Software Musings


Posted on: 26/08/2006

Something of an embarras de richesse this morning.

My physicist daughter is, because of an irrational and, some would say, unjustifiable, belief in causality, expecting a baby. She has read a report from the BBC on the pacifying uses of playing music to her unborn child but I’m more interested in that verb expecting. I have also found an interesting blog site entitled Mathematics Under The Microscope which has a challenging entry ostensibly on Women and Mathematics but which is really about power in mathematics:

A rarely discussed side effect of doing mathematics is that mathematics is a weapon of personal empowerment. To be successful in mathematics, you have to be bold, you have to be absolutely independent in your thinking.

The author, Alexandre Borovik, gives a very humorous description of a party which he attended and where his fellow-guests were astrologers. But I read that blog having just returned from the annual Rockcliffe Flying Club cricket match and star and planet watching evening and it’s the latter I want to mention.

The report of the cricket match will appear on the Rockcliffe Flying Club web site shortly but the planet watching was again the highlight of the evening. I must gain as much pleasure as Galileo Galilei from seeing the moons of Jupiter.

The young astronomer with whom I was chatting explained that the telescope had to keep moving because of the earth’s movement around the sun. He is a science student at a local university and not only was he expecting to find Jupiter in its prescribed spot but was confident in the explanatory as well as the descriptive nature of his science. I cross-questioned his belief in the rotation of the earth around the sun as being a Truth rather than a computational convenience for certain calculations. I explained that circles were intrinsically simpler shapes than ellipses and the Ptolemaic epicycle theory therefore simpler than Copernicus’s views. In the end I think he agreed (if only to shut me up).

I set out once to list the irrational (using the word literally rather than pejoratively) things that a scientist has to believe in order to be a scientist. Not being one, I’m excluded from their internal processes, but, basing my views on The Magic Flute, I assume that they have a secret creed that they chant in unison each morning before beginning work at the laboratory. This would obviously start “I believe in causality and the explanatory nature of science…..”


1 Response to "Expecting"

If you expect nothing, you can never be disappointed. The corollary of this old adage is that if you have ever suffered disappointment, you must have expected. And if you have expected, however briefly, you have introduced belief in causality into your thinking.

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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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