Category Archives: RIP

Remembering Bill Thurston, Mathematician Who Helped Us Understand the Shape of the Universe – Edward Tenner – The Atlantic

Mathematicians can cite many other examples of surprising applications. Could the 19th-century founders of mathematical logic have imagined where Alan Turing would take their new field a hundred years later? With the computer science that Turing founded, the once-abstract field of number theory became a foundation of cryptography. The mathematics of origami have contributed to designing solar sails and automotive airbags. In the 1980s, the topological subfield of knot theory became a powerful tool in particle physics. Symposia have already been held on applications of topology to the design of industrial robots. I’ve even read the statement — but haven’t been able to find the reference again — that every significant pure math idea has an application. We just haven’t discovered some yet.

All this is timely, because in some quarters of neo-mercantilist, managerial academia, some mathematics is considered too pure for the national economy, especially in the UK.

In a famous paper on the uncanny way that math describes reality, the physicist Eugene Wigner concluded:

The miracle of the appropriateness of the language of mathematics for the formulation of the laws of physics is a wonderful gift which we neither understand nor deserve. We should be grateful for it and hope that it will remain valid in future research and that it will extend, for better or for worse, to our pleasure, even though perhaps also to our bafflement, to wide branches of learning.

Bill Thurston was one of the great bestowers of that gift.

via Remembering Bill Thurston, Mathematician Who Helped Us Understand the Shape of the Universe – Edward Tenner – The Atlantic.

RIP:Nora Ephron : The New Yorker

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CULTURE DESK

Notes on arts and entertainment from the staff of The New Yorker.

« The Mollification of ManhattanMain

JUNE 26, 2012

NORA EPHRON, 1941-2012

Posted by The New Yorker

We will post remembrances of Nora Ephron soon. Please read some of the many wonderful pieces she wrote for the magazine:

“My Life As an Heiress”

Ephron’s Personal History about her uncle and her inheritance.

October 11, 2010

“The Girl Who Fixed the Umlaut”

A spoof of Stieg Larsson’s “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.”

July 5, 2010

via Nora Ephron : The New Yorker.

Christopher Hitchens, Consummate Writer, Brilliant Friend – NYTimes.com

When I arrived from the airport on my last visit, he saw sticking out of my luggage a small book. He held out his hand for it — Peter Ackroyd’s “London Under,” a subterranean history of the city. Then we began a 10-minute celebration of its author. We had never spoken of him before, and Christopher seemed to have read everything. Only then did we say hello. He wanted the Ackroyd, he said, because it was small and didn’t hurt his wrist to hold. But soon he was making penciled notes in its margins. By that evening he’d finished it. He could have written a review, but he was to turn in a long piece on Chesterton.

And so this was how it would go: talk about books and politics, then he dozed while I read or wrote, then more talk, then we both read. The intensive care unit room was crammed with flickering machines and sustaining tubes, but they seemed almost decorative. Books, journalism, the ideas behind both, conquered the sterile space, or warmed it, they raised it to the condition of a good university library. And they protected us from the bleak high-rise view through the plate glass windows, of that world, in Larkin’s lines, whose loves and chances “are beyond the stretch/Of any hand from here!”

via Christopher Hitchens, Consummate Writer, Brilliant Friend – NYTimes.com.