December 6, 2008

They would start about 9 P.M. when Tarski was just getting going. He always smoked, and he kept the door of his study closed so the smoke would stay in the room because he thought that made him concentrate better. “It was awful for me,” Chang said, “because I had asthma, but what could I do? I was his student. I wasn’t really a night person either and after a while it was a struggle to keep my eyes open. Around 2 A.M. he’d ask me if I wanted some coffee and I’d say yes. Sitting at his desk, with the door closed, he’d scream, ‘Mariaahh, Mariaahh,’, as loud as he could. If there was no answer, he’d repeat it, sometimes three or four times until Maria finally opened the door, half asleep, saying ‘Yes, Alfred?’ He’d ask her to bring us two cups of coffee and she trudged into the kitchen to make the coffee and bring it to us. I’ve never seen anything like it before or after.”


One of the many many many amazing stories from the “Alfred Tarski. Life and logic” by Anita and Solomon Feferman


Mathe rockt

July 18, 2008

Pure, pure madness!

I am your good friend

June 18, 2008

On another occasion, Erdos met a mathematician and asked him where he was from. “Vancouver,” the mathematician replied. “Oh, then you must know my good friend Elliot Mendelson,” Erdos said. The mathematician replied, “I am your good friend Elliot Mendelson.”


From “My brain is open ” by Bruce Schechter

“Just take an ultrafilter D”
Saharon Shelah

“God is the Alexandroff compactification of the Universe”
Alexander Grothendieck

“Stone-Cech compactification of the Universe is the paganic polytheism”

Goedel\'s onthological proof of existence of God


Goedel’s formalization of ontological argument using ultrafilters and modal logic, see “Sobel on Goedel’s Ontological Proof” by Robert C. Koons

I started talking with Post regularly. He gave me a batch of his reprints. John Stachel and I asked Post if we could do a reading course with him in mathematical logic. That was in my junior year. We didn’t get very far in the course, because Post had one of his breakdowns after a few weeks. He had just made an important discovery regarding incomparable degrees of unsolvability, and the excitement was too much for him and pitched him over into the manic phase. We didn’t see him again for some months.

Particularly logicians seem to be prone to it! In fact, I had a joke with John Stachel. Post had lost an arm in a childhood accident. Hans Reichenbach, who was sort of a logician and a philosopher, came to City College for a semester to give some courses, and he was essentially stone deaf. Church had vision problems—he had bad cataracts, which in those days was much more of a problem than it is today. So the joke was that, if I’m going to be a logician, maybe I should give up a finger now, instead of something worse!


From the AMS Notices interview with Martin Davis.


May 6, 2008

Henri Poincaré
D’élégants théorèmes
Prouva sans façons,

Classa des variétés
Utilisant la dualité
Et du génie aussi.

Nicolas Bourbaki
Ressuscita de parmi les morts,
Pour les mathématiques sauver,

Débita d’assommants traités
Prouvant qu’il aurait dû
Dans la tombe rester.


Un exemple d’animosité envers Bourbaki est ce double poème d’un goût contestable écrit (en anglais) par Arnold Seiken.


May 4, 2008

Soit une multiplicité vectorielle.
Un corps opère seul, abstrait, commutatif.
Le dual reste loin, solitaire et plaintif,
Cherchant l’isomorphie et la trouvant rebelle.

Soudain, bilinéaire, a jailli l’étincelle
D’où naît l’opérateur deux fois distributif.
Dans les rets du produit tous les vecteurs captifs
Vont célébrer sans fin la structure plus belle.

Mais la base a troublé cet hymne aérien:
Les vecteurs éperdus ont des coordonnées.
Cartan ne sait que faire et n’y comprend plus rien.

Et c’est la fin. Opérateurs, vecteurs, foutus.
Une matrice immonde expire. Le corps nu
Rentre en lui-mêm, au sein des lois qu’il s’est données.


Sonnet composé par André Weil au congrès de Chançay (septembre 1937).