Software Musings

The Three Cultures

Posted on: 02/08/2006

I sympathise with C.P.Snow’s view of the two cultures but wonder whether he missed one. Not the social sciences as Snow thought, since that is clearly not a culture but a different one.

I am lucky that I can answer both of Snow’s original questions positively: I can describe the Second Law of Thermodynamics and I have read a work of Shakespeare’s. In fact, lots of works of Shakespeare’s. Snow’s dumbing down questions are ones I can also answer positively with ease: I can describe acceleration and I can read. This probably qualifies me as a Renaissance Man.

But what if the question had been: “can you put up a curtain rail in your bedroom so that the arras stays up in the presence of a gravitational field acting with a force GM1M2/r2 towards the centre of the earth even in the absence of Polonius?” This question neatly (I think) combines all three of my cultures and my answer would have to be somewhat ambivalent.

The first problem was mathematical and so I suppose I should have been on home ground. Given a metal plate with two holes to be screwed to the wall to hold up a cantilever curtain rail, should the holes be drilled horizontally or vertically? Vertically would ensure that the lower screw was actually useless, being in compression all the time, while horizontally would reduce the amount of metal under the screws. It didn’t actually matter because both fell off.


1 Response to "The Three Cultures"

When you wrote this, were you under the influence or under the curtain? In other words, were you ratted behind the arras or was the curtain prematurely rung down in Act One? :-))

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August 2006
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The author of this blog used to be an employee of Nortel. Even when he worked for Nortel the views expressed in the blog did not represent the views of Nortel. Now that he has left, the chances are even smaller that his views match those of Nortel.
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