Odious and Peculiar

Philology and esoterica: scribblings, ravings and mutterings.

O&P's Current Pick:

Forging the Sampo

Odious' Links:

The Little Bookroom
The Pumpkin King
Larissa Archer
Inverted Iambs
Eve Tushnet
Pamela Dean
Kambodia Hotel
Pen and Paper

Charles Darwin's Beagle Diary
Deep-Sea News
NASA's Mars Website
Classics Online
Perseus Digital Library

Nine Scorpions
The Blithe Kitchen
Letter from Hardscrabble Creek
Arts & Letters Daily
About Last Night



Chas Clifton's Nature Blog
Rock Art Photo Blog
Girl on a Whaleship
Nature Lyrics Languagehat
Jabal al-Lughat
Laputan Logic
Strange Maps
Vladimir Dinets: Polymath Russian Adventurer
Virtual Tour of Almaty, Kazakhstan
Aerial Landscape Photography
USGS Earth As Art
Panoramic Aerial Maps of the American West

The Internet Bird Collection
Bird Families of the World
Ancient Scripts
The Aberdeen Bestiary Project
The Cephalopod Page
The Ultimate Ungulate
The Red Book of the Peoples of the Russian Empire
USGS Streamflow Data

Worthy Miscellany
Finno-Ugrian Music
Boojum Expeditions
American River Touring Association

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Friday, October 22, 2004
Brain in a jar, anyone? Science fiction gets closer and closer to the mundane, although I still don't have that jetpack Popular Science promised me.

I wonder, though, if "computation" is all that goes on. Heidegger divides calculation from contemplation quite sharply, and I'm not sure he's not on to something. It seems that there's something quite different going on when I, say, play chess or ping-pong, compared to when I'm reading philosophy. I've yet to be convinced that my more abstract maunderings can be reduced to ones and zeros.

Of course, better men than I have been and are so convinced. Poincaré in particular felt that the mental process (of creating new mathematical theorems) was one of trial and error; that one simply shook the pieces until they fell into place. It still leaves the question of more abstract thought (for example, questioning the thinghood of a mathematical concept doesn't seem to be answered readily by guess & check), and that of how one selects the "pieces" to shake in the first place, since Poincaré considers that the most time-consuming part of the work. It's also interesting to note that he claims that all his discoveries came when he was not specifically thinking about the problem. He would work on it until he reached a limit, and then allow some other part of his mind to deal with it. He often woke up with the solution fully formed in his mind. Shades of Athene.

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