Thursday, December 2, 2010


Filed under: General,Geometry — m759 @ 8:00 AM

The Dreidel Is Cast

The Nietzschean phrase "ruling and Caesarian spirits" occurred in yesterday morning's post "Novel Ending."

That post was followed yesterday morning by a post marking, instead, a beginning— that of Hanukkah 2010. That Jewish holiday, whose name means "dedication," commemorates the (re)dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem in 165 BC.

The holiday is celebrated with, among other things, the Jewish version of a die—  the dreidel . Note the similarity of the dreidel  to an illustration of The Stone*  on the cover of the 2001 Eerdmans edition of  Charles Williams's 1931 novel Many Dimensions


For mathematics related to the dreidel , see Ivars Peterson's column on this date fourteen years ago.
For mathematics related (if only poetically) to The Stone , see "Solomon's Cube" in this journal.

Here is the opening of Many Dimensions


For a fanciful linkage of the dreidel 's concept of chance to The Stone 's concept of invariant law, note that the New York Lottery yesterday evening (the beginning of Hanukkah) was 840. See also the number 840 in the final post (July 20, 2002) of the "Solomon's Cube" search.

Some further holiday meditations on a beginning—

Today, on the first full day of Hanukkah, we may or may not choose to mark another beginning— that of George Frederick James Temple, who was born in London on this date in 1901. Temple, a mathematician, was President of the London Mathematical Society in 1951-1953. From his MacTutor biography

"In 1981 (at the age of 80) he published a book on the history of mathematics. This book 100 years of mathematics (1981) took him ten years to write and deals with, in his own words:-

those branches of mathematics in which I had been personally involved.

He declared that it was his last mathematics book, and entered the Benedictine Order as a monk. He was ordained in 1983 and entered Quarr Abbey on the Isle of Wight. However he could not stop doing mathematics and when he died he left a manuscript on the foundations of mathematics. He claims:-

The purpose of this investigation is to carry out the primary part of Hilbert's programme, i.e. to establish the consistency of set theory, abstract arithmetic and propositional logic and the method used is to construct a new and fundamental theory from which these theories can be deduced."

For a brief review of Temple's last work, see the note by Martin Hyland in "Fundamental Mathematical Theories," by George Temple, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, A, Vol. 354, No. 1714 (Aug. 15, 1996), pp. 1941-1967.

The following remarks by Hyland are of more general interest—

"… one might crudely distinguish between philosophical and mathematical motivation. In the first case one tries to convince with a telling conceptual story; in the second one relies more on the elegance of some emergent mathematical structure. If there is a tradition in logic it favours the former, but I have a sneaking affection for the latter. Of course the distinction is not so clear cut. Elegant mathematics will of itself tell a tale, and one with the merit of simplicity. This may carry philosophical weight. But that cannot be guaranteed: in the end one cannot escape the need to form a judgement of significance."

— J. M. E. Hyland. "Proof Theory in the Abstract." (pdf)
Annals of Pure and Applied Logic 114, 2002, 43-78.

Here Hyland appears to be discussing semantic ("philosophical," or conceptual) and syntactic ("mathematical," or structural) approaches to proof theory. Some other remarks along these lines, from the late Gian-Carlo Rota


    (Click to enlarge.)

See also "Galois Connections" at alpheccar.org and "The Galois Connection Between Syntax and Semantics" at logicmatters.net.

* Williams's novel says the letters of The Stone  are those of the Tetragrammaton— i.e., Yod, He, Vau, He  (cf. p. 26 of the 2001 Eerdmans edition). But the letters on the 2001 edition's cover Stone  include the three-pronged letter Shin , also found on the dreidel .  What esoteric religious meaning is implied by this, I do not know.

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