A letter by Rene Descartes, stolen in 1840s, recovered in 2010 by online detective work.
The letter was stolen by Guglielmo Libri, inspector general of the libraries of France, who stole thousands of valuable documents and fled to England in 1848. Since 1902 it's been in the collection of Haverford College, its contents unknown to scholars, and nobody there realized that it was an unknown letter. But because they had catalogued it and recently put their catalogue on line, Dutch philosopher Erik-Jan Bos found it "during a late-night session browsing the Internet
". (A Haverford undergraduate thirty years ago had translated it and written a paper on it, in which he recognized that the letter was unknown -- but nobody followed up and the letter had sat in the library since then until it was listed online.) The letter includes some last-minute edits to the Meditations, and some thoughts on God as causa sui. Haverford, whose president was a philosophy major, is returning the letter
to the Institut de France.
posted by LobsterMitten
on Feb 26, 2010 -
-- 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 -