14.0383 Laputa-like void of physics and mathematics

From: by way of Willard McCarty (willard@lists.village.Virginia.EDU)
Date: 10/19/00

  • Next message: by way of Willard McCarty: "14.0382 reviews of hyperfiction? labour-saving devices?"

                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 14, No. 383.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
             Date: Thu, 19 Oct 2000 08:08:03 +0100
             From: Jascha Kessler <jaschak@earthlink.net>
             Subject: Re: 14.0373 science and science fiction
    I am amused and delighted by Osher Doctorow's analogical explanations, via
    mathematical, or arithmetic reversals of quantity and position  not
    "quality" or transformation by cause and effect  because it demonstrates
    once again the void, Laputa-like, in which physics and mathematics operates,
    the mental void, perhaps.  Very little in history, if anything at all,
    suggests that some Homo sapiens precursor wondered what it might be like not
    to knuckle along on the ground.  Easier: where did the current nouvelle
    cuisine fad for flavored breads get its start? because someone asked what a
    bread with rosemary or sesame seeds might taste like?  Rather not, is the
    answer.  Most breads as late as the 19th Century were made with flour often
    tainted by ergot, or molds of various kinds, green and hairy.  Bakers in
    Italy, at least, began to use tainted flour disguised with various powerful
    herbs.  Meat spoiled very quickly in the times of the first Portuguese
    quests for spices, to the West and South to India, because the Ottomans
    controlled the Mediterranean, and spices were not to be had to cure and help
    preserve meat, etc. Doctorow is pulling the Humanist leg, I think, since his
    reversals have nothing to do, I would suggest, with how things in history
    actually happened.  I suppose the better examples will come from
    paleontology...the progression, very slow, over vast stretches of time, of
    the shape of arrow and spear points.  How the most primitive men invented
    the spear thrower is a great, and perhaps unsolvable, mystery; but it took
    time to think up some way of leveraging the power of the arm, and I dont
    think it came about because it was dreamed up.  Necessity is the mother of
    invention, and in Doctorow's abstract universe, or Laputa Island, it would
    seem that invention rather brings about the necessity.
    Newton's equations for gravity did not include historical time, even if it
    is true that Roger Bacon much earlier began finally to come up with some
    form of pre-calculus, because cannoneers simply had to begin to find out how
    to elevate their muzzles to calculate the flight of the ball, its arc, that
    is.  It had not been accomplished during the centuries and millennia perhaps
    of the balestra. Etc.
       Jascha Kessler
       Professor of English & Modern Literature, UCLA
       Telephone: (310) 393-4648  (9:00 a.m. - 11:00 p.m. PST)
       Fax: (360) 838-8589/VoiceMail 24 hours (360) 838-8589
      > From: Humanist Discussion Group <willard@lists.village.virginia.edu> 
    (by way
      > of Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk>)
      > Reply-To: willard@lists.village.virginia.edu
      > Date: Wed, 18 Oct 2000 10:16:02 +0100
      > To: Humanist Discussion Group <humanist@lists.Princeton.EDU>
      >  >
      > Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 14, No. 373.
      > Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
      > <http://www.princeton.edu/~mccarty/humanist/>
      > <http://www.kcl.ac.uk/humanities/cch/humanist/>
      > [1]   From:    "Osher Doctorow" <osher@ix.netcom.com>              (30)
      > Subject: What's in an Idea?
      > [2]   From:    Randall Pierce <rpierce@jsucc.jsu.edu>               (7)
      > Subject: Encounters of the Fourth Kind
      > --[1]------------------------------------------------------------------
      > Date: Wed, 18 Oct 2000 09:45:08 +0100
      > From: "Osher Doctorow" <osher@ix.netcom.com>
      > Subject: What's in an Idea?
      > From: Osher Doctorow, osher@ix.netcom.com, Tues. Oct. 17, 2000, 5:34PM
      > "What's in a Name?" has inspired me to consider "What's in an Idea?"  The
      > answer that I come up with, in contrast to the former, is "surprisingly
      > much".  You may know that I dabble in mathematics and physics to an
      > inordinate degree, but I think that this relates to Humanist because it 
      > nothing specific about mathematics or physics.  I have been finding the 
      > amusing new discoveries by making tiny modifications of ideas.  Where 
      > put +, I put - (minus).  Where people divide, I multiply or add or 
      > Where people draw a graph that looks like a teacup, I ask what happens if
      > you turn the teacup upside down.   Believe it or not, you get a totally
      > different mathematics if you do any of these things.  If you play your 
      > right, you also get a totally different physics.   It appears to explain
      > some of the recent findings on the accelerating universe, on
      > information/entropy/knowledge near singularities (black holes, rare or zero
      > probability events, etc.), how the Sun captured the planets in elliptical
      > precessing orbits, etc.
      > Change some assumptions in the humanities and see what you get.  It only
      > takes a few changes to get science fiction, which has stimulated many
      > inventions.  Somebody wanted food to taste better (spices), and we got the
      > New World.  Some proto-human apelike ancestor, if the stories are right,
      > asked what would happen if he/she walked on the ground instead of the 
      > and here we are.  Some politician asked what would happen if we traded with
      > the Chinese instead of warring with them, and vice versa, and here we are
      > (I'm not sure where, but you know what I mean).  Some French King asked 
      > would happen if some harsh consonant were dropped in French, and we have
      > ellipsis or circonflexes or whatever they are called (my French 
    decreases as
      > my mathematics/physics increases - in one ear and out the 
    other).  Alexander
      > the Great asked what would happen if Macedonia were bigger, and he
      > "conquered the world" (caution: do not imitate at present).
      > Osher
      > --[2]------------------------------------------------------------------
      > Date: Wed, 18 Oct 2000 09:45:38 +0100
      > From: Randall Pierce <rpierce@jsucc.jsu.edu>
      > Subject: Encounters of the Fourth Kind
      > My congratulations to Arun-Kumar Tripathi for bringing news of the
      > "First Contact" seminar before the Humanist community. I wonder how many
      > governmental and NGO's have seriously considered all of the
      > ramifications of alien contact?. I do know that "conspiracy" buffs have
      > determined that all UFO contact has been carefully covered up to prevent
      > "widespread panic." Be that as it may, I am glad to see this august body
      > considering the problem. How do you think that hyper-text technology
      > would aid such a contact(stripped of technicalese? Randall

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