Friday, July 18, 2014

Good Hunting

I've accumulated a lot of links since I'm reading more articles these days (thanks HN). Many I thought worth sharing.

Some pieces provoked more thought than simply "hey, that's cool," so I pull them out for further consideration:

The Two Cultures of Mathematics: theory-builders v. problem-solvers -- essentially, theory v. practice, do you want deeper knowledge or do you want useful knowledge? I only read the first part because it is the summer and I lack the strength of will to go through theorems in fields I have only heard of. Theory is seen as more powerful but sometimes you just have to get your hands dirty--knowing more theory won't help.

The Turk Polishes His Window: greatness of a nation resides in the people's pride--having excellence, quality, conscientousness as part of the national identity

The Power of Dots: dot diagrams are powerful because they help humans understand structure, which is at a higher level of thinking than mere procedural computation. I want to learn how to use these; they seem interesting.

Ceremonies as Traffic Lights: rituals make a person's changed state common knowledge, helping a community and the individual in question come to terms with their new identity instead of waffling about in a liminal state for too long of a time

The Last Days of the Polymath: too much specialization → difficulties in crossing fields. As fields go deeper, you are more likely to get stuck; you cannot skate across the intervening earth as much.

An important comment from user AriD2385:
"Also, with the rise of specialization, we tend to have much more of a "geek culture," where young individuals in particular tie their self-identity to being the most passionate about such and such a thing irrespective of the actual contributions they are making to the discipline. Just knowing a lot about something, or at least more than most people, is enough. Subjects are viewed as extensions of the self rather than as simply a part of the wide universe of knowledge that all participate in. So people look for others with the same type of tribal affiliation, and outsiders, like Posner said, are seen as trespassers."

Finally, some physics: pilot wave suggests model for how quantum mechanical phenomena could be deterministic, but quantum mechanics may not be just an abstraction of what is "really" there. These two articles seem in opposition: quantum phenomena are a reflection of deterministic mechanisms v. probabilistic quantum mechanics is actually how things work.

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