Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Wednesday May 23, 2007

Filed under: General — m759 @ 4:29 AM
Devil in the Details
(cont. from May 18)

From the May 18 Harvard Crimson:

“Paul B. Davis ’07-’08, who contributed to a collection of student essays written in 2005 on the purpose and structure of a Harvard education, said that ‘the devil is in the details’….”

Related material:

“In philosophy, reductionism is a theory that asserts that the nature of complex things is reduced to the nature of sums of simpler or more fundamental things.” —Wikipedia

“In the 1920’s… the discovery of quantum mechanics went a very long way toward reducing chemistry to the solution of well-defined mathematical problems. Indeed, only the extreme difficulty of many of these problems prevents the present day theoretical chemist from being able to predict the outcome of every laboratory experiment by making suitable calculations. More recently the molecular biologists have made startling progress in reducing the study of life back to the study of chemistry. The living cell is a miniature but extremely active and elaborate chemical factory and many, if not most, biologists today are confident that there is no mysterious ‘vital principle,’ but that life is just very complicated chemistry. With biology reduced to chemistry and chemistry to mathematics, the measurable aspects of the world become quite pervasive.” –Harvard mathematician George Mackey, “What Do Mathematicians Do?

Opposed to reductionism are “emergence” and “strong emergence“–

“Although strong emergence is logically possible, it is uncomfortably like magic.” —Mark A. Bedau

Or comfortably.

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