18.007 mathematics

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk)
Date: Mon May 10 2004 - 16:16:23 EDT

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                    Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 18, No. 7.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                         Submit to: humanist@princeton.edu

             Date: Mon, 10 May 2004 10:01:49 +0100
             From: lachance@origin.chass.utoronto.ca (Francois Lachance)
             Subject: Re: A not unhappy 17th BIRTHDAY


    I do believe you short change yourself. Modesty in the face of the
    mathematicians arises from on slight preposition "in" placed between "to
    think" and "the abstract"...

    > *about* anything at all? ­ mathematics requires an extraordinary ability to
    > think in the abstract that I, for one, do not possess. But mathematics is
    > (as mathematicans are wont to say) “beautiful”, and more importantly for
    > us, computation is deeply rooted in mathematical questions. So, sooner or

    Someone in the last century wrote:

         Abstraction transports one from the given to the possible. As
         abstraction moves away from an underlying reality, a putative last
         instance, it moves towards a form, a portable pattern, a template.
         Abstraction is akin to transcoding. In the succession of analytic and
         synthetic moments, in the movements of separation and recombination, a
         materialism is feasible, thought and bodily patterns readable.

    I am willing to venture that that writer thought about mathematicians as
    thinking through the abstract or with the abstract. For examples of the
    incarnatory power of mathematics, see the lovely illustrations and process
    descriptions in _Fragments of Infinity: A Kaleidoscope of Math and Art_ by
    Ivars Peterson (John Wiley & Sons, 2001)

    Good thing you don't possess the ability to think in the abstract. I
    probably enables you to think through and with the abstract.

    Francois Lachance, Scholar-at-large

    A calendar is like a map. And just as maps have insets, calendars in the 21st century might have 'moments' expressed in flat local time fanning out into "great circles" expressed in earth revolution time.

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