Thursday, January 1, 2015

New Year’s Greeting from Franz Kafka

Filed under: General,Geometry — m759 @ 5:01 AM

An image that led off the year-end review yesterday in
the weblog of British combinatorialist Peter J. Cameron:

See also this  weblog's post final post of 2014,
with a rectangular array illustrating the six faces
of a die, and Cameron's reference yesterday to
a die-related post

"The things on my blog that seem to be
of continuing value are the expository
series like the one on the symmetric group
(the third post in this series was reblogged
by Gil Kalai last month, which gave it a new
lease of life)…."

A tale from an author of Prague:

The Emperor—so they say—has sent a message, directly from his death bed, to you alone, his pathetic subject, a tiny shadow which has taken refuge at the furthest distance from the imperial sun. He ordered the herald to kneel down beside his bed and whispered the message into his ear. He thought it was so important that he had the herald repeat it back to him. He confirmed the accuracy of the verbal message by nodding his head. And in front of the entire crowd of those who’ve come to witness his death—all the obstructing walls have been broken down and all the great ones of his empire are standing in a circle on the broad and high soaring flights of stairs—in front of all of them he dispatched his herald. The messenger started off at once, a powerful, tireless man. Sticking one arm out and then another, he makes his way through the crowd. If he runs into resistance, he points to his breast where there is a sign of the sun. So he moves forward easily, unlike anyone else. But the crowd is so huge; its dwelling places are infinite. If there were an open field, how he would fly along, and soon you would hear the marvelous pounding of his fist on your door. But instead of that, how futile are all his efforts. He is still forcing his way through the private rooms of the innermost palace. He will never he win his way through. And if he did manage that, nothing would have been achieved. He would have to fight his way down the steps, and, if he managed to do that, nothing would have been achieved. He would have to stride through the courtyards, and after the courtyards the second palace encircling the first, and, then again, stairs and courtyards, and then, once again, a palace, and so on for thousands of years. And if he finally did burst through the outermost door—but that can never, never happen—the royal capital city, the centre of the world, is still there in front of him, piled high and full of sediment. No one pushes his way through here, certainly not with a message from a dead man. But you sit at your window and dream of that message when evening comes.

See also a passage quoted in this  weblog on the original
date of Cameron's Prague image, July 26, 2014 —

"The philosopher Graham Harman is invested in
re-thinking the autonomy of objects and is part 
of a movement called Object-Oriented-Philosophy
(OOP)." — From “The Action of Things,” a 2011
M.A. thesis at the Center for Curatorial Studies,
Bard College, by Manuela Moscoso 

— in the context of a search here for the phrase
     "structure of the object." An image from that search:

Monday, December 1, 2014

Change Arises

Filed under: General,Geometry — m759 @ 11:00 AM

Flashback to St. Andrew's Day, 2013 —

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Waiting for Ogdoad

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags:  — m759 @ 10:30 AM 

Continued from October 30 (Devil's Night), 2013.

“In a sense, we would see that change
arises from the structure of the object.”

— Theoretical physicist quoted in a
Simons Foundation article of Sept. 17, 2013

This suggests a review of mathematics and the
"Classic of Change ," the I Ching .

If the object is a cube, change arises from the fact
that the object has six  faces…

and is the unit cell for the six -dimensional
hyperspace H over the two-element field —

Spaces as Hypercubes

A different representation of the unit cell of
the hyperspace H (and of the I Ching ) —

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Change Arises

Filed under: General — Tags: — m759 @ 9:00 AM

IMAGE- Search for the source of the quotation 'Change arises from the structure of the object'

For a different view of change arising, click on the tag above.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Waiting for Ogdoad

Filed under: General,Geometry — Tags: — m759 @ 10:30 AM

Continued from October 30 (Devil's Night), 2013.

“In a sense, we would see that change
arises from the structure of the object.”

— Theoretical physicist quoted in a
Simons Foundation article of Sept. 17, 2013

This suggests a review of mathematics and the
"Classic of Change ," the I Ching .

The physicist quoted above was discussing a rather
complicated object. His words apply to a much simpler
object, an embodiment of the eight trigrams underlying
the I Ching  as the corners of a cube.

The Eightfold Cube and its Inner Structure

See also

(Click for clearer image.)

The Cullinane image above illustrates the seven points of
the Fano plane as seven of the eight I Ching  trigrams and as
seven natural ways of slicing the cube.

For a different approach to the mathematics of cube slices,
related to Gauss's composition law for binary quadratic forms,
see the Bhargava cube  in a post of April 9, 2012.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Odd Facts

Filed under: General — m759 @ 7:01 PM

"These are odd facts…." — G. H. Hardy,
quoted in the previous post, "Centered"

Other odd facts:

If is odd, then the object at the center  
of the n×n  square is a square.
Similarly for the n×n×n  cube.

Related meditation:

“In a sense, we would see that change
arises from the structure of the object,” he said.
“But it’s not from the object changing.
The object is basically timeless.”

— Theoretical physicist quoted in a
Simons Foundation article of Sept. 17, 2013,
"A Jewel at the Heart of Quantum Physics"

See also "My God, it's full of… everything."

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Will and Representation*

Filed under: General,Geometry — m759 @ 2:56 PM

Robert A. Wilson, in an inaugural lecture in April 2008—

Representation theory

A group always arises in nature as the symmetry group of some object, and group
theory in large part consists of studying in detail the symmetry group of some
object, in order to throw light on the structure of the object itself (which in some
sense is the “real” object of study).

But if you look carefully at how groups are used in other areas such as physics
and chemistry, you will see that the real power of the method comes from turning
the whole procedure round: instead of starting from an object and abstracting
its group of symmetries, we start from a group and ask for all possible objects
that it can be the symmetry group of 

This is essentially what we call Representation theory . We think of it as taking a
group, and representing it concretely in terms of a symmetrical object.

Now imagine what you can do if you combine the two processes: we start with a
symmetrical object, and find its group of symmetries. We now look this group up
in a work of reference, such as our big red book (The ATLAS of Finite Groups),
and find out about all (well, perhaps not all) other objects that have the same
group as their group of symmetries.

We now have lots of objects all looking completely different, but all with the same
symmetry group. By translating from the first object to the group, and then to
the second object, we can use everything we know about the first object to tell
us things about the second, and vice versa.

As Poincaré said,

Mathematicians do not study objects, but relations between objects.
Thus they are free to replace some objects by others, so long as the
relations remain unchanged.

Par exemple

Fano plane transformed to eightfold cube,
and partitions of the latter as points of the former:

IMAGE- Fano plane transformed to eightfold cube, and partitions of the latter as points of the former

* For the "Will" part, see the PyrE link at Talk Amongst Yourselves.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Annals of Mathematics

Filed under: General — m759 @ 10:35 PM

University Diaries praised today the late Robert Nozick's pedagogical showmanship.

His scholarship was less praiseworthy. His 2001 book Invariances: The Structure of the Objective World  failed, quite incredibly, to mention Hermann Weyl's classic summary of  the connection between invariance and objectivity.  See a discussion of Nozick in The New York Review of Books  of December 19, 2002

"… one should mention, first and foremost, the mathematician Hermann Weyl who was almost obsessed by this connection. In his beautiful little book Symmetry  he tersely says, 'Objectivity means invariance with respect to the group of automorphisms….'"

See also this journal on Dec. 3, 2002, and Feb. 20, 2007.

For some context, see a search on the word stem "objectiv-" in this journal.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Tuesday February 20, 2007

Filed under: General,Geometry — m759 @ 7:09 AM

Today is the 21st birthday of my note “The Relativity Problem in Finite Geometry.”

Some relevant quotations:

“This is the relativity problem: to fix objectively a class of equivalent coordinatizations and to ascertain the group of transformations S mediating between them.”

— Hermann Weyl, The Classical Groups, Princeton University Press, 1946, p. 16

Describing the branch of mathematics known as Galois theory, Weyl says that it

“… is nothing else but the relativity theory for the set Sigma, a set which, by its discrete and finite character, is conceptually so much simpler than the infinite set of points in space or space-time dealt with by ordinary relativity theory.”

— Weyl, Symmetry, Princeton University Press, 1952, p. 138

Weyl’s set Sigma is a finite set of complex numbers.   Some other sets with “discrete and finite character” are those of 4, 8, 16, or 64 points, arranged in squares and cubes.  For illustrations, see Finite Geometry of the Square and Cube.  What Weyl calls “the relativity problem” for these sets involves fixing “objectively” a class of equivalent coordinatizations.  For what Weyl’s “objectively” means, see the article “Symmetry and Symmetry  Breaking,” by Katherine Brading and Elena Castellani, in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

“The old and natural idea that what is objective should not depend upon the particular perspective under which it is taken into consideration is thus reformulated in the following group-theoretical terms: what is objective is what is invariant with respect to the transformation group of reference frames, or, quoting Hermann Weyl (1952, p. 132), ‘objectivity means invariance with respect to the group of automorphisms [of space-time].‘[22]

22. The significance of the notion of invariance and its group-theoretic treatment for the issue of objectivity is explored in Born (1953), for example. For more recent discussions see Kosso (2003) and Earman (2002, Sections 6 and 7).


Born, M., 1953, “Physical Reality,” Philosophical Quarterly, 3, 139-149. Reprinted in E. Castellani (ed.), Interpreting Bodies: Classical and Quantum Objects in Modern Physics, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1998, pp. 155-167.

Earman, J., 2002, “Laws, Symmetry, and Symmetry Breaking; Invariance, Conservation Principles, and Objectivity,’ PSA 2002, Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 2002, forthcoming [Abstract/Preprint available online]

Kosso, P., 2003, “Symmetry, objectivity, and design,” in K. Brading and E. Castellani (eds.), Symmetries in Physics: Philosophical Reflections, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 410-421.

Weyl, H., 1952, Symmetry, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

See also

Archives Henri Poincaré (research unit UMR 7117, at Université Nancy 2, of the CNRS)–

Minkowski, Mathematicians, and the Mathematical Theory of Relativity,” by Scott Walter, in The Expanding Worlds of General Relativity (Einstein Studies, volume 7), H. Goenner, J. Renn, J. Ritter and T. Sauer, editors, Boston/Basel: Birkhäuser, 1999, pp. 45-86–

“Developing his ideas before Göttingen mathematicians in April 1909, Klein pointed out that the new theory based on the Lorentz group (which he preferred to call ‘Invariantentheorie’) could have come from pure mathematics (1910: 19). He felt that the new theory was anticipated by the ideas on geometry and groups that he had introduced in 1872, otherwise known as the Erlangen program (see Gray 1989: 229).”


Gray, Jeremy J. (1989). Ideas of Space. 2d ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Klein, Felix. (1910). “Über die geometrischen Grundlagen der Lorentzgruppe.” Jahresbericht der deutschen Mathematiker-Vereinigung 19: 281-300. [Reprinted: Physikalische Zeitschrift 12 (1911): 17-27].

Related material: A pathetically garbled version of the above concepts was published in 2001 by Harvard University Press.  See Invariances: The Structure of the Objective World, by Robert Nozick.

Tuesday, December 3, 2002

Tuesday December 3, 2002

Filed under: General,Geometry — Tags: — m759 @ 1:45 PM

Symmetry, Invariance, and Objectivity

The book Invariances: The Structure of the Objective World, by Harvard philosopher Robert Nozick, was reviewed in the New York Review of Books issue dated June 27, 2002.

On page 76 of this book, published by Harvard University Press in 2001, Nozick writes:

"An objective fact is invariant under various transformations. It is this invariance that constitutes something as an objective truth…."

Compare this with Hermann Weyl's definition in his classic Symmetry (Princeton University Press, 1952, page 132):

"Objectivity means invariance with respect to the group of automorphisms."

It has finally been pointed out in the Review, by a professor at Göttingen, that Nozick's book should have included Weyl's definition.

I pointed this out on June 10, 2002.

For a survey of material on this topic, see this Google search on "nozick invariances weyl" (without the quotes).

Nozick's omitting Weyl's definition amounts to blatant plagiarism of an idea.

Of course, including Weyl's definition would have required Nozick to discuss seriously the concept of groups of automorphisms. Such a discussion would not have been compatible with the current level of philosophical discussion at Harvard, which apparently seldom rises above the level of cocktail-party chatter.

A similarly low level of discourse is found in the essay "Geometrical Creatures," by Jim Holt, also in the issue of the New York Review of Books dated December 19, 2002. Holt at least writes well, and includes (if only in parentheses) a remark that is highly relevant to the Nozick-vs.-Weyl discussion of invariance elsewhere in the Review:

"All the geometries ever imagined turn out to be variations on a single theme: how certain properties of a space remain unchanged when its points get rearranged."  (p. 69)

This is perhaps suitable for intelligent but ignorant adolescents; even they, however, should be given some historical background. Holt is talking here about the Erlangen program of Felix Christian Klein, and should say so. For a more sophisticated and nuanced discussion, see this web page on Klein's Erlangen Program, apparently by Jean-Pierre Marquis, Département de Philosophie, Université de Montréal. For more by Marquis, see my later entry for today, "From the Erlangen Program to Category Theory."

Powered by WordPress