Archive for July, 2006

h1

Numbers

July 31, 2006

I recently finished reading Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea by Charles Seife. Very nice book. It reminded me that mathematics is indeed a language, and as such must be seen not as the truth—but “a lie we agree to recite to each other.” One would never say that English or French were “true,” but we make this mistake with math. There are proofs after all! Well I am no more impressed with them than I was in high school when I first learned them. This probably was not what Seife intended, but such is the lot of the author. It is a book well worth reading, and probably you will not come to my conclusions after reading it. By the way, it also struck me that the most “real” numbers are the irrational ones: pi, the golden ratio, etc.: numbers that don’t really every end!

h1

Dimensions in history

July 10, 2006

<script type=”text/javascript” src=”http://embed.technorati.com/embed/66babikpds.js”></script>

Have been thinking lately about the idea of dimensions in history. Not in the sense of textbook titles, but in the sense of up, down, etc. Of course time, often cited as the fourth dimension of physics (correctly I believe), is of primary importance to history. Is it a single dimension in history? Probably, though geologic time seems very different from solar time, which is different from evolutionary time.  There is in physics some discussion of math that requires multiple dimensions, but they don’t seem to have much imagination in counting them. They seem to imply they must be physical dimensions that are twisted in some way and I don’t know why. If time is a dimension, why not other similar types of things: gravity?, particles?, waves?, life? We know there are multiple historical forces: groups, individuals, politics, etc. All these interact and create (bend?) time and space. Interesting things to ponder. Don’t need to be too tied to the “reality” of the physics example, but it helps frame the discussion.

h1

Website

July 10, 2006

The header for this blog is a section of a painting of mine. To see this and other artworks of mine visit my website at zenosox.com. I am also working on a link blog.

h1

The Long Tail

July 9, 2006

The Long Tail began as a blog and is now a book. Chris Anderson has delivered the goods. Everyone involved in retail should read this book, and not just for its insight on how the internet changes the landscape of selling. He presents a clear and convincing story of the nature and history of selling. Like The Cluetrain Manifesto, this book explores how we need to change our assumptions as technology democratizes access and opportunity to production, selling and buying.

h1

Patterns and History

July 8, 2006

History is all about patterns and as such reflects the human mind—as does mathematics etc. The usefulness of the patterns is almost more important than their truth. Validity and usefulness are branches of the same limb: validity being the shorter limb. Actually, it might be more accurate to say that they are types of branches (with validity still being a shorter type of branch). We can then add one of my favorite ideas: Staughton Lynd’s view that history is the search for forgotten alternatives (in this case forgotten branches). The branch analogy is further served by its connection with the iterative properties of chaos. Here we have both branches and patterns within the context of non-linear reality, both very good things from my viewpoint. (originally published on untimelymeditations.zenosox.com 6/3/06 1:06pm)

h1

Memory and History

July 8, 2006

Have been reading Eric Kandel’s wonderful book, In Search of Memory. I have often wondered why historians seem to have very little interest in memory. They rely heavily on it as source material, but don’t seem interested in understanding how it works. Very short sighted and possibly a sign that they are actually afraid of knowing the answers.

Kandel writes a wonderful combination of history of science, personal reflections and just plain science. I wish more authors would follow this example, though it probably helps if you are as interesting as Kandel. There is indeed an important place for this knowledge in historical writing. We must understand the fundamental science of memory before we accept memories as evidence. (originally published on untimelymeditations.zenosox.com 5/29/06 9:15pm)

h1

Expertise

July 8, 2006

When you criticize others, stop and consider whether the reason you are so certain they suffer from this problem is because you too exhibit that characteristic. Expertise can be difficult to live with. (Originally published on untimelymeditations.zenosox.com 5/27/06 9:57pm