panel where Captain America punches out Hilter?

I mean, it could be done as a math problem...

Re:Spoiler requested... (5, Funny)

TRS80NT (695421) | more than 4 years ago | (#29621859)

Yes, but unfortunately it's demonstrating Zeno's Paradox, and Captain America never connects.

Re:Spoiler requested... (0, Offtopic)

denttford (579202) | more than 4 years ago | (#29622713)

I would have given you mod points if you "misspelled" that as Zemo [wikipedia.org] . Sadly, the world will have to do with this less than ideal reply.

Missed opportunities (1)

ciaohound (118419) | more than 4 years ago | (#29621797)

From the article:

(The cartoonists inexplicably neglect to depict what Russell later described as "the happiest morning of my life," when Alys allowed him to kiss her breasts)

So there's that, and from what I could tell there is no mention of Gödel's incompleteness theorems, either. Meh.

Re:Missed opportunities (5, Interesting)

tvelocity (812600) | more than 4 years ago | (#29621921)

So there's that, and from what I could tell there is no mention of Gödel's incompleteness theorems, either. Meh.

It does. Even Von Neumann's reaction to it is included. I had the chance to read the Greek version in august, and it is pretty awesome. Both for computer scientists and mathematicians, it is pure win. I'm so glad that it gets published in English as well now, I would HIGHLY recommend this comic book to any geek.

Re:Missed opportunities (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 4 years ago | (#29625731)

Except that the very example page shown in the New York Times article contains a gross logical error. Therefore I would call it a lose.

If you can spot the error, I would call you a winner. If you cannot, I would call you a loser. As is that page, which is anything but win/win.

(Hint: what is actually informing what?)

Re:Missed opportunities (1)

onto_dry_land (1346313) | more than 4 years ago | (#29636691)

All I see on the excerpt page is a text describing that it is an excerpt, but there is no actual content. Do I win or lose?

Re:Missed opportunities (2, Informative)

Dunx (23729) | more than 4 years ago | (#29622065)

Godel is mentioned on the second page of TFA.

The Manga Guide to Calculus (0)

davidwr (791652) | more than 4 years ago | (#29621809)

This idea is far from original.

Just look at the 1970s-era A Fortran Coloring Book or the modern A Manga Guide to Calculus for two of many similar titles.

Um... (2, Insightful)

Estanislao Martnez (203477) | more than 4 years ago | (#29621913)

This idea is far from original. Just look at the 1970s-era A Fortran Coloring Book or the modern A Manga Guide to Calculus for two of many similar titles.

That follows only if you think that the logicist system for the foundation of mathematics proposed in the Principia is something "similar" to Fortran and the calculus.

wrong similarity (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 4 years ago | (#29622923)

I meant the use of "non-standard"/"non-textbook" approaches to teaching things.

Re:wrong similarity (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29624007)

Except that this is a historical drama (and perhaps comedy), not an instructional text.

Re:The Manga Guide to Calculus (1)

B Nesson (1153483) | more than 4 years ago | (#29623359)

This idea is far from original. People have been using the comic format to tell stories for years.

The ending of the strip is rather disappointing (1)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | more than 4 years ago | (#29621841)

Math (all useful mathematical theories, and therefore all science based on them) is one of 2 things, but not both :
-> logically inconsistent
-> not logically consistent*

* this is not the same as the first thing. The difference is that it might very well be logically consistent, but you can't prove it one way or the other. This means that while God might know it to be logically consistent, you can't say it *is* logically consistent since there is no procedure to verify this. Not even in infinite time. So nobody will ever know for sure, no matter how far in the future.

** Whether this means that any faith in math is exactly that, irrational faith (as you're believing in an unproveable thing), or that it's somehow "better" is a religious discussion. Above this you'll find just the facts.

Re:The ending of the strip is rather disappointing (1)

smallfries (601545) | more than 4 years ago | (#29622121)

That's completely wrong on so many counts that it doesn't even deserve the criticism. Have you got a copy of the book?

Re:The ending of the strip is rather disappointing (1)

electrostatic (1185487) | more than 4 years ago | (#29622339)

This means that while God might know it to be logically consistent, you can't say it *is* logically consistent since there is no procedure to verify this. Not even in infinite time. So nobody will ever know for sure, no matter how far in the future.

How could "God" know something to be true if there was no way to know it?

Reminds me of Catholic-school catechism tales of the Holy Trinity "mystery:" There is one God who is three Gods. Believe that and you're on your way to believing just about anything.

Wishfull thinking. (1, Interesting)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 4 years ago | (#29623725)

"How could "God" know something to be true if there was no way to know it?"

Same way that the GP knows god exists - wishfull thinking. Wishfull thinking allows you to create whatever universe takes your fancy. A univesre created from wishfull thinking does not have to be consistent, it can be anything you want.

I'm not sure why so many people use wishfull thinking to create a universe were every detail of life is watched and controlled by a celestial dungeon daddy. However it does fit nicely with using a human sacrafice on a cross as a scapegoat for your sins because both allow you to ignore what critical thinkers call "personal responsibility".

"Personal responsibility" can make you feel bad, so for example if you're feeling bad about screwing your sister-in-law it's probably due to "personal responsibility" (or you got caught). However if you are a wishfull thinker you don't have to stop to feel good, you just have to admit your sins to god (who already knows anyway) and the bad feelings will go away. Oh wait....my sister-in-law is gourgeous......that can't be right,...I think I just demonstrated that religion is usefull, Nooooooooo!!!!

*you - not you personally.

You should deride religion knowingly. (1)

jotaeleemeese (303437) | more than 4 years ago | (#29645027)

I was raised as a Catholic, and am now an atheist by reasoned conviction.

What you say about the Catholic religion is factually incorrect. If you commit a sin and are not truly repentant then your confession is yet another sin and your initial sinning is not considered forgiven, in other words you are only adding to the burden by which you will be judged at the end of times.

it is also untrue that if you actually repent you are given carte blanche to sin again, since sinning again would demonstrate that you are not opening your heart to God and Jesus your saviour (first commandment: fail).

As for the matter of god watching and knowing, the Catholic church maintains that God itself decided to give humans free will. It may know what you are going to do, but that does not mean it wasn't your decision.

All is of course bunk, but if you are going to debunk it you need to know what you are actually talking about first.

Re:You should deride religion knowingly. (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 4 years ago | (#29667197)

My post was a paraphrase of an argument given by Christopher [youtube.com] Hitchen's [youtube.com] . He is much more eloquent and knowledgeable than I and has done a fine job of sumarising my long held opinion on theisim.

It may not accurately reflect all the idioms found in your previous christian cult, but it does describe my skeptical/cynical attitude to the message I have been hearing from "Christians" for the last 50yrs (ie: morals come from god). More importantly your description does not reflect the behaviour of the Catholic church's handling of the US/UK/AU peodophile priests scandal, nor does it describe the money grubbing TV "evangelists" who more often than not get caught snorting coke off a hooker's arse.

Re:The ending of the strip is rather disappointing (2, Informative)

megrims (839585) | more than 4 years ago | (#29624755)

Infinite God by definition is not restricted to a subjective point of observation.

The GP is playing the subjective/objective game.

Re:The ending of the strip is rather disappointing (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 4 years ago | (#29622349)

In the end it doesn't matter whether math is complete or incomplete, consistent or inconsistent. We know math works as a tool to understand our universe because we have used that understanding to make technology that works.

Re:The ending of the strip is rather disappointing (2, Insightful)

sohare (1032056) | more than 4 years ago | (#29622717)

Actually it would matter if mathematics were inconsistent. You can prove any theorem you want in an inconsistent system.

Re:The ending of the strip is rather disappointing (1)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | more than 4 years ago | (#29625881)

And there are several problems in the natural numbers system that all of science uses that might turn out to be sources of inconsistency.

Just for an example : have they solved the barber's paradox yet ?

In an infinitely large village, there's 1 barber. He shaves all the people that do not shave themselves. The question to be answered is : does the barber shave himself ? You can prove that he does, and you can prove that he doesn't, both entirely correctly reasoned.

Either someone must make a convincing case that there is a real problem with this question (obviously with the set theory equivalent of this question) or the axioms must be changed to create a real problem with this question. Otherwise math as we know it is inconsistent.

Maths MUST be consistent.... (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 4 years ago | (#29623791)

...but yeah, we use it because it works.

Re:Maths MUST be consistent.... (1)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | more than 4 years ago | (#29625825)

And for designing buildings we use simulations that describe a world that resembles the discworld (building stands on a disc floating in space and gravity is just a dead simple straight down, also known as the "it's turtles all the way down" argument) and only contains springs, all described by VERY newtonian physics, which we *know* to be inconsistent.

So your point is ? Every last event that any human will ever be confronted with, and the inner workings of said human, with can be explained perfectly well explained by newtonian physics. The only earthly structures that deviate from newtonian physics are nuclear power plants and sufficiently powerful particle accelerators.

The only place to find quantum mechanics, for any human being, is in said human's imagination. The only place to find relativity theory in action is off the planet. Even the most advanced computer chips can be almost perfectly described with electron-as-a-particle assumptions. It's literally the case that we don't need the physics theories of the last 80-or-so years to describe the computer revolution.

Nevertheless, we know newtonian physics to be inconsistent, due to the black body radiation problem.

Re:Maths MUST be consistent.... (1)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | more than 4 years ago | (#29625841)

(and the point being : just because "it works" does not mean it's consistent. Lots of things work. When it comes to women, according to hollywood the "either they're ugly, or they want to sleep with me" way of thinking seems to work. Yet I'm told it's not all that consistent)

Re:Maths MUST be consistent.... (1)

Ann Coulter (614889) | more than 4 years ago | (#29630687)

Transistors can not be accurately described by Newtonian physics.

Re:Maths MUST be consistent.... (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 4 years ago | (#29633551)

Newtonian physics is math but math is not Newtownian Physics.

Re:Maths MUST be consistent.... (1)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | more than 4 years ago | (#29670001)

Why not ? I've even seen a professor construct a "water based" transistor. What specific formula do you need to describe a transistor ?

Yes we've all been taught to think about them in terms of Bohr's model of the atom, which, btw, is still (although not perfectly) Newtonian.

Transistor radios were constructed long before anything resembling quantum physics existed. I suppose you think they were just shooting blind ?

You most certainly do not require quantum physics to describe the workings of a transistor. Their quantization properties are *still* not used in current computers.

Re:Maths MUST be consistent.... (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 4 years ago | (#29633597)

"The only place to find quantum mechanics, for any human being, is in said human's imagination."

The macro effects of quantum mechanics [wikipedia.org] can be observed in the viscosity of mayonnasie [physicsworld.com] and similar liquids.

"The only place to find relativity theory in action is off the planet."

Time dialation [google.com.au] has been repeatedly observed on the surface of Earth and is important for navigation.

Re:Maths MUST be consistent.... (1)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | more than 4 years ago | (#29670023)

Time dilation is important for navigation because we're using off-world devices to do it (stars, sattelites).

They matter for accuracy, but navigation can work perfectly well without compensating for time dilation.

Re:The ending of the strip is rather disappointing (2, Interesting)

NewbieProgrammerMan (558327) | more than 4 years ago | (#29622373)

Your arguments intrigue me and I'd like to subscribe to your....

Nah, just kidding. I'm a graduate mathematics student, and I can't make any sense at all of what you said. Does that mean I've already been conditioned by The Man (TM), and that it's too late for me to understand The Truth (TM)?

Re:The ending of the strip is rather disappointing (4, Insightful)

clampolo (1159617) | more than 4 years ago | (#29622569)

Agreed. The problem is you get philosophers that write books about mathematics and physics. They almost always get everything wrong or blow things out of proportion. Things philosophers love to talk about without actually knowing anything about them: quantum physics, logic (especially Godel's Theorems), set theory.

Re:The ending of the strip is rather disappointing (1)

ArsonSmith (13997) | more than 4 years ago | (#29626589)

Basically he means, everything he knows is obvious human's science. Everything he doesn't know is magically Gods realm.

Re:The ending of the strip is rather disappointing (2, Informative)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | more than 4 years ago | (#29628659)

Actually I mean this [wikipedia.org] .

Literally I mean "For any formal effectively generated theory T including basic arithmetical truths* and also certain truths about formal provability, T includes a statement of its own consistency if and only if T is inconsistent."

* he means the peano axioms (to be exact a small subset of them). In general you could say he means any "reasonable" axiom set that contains a sucessor function, as that's the essential part.

Re:The ending of the strip is rather disappointing (2, Interesting)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | more than 4 years ago | (#29628633)

Actually it means you might want to lookup, say "incompleteness theory". Or the subject of this strip, "Bertrand Rusell". His philosophy's more than worthless but he did some actual work in mathematical logic that you really ought to have seen by now.

And by the way, in this argument the person making it (math is inconsistent) is generally considered "the man", as it's the academic and unassailable viewpoint.

Generally the "radical" viewpoint is the one where "every theory is correct" in some way or another. Supposedly that's what quantum mechanics and multiverse theories say. Well not in reality, of course, but certainly in the spiderman cartoon series. And also in the democrat party. After all, just because it goes wrong 100 times does *not* in fact mean that it will go wrong the 101th time. Anyone who claims different must obviously be a racist !

Re:The ending of the strip is rather disappointing (1)

sohare (1032056) | more than 4 years ago | (#29622893)

Math (all useful mathematical theories, and therefore all science based on them) is one of 2 things, but not both : -> logically inconsistent -> not logically consistent*

While I am mathematician I am not a logician, but do you mean that math is either logically inconsistent or not complete? (That is just the statement of the First Incompleteness theorem). By definition, a theory is logically consistent if it does not contain a contradiction. A theory is therefor not consistent (or inconsistent) if it contains a contradiction.

Your remarks about there being no hope of proving a theory inconsistent also makes me wonder what theorem you are referencing. Certainly not the Second Incompleteness Theorem, since that explicitly does not rule out consistency proofs. Rather it says that any proof that a "sufficiently robust" theory is consistent cannot itself be formalized in that theory. For instance, Gentzen proved the consistency of first-order arithmetic using ordinal analysis. The two theories, however, are incomparable. One theory is not stronger than the other.

Oh boy this will look like a 2nd grade text book. (1)

areusche (1297613) | more than 4 years ago | (#29621865)

In all seriousness this is going to look like my 1st or 2nd grade math book. That was a hard cover comic book!

Cryptonomicon (1)

handy_vandal (606174) | more than 4 years ago | (#29621903)

Some of these topics -- math, certainty, Russell -- appear in Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon [wikipedia.org] (the scene where Lawrence Waterhouse, Rudolph von Hacklheber and Alan Turing go on a biking trip to the Pine Barrens, drink schnapps, and talk math).

Bipolar = Art; Schizophrenia = Math/Science (3, Interesting)

Cruxus (657818) | more than 4 years ago | (#29621933)

It seems like there's a disproportionate number of people with bipolar disorder in the ranks of the artistically creative and a disproportionate number of scientific/mathematical geniuses with schizophrenia or schizophrenia-like symptoms.

Re:Bipolar = Art; Schizophrenia = Math/Science (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 4 years ago | (#29624655)

A bit (over)simplified, wouldn't you say?

Re:Bipolar = Art; Schizophrenia = Math/Science (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29625321)

A bit like "the mystical" as Wittgenstein put it, so called "Schizophrenia" is an entity not understood by Science. It seems to be much more closely related to trauma and religious and spiritual states of being. The pathologisation of that state has led to the abuse and mistreatment of many people ( see http://mindfreedom.org ).

Maybe if some of these Mathematicians and Logicians had talked to the Quantum Scientists of the time they would have been less terrified of uncertainty - which I suspect leads some into "mad" states.

Re:Bipolar = Art; Schizophrenia = Math/Science (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29625169)

I dunno. I'm cyclothymic (bipolar spectrum) and I'm a born math guy. Of course, I like art too, but I'm not as good at it as I am with math.

I do have some interesting anecdotal evidence on a correlation between these sorts of mental illnesses and some sort of intuitive capability. My great grandfather was a heavy construction plumber and despite the fact that he only had a 3rd grade education he was said to have been able to understand any building plan because he could figure out intuitively how all of the elements fit together. He was also a drunk who pissed away every penny that came his way.

My mother, descended from him, has suffered from depression and insomnia and she's said her mother, also descended from him, had similar problems. She claims to not have had any hypomanic symptoms, but I know of at least one episode that seemed to me like it might have been hypomanic.

And then it comes to me. I didn't end up going to graduate school for math because I completely burnt out in college and graduated with a 2.1. I basically shut down and stayed in my dorm room despite being recognized by my professors as having an innate aptitude for math, although I did have trouble putting my ideas into proofs. I could generally just see that something was true but not necessarily how to explain why it's true. It always felt to me like finding a light switch in the dark. You just feel around on the wall in the place where you would put a light switch and you'll find it.

Where are your stats? (1)

jotaeleemeese (303437) | more than 4 years ago | (#29645071)

There are thousands of artists, many of them very notable, that have no problems whatsoever.

Ditto for mathematicians and scientists.

So unless you show concrete eveidence regarding this (good luck) I think you are oversimplifying for nefarious purposes only known to your own good self.

Comic books! Entertainment for little faggots. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29621943)

Let me give you a vision... You're in your early 20s, overweight, lazy, long greasy hair, hardcore gamer, living in mom's basement, you own a third rate katana, you wear a trench coat and some dollar store pentacle or Celtic necklace, big collection of Dungeons and Dragons shit, you tell people you're a Buddhist but have never read any of the buddhavacanas , you love Twilight, you hate work, you tell people you're geek but you've never had a single program work right, you hardly graduated public school and never even attempted college, like to talk science but you don't know the first thing about how anything works, you know even less about mathematics.

Yeah I know who you are, comic book fag. You're all the same.

P.S. Have a blast working second shift on a Friday night at the local Subway. You didn't have anything else going on anyway.

Re:Comic books! Entertainment for little faggots. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29622251)

don't forget that they also don't know the difference between astronomy and astrology and still believe in psychic powers and/or magic.

I've read the first chapter (2, Informative)

orkysoft (93727) | more than 4 years ago | (#29621947)

This page [volkskrant.nl] (Dutch) has a link to the PDF (bottom of the article) of the Dutch translation of the first chapter. (I would have linked to an English translation, but I am not aware of any preview releases.)

I read the first chapter, and found it pretty cool, but also awkward to read it in Dutch, since the characters (in ch. 1) are all Britons or Americans.

Anyway, if you're interested, have a look at it.

Mmmmm hmmmmm. (2, Funny)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | more than 4 years ago | (#29621971)

It's my understanding Superman can hold a black hole in his hand while simultaneously writing the formula to prove anything on a blackboard with his other hand.

The Hulk, however, could only hold a black hole in his hand.

It's the axioms... (4, Insightful)

Kjella (173770) | more than 4 years ago | (#29622119)

All (correct) mathematical proofs are true, if the axioms are true. However, there's an infinite set of axioms and the only reason you have to believe any of them correspond to the system you are trying to predict is through observation. If you don't have any observations, if you're trying to make a priori knowledge, then your prediction power is thus infintesimal. Or in English, you don't know shit. As for pure mathematics, imagine it a little bit like infinite quantum universes in sci-fi. For every mathmatical result there are other sets of axioms leading to all other possible results. Without excluding axioms you can not exclude any results, so you're only going in circles defining your own results. In English, anything's possible.

Of course in practice you would have to create insane and arbtrary axioms to do this. But "logical" axioms like the set of real numbers or three dimensional space only appear so because of observation and how it reflects the real world. A priori you have no basis to say why one set of axioms should better reflect reality than the other. So I would say the answer is simply false, you can not have meaningful mathematics without context. However, once you do have meaningful axioms through observation you can get many results through mathematics that are non-obvious through observation. Honestly though, you're more heading into philsophy than mathematics once you go that deep.

Re:It's the axioms... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29622949)

"All (correct) mathematical proofs are true, if the axioms are true."

And this is exactly why mathematics can't establish absolute truth, without apriori acceptance of more basic non mathematical truths. Because the truth value of a thing can only be known if you know start with existence first. Math is an abstract system to systematically record our observations, that's all it is.

There are infinitely man *imaginary* truths, since any idea exists therefore the truths and consequences of those ideas exist as an idea.

Re:It's the axioms... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29623021)

The situation is much worse than that.

There was a lot of sloppy thinking going from axioms to mathematical results, and so people went forward and tried to clean it up.
What they found was that for just about every interesting system of axioms you can find conjectures that can neither be proven
nor disproven. Sometimes math just doesn't work.

Re:It's the axioms... (4, Informative)

smaddox (928261) | more than 4 years ago | (#29623787)

If a conjecture can neither be proven nor disproved given a set of axioms, then either the conjecture or the axioms were wrongly chosen. If your ultimate goal is to prove or disprove that conjecture, you must pick a set of axioms that allows that goal to be achieved. If your ultimate goal is to prove or disprove every conjecture possible given a specific set of axioms, then you must ignore the conjectures that can neither be proven nor disproved with that set of axioms.

It isn't that math doesn't work. Given a set of axioms, you can find absolute truths. However, not all absolute truths can be discovered with a single set of axioms.

Re:It's the axioms... (1)

schmidt349 (690948) | more than 4 years ago | (#29626487)

But the really, really great bit is that you can never "prove" the core axioms; your "absolute truths" will therefore always be dependent on a set of unprovable assumptions.

And people think I work in a "soft science."

Re:It's the axioms... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29630215)

Sciences -- whether 'hard' or 'soft' -- work much the same way. Any theory based on evidence (rather than being derived from other accepted theories) corresponds to an axiom. The theories that are derived from other accepted theories could be considered theorems -- although often the reasoning used to establish these derived theories is haphazard. The difference is that mathematicians, knowing this, seek to show the consequences of a rather minimalist set of axioms, where as scientists have no problem adding new 'axioms' that could easily introduce inconsistencies.

And, of course, the ultimate caveat is that if you are doing anything that could reasonably be called science, you are using the peano axioms (for statistics, if nothing else) yourself, and thus are certainly no better off than mathematicians.

Re:It's the axioms... (1)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 4 years ago | (#29623863)

I wish more people understood this. It would make discussions about religion, evolution, anything really so much easier. From both sides. It's all about the observation.

I'm a nerd and all (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29622153)

and proud of it but I still have to say that that looks fucking rubbish.

Maybe it's just an unfortunate quote, but... (1, Flamebait)

NewbieProgrammerMan (558327) | more than 4 years ago | (#29622431)

...includes the greatest philosophers, logicians and mathematicians of the era, along with sundry wives and mistresses...

Maybe I'm seeing omission where there is none, but I find it unlikely that there were no contributions to this subject from female philosophers, logicians and mathematicians. Please tell me they've not been left out of the story in the comic.

Re:Maybe it's just an unfortunate quote, but... (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29622549)

Are you really so feminist that you assume women MUST HAVE contributed somehow, and if they are not mentioned, it must have been because they were unfairly left out of the story? Just why do you find it so unlikely?

Re:Maybe it's just an unfortunate quote, but... (2, Insightful)

germansausage (682057) | more than 4 years ago | (#29623107)

Without googling, name 3 famous women mathematicians.

Re:Maybe it's just an unfortunate quote, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29623335)

Emmy Noether, Julia Robinson and Hypatia

Re:Maybe it's just an unfortunate quote, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29623549)

These are names of various STDs.

Re:Maybe it's just an unfortunate quote, but... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29624173)

Ask anybody on the street to name even one mathematician of either sex.

Re:Maybe it's just an unfortunate quote, but... (2, Informative)

u38cg (607297) | more than 4 years ago | (#29625483)

Hypatia, Ada Lovelace, Mary Cartwright.

What do these have to do with mathematical truth ? (1)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | more than 4 years ago | (#29625793)

Which is great, and I don't doubt they're very smart women, worthy of recognition in informatics (and especially Ada is never denied that) ...

But none of them has any bearing on the issue of the connection between mathematics and truth.

Re:What do these have to do with mathematical trut (1)

u38cg (607297) | more than 4 years ago | (#29634927)

Which is not what I was responding to, but never mind. Mathematics has nothing to do with truth or otherwise: it is simply the logical consequences that arise from given axioms. It so happens that if you pick the right axioms then there are many correspondences with the real world, but truth? Nowt to do with it.

Re:What do these have to do with mathematical trut (1)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | more than 4 years ago | (#29655243)

the connection between mathematics and truth

Which is not what I was responding to, but never mind. Mathematics has nothing to do with truth or otherwise: it is simply the logical consequences that arise from given axioms. It so happens that if you pick the right axioms then there are many correspondences with the real world, but truth? Nowt to do with it.

Yes, but the point is that any inconsistency can be translated into 1=2. So if math were to be inconsistent there would be ZERO consequences of said inconsistent axioms.

Suppose the peano axioms were inconsistent, then there is no reason why a car travelling at a constant speed 10km/h would travel 20 km in 2 hours. It might as well be 100, or 2, or 5 cm. All would be correct answers. In other words, inconsistent mathematical theories get us nowhere.

So obviously math and truth are related concepts. And there are demands on mathematics (such as consistency) that are required for theories based on maths to have ANY truth in them, or frankly to have anything at all in them. As such when one talks about truth in math, one is generally talking about those requirements

Re:Maybe it's just an unfortunate quote, but... (1)

rjh (40933) | more than 4 years ago | (#29628171)

Emmy Noether, Fotini Markopoulos, and Lisa Randall.

Anyone who says these women are physicists will be smacked. They are all extremely theoretical physicists. Noether is a legendary mathematician in her own right; Markopoulos and Randall are both such theoretical physicists that their work is essentially indistinguishable from pure math. The latter two could easily receive appointments to the math departments of their choice; Emmy Noether couldn't, but only on account of being dead.

Come to think of it, some of my professors in graduate school seemed pretty dead themselves. So sure, Emmy Noether could probably chair the department of her choice.

OK, educate us. (1)

jotaeleemeese (303437) | more than 4 years ago | (#29645131)

What is so important about them.

Being brilliant does not mean you are unique or revolutionary.

Re:OK, educate us. (1)

rjh (40933) | more than 4 years ago | (#29646355)

You must be kidding.

I am not going to save you the trouble of three Wikipedia searches. (Except, I will tell you that Fotini Markopoulou has gotten married recently, and is now Fotini Markopoulou-Kalamara. That might help you find information on her.)

The question was to name three famous women mathematicians. Those three definitely qualify.

Re:Maybe it's just an unfortunate quote, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29629217)

Also, that French calculus physics chick..?

Re:Maybe it's just an unfortunate quote, but... (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 4 years ago | (#29623217)

> Please tell me they've not been left out of the story in the comic.

They've not been. Just their husbands and boyfriends.

Oh boy! (1)

guyminuslife (1349809) | more than 4 years ago | (#29622637)

I've always wanted to see Bertrand Russell in tights.

It's got HITLER! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29623151)

Yay! Hitler FTW! Oh, wait.....

Re:It's got HITLER! (1)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | more than 4 years ago | (#29626153)

Thanks much, AC. You just made Slashdot illegal in Germany.

I must get hold of this... (1)

thewils (463314) | more than 4 years ago | (#29623175)

It'll make those long winter nights coming up really whistle past!

Re:I must get hold of this... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29647969)

Basements are notoriously cold; next time your mom calls you up for dinner just stay up there and read.

Mathematical truths? More like tools (1)

AniVisual (1373773) | more than 4 years ago | (#29623643)

Mathematics is not recognized in the natural universe. What mathematics is is a tool used by humans to manage the important human-given properties of the natural world we care about

Treating mathematics as something that the natural world created is like saying that the natural world created the game of chess.

Re:Mathematical truths? More like tools (1)

loserMcloser (748327) | more than 4 years ago | (#29624433)

Mathematics is a product of human invention. Human invention is a product of the natural universe. Therefore, by the transitive property, mathematics is a product of the natural universe. QED

xkcd (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29624639)

At first, I thought the article is about this comic [xkcd.com] book:

Barber of Seville (1)

Anne Thwacks (531696) | more than 4 years ago | (#29624969)

(Think of the barber of Seville, who shaves all men, and only those men, who do not shave themselves. Does this barber shave himself or not? Either possibility yields a contradiction.)

The answer is obvious, and has been obvious to me since I was a teenager (in the 1960's):

If he has not shaved himself, he shaves himself. Else he does not. (cos he does not need to if shaved)

Disclosure: my mother was a Fortran programmer. The original philosophers saw the world as static. I, as someone who had grown up with computers (EDSAC II, IBM 709, UNIVAC) knew that logical systems were (or at least, could be) dynamic.

Re:Barber of Seville (1)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 4 years ago | (#29626067)

The answer is obvious, and has been obvious to me since I was a teenager (in the 1960's)

Well, the way I heard the paradox, the question was phrased 'Who shaves the barber?', not 'Does the barber shave himself?'. A subtle but important difference, for when phrased the first way, it's quite possible that the barber does not shave herself.

The barber does not shave herself? (1)

jotaeleemeese (303437) | more than 4 years ago | (#29645155)

If there ever was a place where the word "himself" could be used with impunity is in the above sentence.

Pretty good book (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29626441)

I read this book about 5 months ago. It's pretty good and a fun reading even while juggling with difficult to comprehend at first(or more) try stuff.
It also has a very educative appendix explaining various notions and portraying in short the real life characters in the book and
marking out the parts the authors had to make up. I recommend it both to those being familiar with logic and maths and those not having a clue what on earth the book is talking about.

Content aside, the work done on the edition i have is pretty good. Glossy yet thick pages and an ok cover(not hardcover though).

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