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.
TUESDAY, JUNE 26, 2012
Mario O’Hara 1946 – 2012
Mario O’Hara died today of complications due to leukemia.
Here is an old interview (reproduced from my book Critic After Dark) I did, the very first time I met him:
via Critic After Dark.
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Notes on arts and entertainment from the staff of The New Yorker.
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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
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!”
“When Steve Jobs died last week, there was a huge outcry, and that was very moving and justified. But Dennis had a bigger effect, and the public doesn’t even know who he is,” says Rob Pike, the programming legend and current Googler who spent 20 years working across the hall from Ritchie at the famed Bell Labs.
On Wednesday evening, with a post to Google+, Pike announced that Ritchie had died at his home in New Jersey over the weekend after a long illness, and though the response from hardcore techies was immense, the collective eulogy from the web at large doesn’t quite do justice to Ritchie’s sweeping influence on the modern world. Dennis Ritchie is the father of the C programming language, and with fellow Bell Labs researcher Ken Thompson, he used C to build UNIX, the operating system that so much of the world is built on — including the Apple empire overseen by Steve Jobs.
“Pretty much everything on the web uses those two things: C and UNIX,” Pike tells Wired. “The browsers are written in C. The UNIX kernel — that pretty much the entire Internet runs on — is written in C. Web servers are written in C, and if they’re not, they’re written in Java or C++, which are C derivatives, or Python or Ruby, which are implemented in C. And all of the network hardware running these programs I can almost guarantee were written in C.
“It’s really hard to overstate how much of the modern information economy is built on the work Dennis did.”
Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do. – Apple Inc.
Filipino doctor dies while fleeing rebels in Congo
By Cynthia Balana
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 17:54:00 04/06/2010
Filed Under: insurgency, Overseas Employment, Foreign affairs & international relations
MANILA, Philippines—A Filipino doctor working with a United Nations contractor died on Easter Sunday while he and his colleagues were evacuating to safer ground after the town and airport in Mbandaka, Congo, where they were based were attacked by rebels, the Department of Foreign Affairs said Tuesday.
Citing a report from the Philippine embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, DFA spokesman Eduardo Malaya said in an interview that the doctor, Jay Basilio-Bool, suffered cardiac arrest while fleeing.
The best obituary I have seen memorializing Sir James comes from the UK Telegraph.
Black was called the father of analytical pharmacology and was said to have relieved more human suffering than thousands of doctors could have done in careers spent at the bedside. Certainly, no man on earth earned more for the international pharmaceutical industry.Yet though he became joint winner of the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1988, Black derived little personal financial benefit from his discoveries. Among businessmen he had a reputation as an irascible maverick and this prickly independence, combined with an antipathy to big institutions, led him to flounce out of jobs whenever he felt corporate short-sightedness was getting in the way of research.
It is rare for a scientist to discover one drug that makes it to market. Sir James not only led the discovery of two major drugs, propranolol and cimetidine. As if that were not enough, each drug was a “first-in-class” agent, the first approved drug that acts via a novel mechanism of action.
Universal Healthcare NOW!!!!
He also appears to denounce the Wall Street firms that helped caused the financial crisis — and even the lack of progress on health-care reform, criticizing Washington politicians for failing to fix “the joke we call the American medical system,” and for doing the bidding of the drug and insurance companies:
Why is it that a handful of thugs and plunderers can commit unthinkable atrocities (and in the case of the GM executives, for scores of years) and when it's time for their gravy train to crash under the weight of their gluttony and overwhelming stupidity, the force of the full federal government has no difficulty coming to their aid within days if not hours? Yet at the same time, the joke we call the American medical system, including the drug and insurance companies, are murdering tens of thousands of people a year and stealing from the corpses and victims they cripple, and this country's leaders don't see this as important as bailing out a few of their vile, rich cronies. Yet, the political “representatives” (thieves, liars, and self-serving scumbags is far more accurate) have endless time to sit around for year after year and debate the state of the “terrible health care problem”. It's clear they see no crisis as long as the dead people don't get in the way of their corporate profits rolling in.
Referring to the bailouts of airlines after 9/11, Stack writes: “the Government came to the aid of the airlines with billions of our tax dollars … as usual they left me to rot and die while they bailed out their rich, incompetent cronies WITH MY MONEY!”
When I woke up earlier this morning I had a fever and a headache. I didn’t go to work and slept through the day. I know it’s crazy but The Catcher in the Rye was a book I loved. The freakish part of me that feel that everything is connected somewhat believes that my being sick this whole friday may be in fact connected. RIP JD Salinger.
Reclusive author J.D. Salinger dies at 91
Reuters | 01/29/2010 10:28 PM
BOSTON – Reclusive U.S. author J.D. Salinger, who wrote the American post-war literary classic “The Catcher in the Rye,” has died of natural causes aged 91.
His literary agent, Phyllis Westberg, said he died on Wednesday at his home in New Hampshire.
“The Catcher in the Rye” was published in 1951. Its story of alienation and rebellion, featuring the teenage hero Holden Caulfield, immediately resonated with adolescent and young adult readers.