Law School Discussion

The Biography of a Dangerous Idea


Re: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea
« Reply #180 on: April 25, 2008, 12:03:10 PM »

The Greeks were scared to death of it. Aristotle wouldn't permit it [...]

Aristotle created the first notion of a zero in the history of human thought. Since this notion stood in evident contradiction to the basic principles of his metaphysics and logic, he rejected it.

Hellenes people used two systems of denoting numbers. The Athenian system was mathematically equal to the Roman system, whereas the Ionic system, just like the Hebrew system, was a system of an alphabetic type. In both systems, just like in the Egyptian hieroglyphic system or the Hebrew numeration, numbers had their established values regardless of the place they were put in. None of the Hellenic system was based on a position principle, none of them used a symbol of zero, either. However, there appeared an empty space in the Hellenic way of calculating, just as in the case of the Babylonians. The Pythagoreans constructed an instrument for calculating, known as Pythagorean table or abacus. It was a kind of tables made with pebbles. Vertical lines of abacus were to separate respective decimal orders. A lack of pebbles in a given column meant a lack of units in a given order. The construction of an abacus could have given the Hellenic scientists an idea of the position notation of numbers and, as a consequence of it, resulted in adopting a symbol of zero. But it did not happen in this way. Hellenes, who were overcome with their affection towards solving antinomies could not accept the idea of introducing "something" to indicate "nothing". Already the very thought of this contained some sort of contradiction. The construction of an abacus allowed them to avoid introducing a symbol of an empty space and therefore it was a guarantee for them to avoid antinomy.

A fundamental thesis of Parmenides' philosophy declared, that being is and it cannot not be, non-being is not and it cannot be. A little later Aristotle wrote: "to say of what is that it is not, or what is not it is, is false...". The greatest Hellenic philosophers, Socrates, Plato and Aristotle were convinced that one could reach an absolute truth only by means of general notions, whereas contemporary mathematicians, Teodor, Teaitet and Eudoksos, believed that they proved "truths" or "true theorems". This conviction was of a metaphysical character. Its justification or attributing to it a sense which would not make it a tautology, was not possible on the basis of mathematics. According to his metaphysics, Plato presented mathematics as a way leading to "truth in itself", whereas mathematical objects that is numbers, values, figures,..., as having their independent being in the world of ideas. Therefore mathematics was an introduction to philosophy. A question of mathematics was presented in a different way by Aristotle, Plato's pupil. According to fundamental statements of his metaphysics, he rejected ontic independence of mathematical objects, while stressing that a definition (naturally meaning nominal definitions since the Hellenic mathematicians did not explain "primary notions") did not entail the existence of a defined thing which required evidence or a postulate. The second degree of the Aristotelian abstraction, that is, mathematical abstraction, concerned the foundations of mathematics. It consists in the fact that in a material being we pay attention to one property only, which is very significant or just essential - quantity. All other properties, particular as well as general ones, are left out. In abstraction of this kind, intellect creates a mathematical being by isolating quantity from the nature of a given substance. Since in Aristotle's philosophy quantity is quality which organises the matter derivatively, arranging its parts outside each other, a notion of quantity includes the relation of these parts to each other and to the whole. A set of these relations is connected inseparably with a basic function of quantity, that is, with organising the matter. Thanks to a quantitative (along with relations) organisation, the matter becomes readable for the intellect. That is why a mathematical being, superstructured on the expression of quantity, isolated in mathematical abstraction, is an instrument of a deeper insight into structure of the matter.

In Physics, book IV, Aristotle considered a possibility of adopting a zero number. "Now there is a ratio in which the void is exceeded by body, as there is no ratio of 0 to a number. For if 4 exceeds 3 by 1, and 2 by more than 1, and 1 by still more than it exceeds 2, still there is no ratio by which it exceeds 0; for that which exceeds must be divisible into the excess + that which is exceeded, so that 4 will be what it exceeds 4 + 0." There is no doubt that the name of "zero" appearing in the above quotation from Physics means "a number zero" and is evidently connected with a notion of "nothing" or "nothingness". It is also indicated by the term of μηδέv used by Aristotle. This term does not belong to a dictionary of basic terms of Aristotle's system for obvious reasons. The Philosopher employed it when he analysed views of his predecessors while writing about beings coming to be from nothingness and according to the ex nihilo nihil fit principle he rejected non-being conceived of as nothingness. Coming to be is a change "from non-subject to subject, the relation being that of contradiction is "coming to be" - "unqualified coming to be" when the change takes place in an unqualified way, "particular coming to be" when the change is a change in a particular character: for instance, a change from not-white to white is coming to be of the particular thing, white, while change from unqualified non-being to being is coming to be in an unqualified way, in respect of which we say that a thing "comes to be" without qualification, not that it "comes to be" some particular thing". Aristotle talked about absolute coming to be and detailed coming to be. Coming to be in an absolute sense cannot be approached as coming to be from nothingness. One can say that a substance originated from the state in which it did not exist, that is from some kind of non-being, however not from nothingness. In Aristotle's system a notion of non-being is connected with a notion of being and is a negation of it. Hence, "being" has as many senses as "non-being". Analysing senses of "non-being" the Philosopher wrote: "For "non-being" also has many senses, since "being" has; and "not being a man" means not being a certain substance, "not being straight" not being of certain quality; "not being three cubits long" not being of certain quantity. [...] But since "non-being" taken in its various cases has as many senses as there are categories, and besides this the false is said not to be, and so is the potential, it is from this that generation proceeds, man from that which is not man but potentially man, and white from that which is not white but potentially white, and this whether it is some one thing that is generated or many".

The first notion of an abstract zero, that is a number zero, in the history of human thought appeared in Aristotle's philosophy in the 4th c. BC, when the Babilonians elaborated a zero as a lack of units of some order. The Philosopher could not accepted it since it would lead him to contradiction. The basic principles of his metaphysics demanded the rejection of this notion just as they demanded the rejection of a notion of nothingness or actual infinity. The rejection of an abstract zero was demanded by the principles of his logic, demanding the rejection of an empty set.

Re: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea
« Reply #181 on: May 05, 2008, 12:03:40 PM »

I read that the blueprint stored in DNA, an organism's genome, is, in effect, the program that describes how an organism builds itself and functions throughout its life. This information is subdivided into many discrete packages of instructions (genes). Each gene is typically associated with a particular function or trait (such as the instructions for producing the hemoglobin molecule used by red blood cells). An organism's DNA program is not read in its entirety from start to finish, but is broken down into many smaller units, each of which can be accessed as needed. An igene, like a gene, is a set of computer instructions that can be incorporated into other, more complex programs. Just as the gene for hemoglobin doesn't describe how to build an entire blood cell, an igene that describes how to calculate the sine of a number is a component that deals with a small part of a larger task. This modular approach for packaging instructions allows us to create symbols that are shorthand for an otherwise complicated set of instructions, and to combine these symbols to describe complex processes in shorthand form. The key difference between an igene and a gene is the igene contains computation instructions whereas a gene describes how to build a protein that is used by an organism.

It appears to be an interesting book, know - thanks for posting the stuff here!

Re: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea
« Reply #182 on: May 06, 2008, 01:56:18 PM »

In other words, Dundee, the key to success just isn't self-improvement ;)

That's not the point, cen! As each is a self-scripted star in their life story, each also has the power and freedom to pen their own demise. Living according to individual truth considerably reduces the possibility to self-defeat becoming a pattern moment-to-moment, year-to-year, and life-to-life. Not only must WHAT to do and WHY to do be self-determined, but HOW and WHEN too. Individual feelings are the only motivator and motivation that inflames and sustains drive, and returns rewards that are personally meaningful and, therefore, more confidence-building than money and applause. Otherewise, after reasoning and logical convincing, what walks out to try and do is SHOULD. When that happens, success and happiness are not individual, but predicated on the average of all who attempted before. SHOULD not only comes with set rules for doing and limits on reward, but it also requires the input of many to supervise and encourage when enthusiasm flags. IF attained, success and happiness rewards are owed many and spread wide and thin. On the other hand, failure is a burden that's carried by one, though trying and doing involved many. SHOULD always has a record of past successes attached, which more often destroys self-confidence than builds it. DOING FOR SHOULD and DOING FOR MUST are 180-degrees apart in terms of success/failure and happiness/unhappiness. The former is reasoned so unreasonableness becomes the motivation. The latter is decided by MUST which is already unreasonable, so the only motivation available is self. When doing for MUST, happiness is a daily companion straight through to the end, regardless of success.

Re: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea
« Reply #183 on: May 11, 2008, 04:01:55 PM »

'He loves me, he loves me not...'

LOL super! ;)

ex, that's not the way to go - that's the logic of Muslim Fundamentalists, Rev. Wright and the like! 

Re: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea
« Reply #184 on: May 13, 2008, 02:30:09 PM »

Keyboard commands are indeed important to know ... I'm pretty sure you will have to work one day with the keyboard commands alone ... a friend of mine had an instance when the screen froze completely and the mouse simply wouldn't work ... the only way to save a few files before actually shutting down the computer (and losing everything after a system restore was executed) was to use the functioning keyboard...

Right on! I mean this seems quite unimportant at first sight, but believe me, it is the most important thing in the world in those moments when you just can't make the computer work!

Yeah right, hang on that! How could you possibly think you can make the computer work using the keyboard commands??? ARE YOU NUTS?

Don't you think it's time to wake up and run down the street to your technician, buy the piece of equipment that's needed and do the whole thing the way it can be done?

Come down, marygo! The truth is that you can make your computer work using the keyboard commands only.
Your theory is crazy, but it's not crazy enough to be true.

Re: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea
« Reply #185 on: May 20, 2008, 08:53:58 AM »
Indeed zero did not exist back then -- I hope you've all heard about malaria. Well, its classic attack cycles, recurre at intervals of 48 hours (in so-called tertian malaria) or 72 hours (quartan malaria), coincide with the synchronized release of each new generation of merozoites into the bloodstream. Now 48 hours it's 2 days (you know 0 1 2) and 72 hours is 3 days (0 1 2 3 4) -- people discovering this did not count from zero, but from 1 on, reason why the above mentioned names for the types of malaria.

Re: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea
« Reply #186 on: May 20, 2008, 02:52:51 PM »

[...] its classic attack cycles, recurre at intervals of 48 hours (in so-called tertian malaria) or 72 hours (quartan malaria), coincide with the synchronized release of each new generation of merozoites into the bloodstream. Now 48 hours it's 2 days (you know 0 1 2) and 72 hours is 3 days (0 1 2 3) -- people discovering this did not count from zero, but from 1 on [...]

If they did not count from 0 then wouldn't the 72-hours cycle be called tertian malaria? Just an observation...

Re: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea
« Reply #187 on: May 22, 2008, 03:01:49 PM »

A schematic nuclear fission chain reaction. 1. A uranium-235 atom absorbs a neutron, and fissions in two new atoms (fission fragments), releasing three new neutrons and some binding energy. 2. One of those neutrons is absorbed by an atom of uranium-238, and does not continue the reaction.

Another neutron is simply lost and does not collide with anything, also not continuing the reaction. However one neutron does collide with an atom of uranium-235, which then fissions and releases two neutrons and some binding energy. 3. Both of those neutrons collide with uranium-235 atoms, each of which fission and release between one and three neutrons, which can then continue the reaction.

* * *

The famous exchange of letters between Einstein and Freud, "Why War?" (Freud, 1933) is disclosed. That exchange is now more than half a century old and occurred before the advent of the nuclear age when the question of war was not yet that of the very survival of the human species on a livable planet. In that interchange, Einstein interspersed a number of assertions about human psychology with questions addressed to Freud. He asked, "How is it these devices succeed so well in rousing men to such wild enthusiasm, even to sacrifice their lives?" Only one answer is possible. Because man has within him a lust for hatred and destruction...

Although the building of the atomic bomb was still some years away, Einstein had already discovered the science that would make it possible and feared its catastrophic potential. He asked Freud "to bring the light of [his] far-reaching knowledge of man's instinctual life to bear upon the problem" and hoped that his "most recent discoveries might blaze the trail for new and fruitful modes of action." Einstein was concerned about the role of elites in promoting war, the "small but determined groups, active in every nation, composed of individuals who, indifferent to social considerations and restraints, regard warfare, the manifestation and sale of arms, simply as an occasion to advance their personal interests and enlarge their personal authority." This phenomenon was later termed the "military-industrial complex" by US President Eisenhower. In Einstein's view, the elites were able to wield power because "the schools and press, usually the church as well [were] under its thumb" and so were able to "whip up the hatred and destruction of the masses into a collective psychosis."

Thus Einstein invoked the language of psychiatry and madness to describe the propaganda machine already operating in Nazi Germany. He proposed the establishment, "by international consent, of [a] legislative and judicial body to settle every conflict arising between nations" but lamented that "we are far from possessing any supranational organization competent to render verdicts of incontestable authority and enforce absolute submission to the execution of its verdicts." However, as Einstein observed, there are "strong psychological factors" that "paralyse" efforts to enforce the peaceful coexistence of nations. And so he sought Freud's counsel.

Replying to Einstein's letter, Freud expressed his surprise that, as a physician and psychoanalyst, his advice regarding a social rather than clinical problem had been sought. However, he wrote that he agreed with everything Einstein had said, "particularly the need for a central authority." He described war as futile. "The results of conquest are as a rule short-lived," he wrote, "the newly created units fall apart once again, usually owing to a lack of cohesion between parties united by violence." He, too, was concerned that the League of Nations lacked "the necessary power to act, and shared Einstein's apocalyptic sense that "a future war might involve the extermination of one or perhaps both of the antagonists." Freud then went on to outline for Einstein his theory of Eros, the life instinct that "seeks to preserve and unite" and of Thanatos, the death instinct. For Freud, aggression was the manifestation of Thanatos and thus an essential element of human nature. For that reason, he characterized Russian communism as "an illusion trying to make human aggression disappear."

What Freud offered Einstein by way of an answer were "indirect methods of combating war." These were, first, education to create "independent minds not open to intimidation and eager in the pursuit of truth." Second was a sense of "identification," that is, of "whatever leads men to share important interests" and thus creates a "community of feeling." Third, Freud suggested that "cultural attitudes and the justified dread of the consequences of a future war may result within a measurable time in putting an end to the waging of war itself."

As events unfolded, Einstein left Germany for the US in 1933, and Freud left Austria for England in 1938. Einstein found himself drawn into doing what he most dreaded. Fearing that Nazi scientists would develop an atomic bomb, he helped to initiate the Manhattan Project. He would live his last years working for disarmament and global government, anguished by his impossible, Faustian decision. Despite Einstein's efforts, the atomic bomb has since its nefarious birth during World War II metastasized into the current proliferation of nuclear arms, propelled, as Einstein himself had predicted, by propaganda and profit. As the 21st century begins, the bulk of the world's population has for the first time in history been raised under the threat of possible extinction by its own hand. Although nuclear war has receded from public consciousness this past decade, the situation is in a number of ways more precarious than it was during the Cold War.

Freud used the concept of Thanatos as a means of explaining recurring patterns of self-defeating and self-destructive behaviours, which he called "repetition compulsion." The term in current vogue — "reenactment" — understands repetition in interpersonal rather than instinctual terms: the acting-out of past tragic dramas through wilful blindness, which seeks comfort and control in punitive ways. In the spinning of vicious circles, the solution is the problem. Thus children from violent homes may become, more often than by chance, violent parents themselves, and the poison of substance abuse passes from one generation to the next. At a sociopolitical level, we also see recurring patterns. Nowhere are these so disastrously self-destructive as in war. While we pray for peace, it is always combat we prepare for. With the invention of nuclear weapons, this affliction has reached its ultimate suicidal possibility.

This is Nuclear Madness -- Comment is free!


Re: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea
« Reply #188 on: May 24, 2008, 04:19:52 PM »

String theory is quite interesting; it makes the string one of the main objects of study. A string is an object with a one-dimensional spatial extent, unlike an elementary particle which is zero-dimensional, or point-like. By postulating this one-dimensional structure, many desirable features of a more fundamental theory of physics automatically emerge. Most notably, almost any theory of strings consistent with quantum mechanics must also contain quantum gravity, which had not been described consistently prior to string theory.

Strings can be either open or closed. A closed string is a string that has no end-points, and therefore is topologically equivalent to a circle. An open string, on the other hand, has two end-points and is topologically equivalent to a line interval. Not all string theories contain open strings, but every theory must contain closed strings, as interactions between open strings can always result in closed strings. The oldest superstring theory containing open strings was type I string theory.

Since its birth as the dual resonance model which described the strongly interacting hadrons as strings, the term string theory has changed to include any of a group of related superstring theories and larger frameworks such as M-theory, which unite them. A shared property of all these theories is the holographic principle. String theorists have not yet completely described these theories, nor have they determined if or how these theories relate to the physical universe. The elegance and flexibility of the approach, however, and a number of qualitative similarities with more traditional physical models, have led many physicists to suspect that such a connection is possible. In particular, string theory may be a way to "unify" the known natural forces (gravitational, electromagnetic, weak nuclear and strong nuclear) by describing them with the same set of equations, as described in the theory of everything. (BTW, Theory of everything (TOE) is a hypothetical theory of theoretical physics that fully explains and links together all known physical phenomena. Initially, the term was used with an ironic connotation to refer to various overgeneralized theories. For example, a great-grandfather of Ijon Tichy — a character from a cycle of Stanisław Lem's science fiction stories of 1960s — was known to work on the "General Theory of Everything". Over time, the term stuck in popularizations of quantum physics to describe a theory that would unify or explain through a single model the theories of all fundamental interactions of nature. There have been many theories of everything proposed by theoretical physicists over the last century, but none have been confirmed experimentally. The primary problem in producing a TOE is that the accepted theories of quantum mechanics and general relativity are hard to combine.)

Hi slightly - you've written a quite interesting post! Thanks! :)

Re: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea
« Reply #189 on: May 27, 2008, 12:02:37 PM »

[...] its classic attack cycles, recurre at intervals of 48 hours (in so-called tertian malaria) or 72 hours (quartan malaria), coincide with the synchronized release of each new generation of merozoites into the bloodstream. Now 48 hours it's 2 days (you know 0 1 2) and 72 hours is 3 days (0 1 2 3) -- people discovering this did not count from zero, but from 1 on [...]

If they did not count from 0 then wouldn't the 72-hours cycle be called tertian malaria? Just an observation...

quartan, the quartan of a fever in which the paroxysms occur every third (acc. to old reckoning, fourth) day. XIII. ME. quartain — (O)F. quartaine :- L. quartāna, fem. of quartānus, f. quartus fourth; see QUART1 and -AN.
T stands for Time.