Category Archives: Factoids

More about Grothendieck

Yet More About Grothendieck

(Reposted from the Not Even Wrong blog)

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The problem with technological ignorance, or Don’t take your smartphone for granted

“When we, as a society, fail to appreciate the staggering complexity of our modern technologies, we don’t just lose a sense of awe toward what is around us. We lose a sense of what we as humans can build, as well as where we might fall short. It is impressive that people can build and grapple with these astonishingly complex systems at all, something we seem to neglect when we focus on the shortcomings of a technology, rather than its successes and the effort that has gone into it. For example, autocorrect is mostly known for its failures, but in fact it’s an amazing technical feat that dramatically improves text entry speed.
But related to this is something else: Recognizing the overwhelming complexity of our technologies makes it easier to see that bugs and glitches are essentially an inevitability. When anything becomes as complicated as Dijkstra describes, unanticipated consequences will arise. Baked into a proper recognition of the phenomenal complexity around us must also then be a sense of humility—our limits in the face of the technologies we have built—something that we need to acknowledge more and more.”

From “The problem with technological ignorance”,

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The mathematics of global warming

“The climate fact no one will admit: 2 °C warming is inevitable”


Here are some recent mathematicians who work on related questions:

The work of mathematician Guillaume Jouvet (Free University Berlin) and glaciologist Martin Funk of ETH in Zürich is somewhat spooky but awesome. They use computer model of glaciers and data gathered from the slow under-ice motion of the bodies of alpinists who died in a glacier over a number of years.

And Noemi Petra’s new work is on inferring base slip conditions for Antarctic glacial flows

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George Boole’s was born 200 years ago todaythe

Today is the 200th anniversary of George Boole‘s birth.  Boole (1815-1864), born in Lincoln, England, was a self-taught mathematician. In 1849 he became the first Professor of Mathematics at University of Cork, Ireland where he wrote his most important work, An Investigation of the Laws of Thought. But I didn’t know much about him.  I remember being taught about булева логика in year 5 of school by my favourite maths and computer science teacher (and being amused ten years later that this term was the same in English, “boolean logic”). Now I know a bit more! So thanks Google for this random mathematical history fact!


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Ada Lovelace Documentary online

A very nice documentary about Ada Lovelace, presented by matheamatician Hannah Fry! On the BBC website, unfortunately only available until tomorrow 10pm:

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A Very Strange Star


“A large cluster of objects in space look like something you would “expect an alien civilization to build”, astronomers have said.  

Jason Wright, an astronomer from Penn State University, is set to publish a report on the “bizarre” star system suggesting the objects could be a “swarm of megastructures”, according to a new report.

I was fascinated by how crazy it looked,” Wright told The Atlantic. “Aliens should always be the very last hypothesis you consider, but this looked like something you would expect an alien civilization to build.”

The original paper

Dyson Sphere

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