"One might think that, once we know something is computable, how efficiently it can be computed is a practical question with little further philosophical importance. In this essay, I offer a detailed case that one would be wrong. In particular, I argue that computational complexity theory---the field that studies the resources (such as time, space, and randomness) needed to solve computational problems---leads to new perspectives on the nature of mathematical knowledge, the strong AI debate, computationalism, the problem of logical omniscience, Hume's problem of induction, Goodman's grue riddle, the foundations of quantum mechanics, economic rationality, closed timelike curves, and several other topics of philosophical interest. I end by discussing aspects of complexity theory itself that could benefit from philosophical analysis."
posted by cthuljew
on May 5, 2013 -
The Nature of Computation
- Intellects Vast and Warm and Sympathetic
: "I hand you a network or graph, and ask whether there is a path through the network that crosses each edge exactly once, returning to its starting point. (That is, I ask whether there is a 'Eulerian' cycle.) Then I hand you another network, and ask whether there is a path which visits each node exactly once. (That is, I ask whether there is a 'Hamiltonian' cycle.) How hard is it to answer me?" (via
) [more inside]
posted by kliuless
on Dec 1, 2012 -
Morton and Vicary on the Categorified Heisenberg Algebra
- "In quantum mechanics, position times momentum does not equal momentum times position! This sounds weird, but it's connected to a very simple fact. Suppose you have a box with some balls in it, and you have the magical ability to create and annihilate balls. Then there's one more way to create a ball and then annihilate one, than to annihilate one and then create one. Huh? Yes: if there are, say, 3 balls in the box to start with, there are 4 balls you can choose to annihilate after you've created one but only 3 before you create one..." [more inside]
posted by kliuless
on Jul 21, 2012 -
"Perhaps twenty or thirty people in England may be expected to read this book."
G.H. Hardy's review of Whitehead and Russell's Principia Mathematica
, published in the Times Literary Supplement 100 years ago last week. "The time has passed when a philosopher can afford to be ignorant of mathematics, and a little perseverance will be well rewarded. It will be something to learn how many of the spectres that have haunted philosophers modern mathematics has finally laid to rest."
posted by escabeche
on Sep 12, 2011 -
-- or as O'Reilly might term the Social Graph
-- sort of mirrors the debate on 'brute force' algorithmic proofs
(that are "true for no reason
.) in which "computers can extract patterns in this ocean of data that no human could ever possibly detect. These patterns are correlations. They may or may not be causative
, but we can learn new things. Therefore they accomplish what science does, although not in the traditional manner... In this part of science, we may get answers that work, but which we don't understand. Is this partial understanding? Or a different kind
?" Of course, say some in the scientific community: hogwash
; it's just a fabrication of scientifically/statistically illiterate pundits, like whilst new techniques in data analysis
are being developed to help keep ahead of the deluge...
posted by kliuless
on Jul 21, 2008 -
Dr James Anderson, from the University of Reading's computer science department, claims to have defined what it means to divide by zero. It's so simple, he claims, that he's even taught it to high school students
[via Digg]. You just have to work with a new number he calls Nullity
(RealPlayer video). According to Anderson's site The Book of Paragon
, the creation, innovation, or discovery of nullity is a step toward describing a "perspective simplex, or perspex [ . . . ] a simple physical thing that is both a mind and a body." Anderson claims that Nullity permits the definition of transreal arithmetic
(pdf), a "total arithmetic . . . with no arithmetical exceptions," thus removing what the fictional dialogue No Zombies, Only Feelies?
identifies as the "homunculus problem" in mathematics: the need for human intervention to sort out "corner cases" which are not defined.
posted by treepour
on Dec 7, 2006 -
Mathematical beauty in science (NYTimes)
Though I can't say I've seen a moment of God's glory in finding a balanced checkbook (on the first go), I have been in academia in physics and math enough to know the almost mystical pleasure its practitioners get from the "unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics", and the simplicity and elegance of the equations at its core. I was wondering -- are there other fields where this occurs, where people get the feeling they've tapped into some bare beauty of nature? Philosophy? Art? Architecture?
posted by meep
on Mar 26, 2002 -
Laws of Form
In 1969, George Spencer-Brown published a mathematical book called Laws of Form
, which has inspired explorations in philosophy, cybernetics, art, spirituality, and computation. The work is powerful and has established a passionate following as well as harsh critics. This web site explores these people, their ideas and history, and provides references for further exploration. I read this then, didn't understand much of the math due to my innumeracy, but was struck by a passage in passing... I especially am curious to see what the numerate in MetaFilter have to say.
posted by y2karl
on Nov 11, 2001 -