Saturday, April 30, 2016

A Lucifer for Walpurgisnacht

Filed under: General — Tags: , — m759 @ 7:59 PM

A politician as 'Lucifer in the flesh'

A more impressive Lucifer —

The late theoretical physicist John Archibald Wheeler,
author of the phrase "it from bit."

Related material —

"The Thing and I" (April 17, 2016) and an essay by
Julian Barbour, "Bit from It."

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Noon on Ash Wednesday

Filed under: General — Tags: — m759 @ 12:00 PM

Text and Context.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Dead Reckoning

Filed under: General,Geometry — Tags: — m759 @ 12:48 PM

Continued from yesterday.

The passage on Claude Chevalley quoted here
yesterday in the post Dead Reckoning was, it turns out,
also quoted by Peter Galison in his essay "Structure of Crystal,
Bucket of Dust" in Circles Disturbed: The Interplay of 
Mathematics and Narrative  
(Princeton University Press, 2012,
ed. by Apostolos Doxiadis and Barry Mazur).

Galison gives a reference to his source:

"From 'Claude Chevalley Described by His Daughter (1988),' 
in Michèle Chouchan, Nicolas Bourbaki: Faits et légendes
(Paris: Éditions du Choix, 1995), 36–40, translated and cited
in Marjorie Senechal, 'The Continuing Silence of Bourbaki:
An Interview with Pierre Cartier, June 18, 1997,' 
Mathematical Intelligencer  1 (1998): 22–28."

Galison's essay compares Chevalley with the physicist
John Archibald Wheeler. His final paragraph —

"Perhaps, then, it should not surprise us too much if,
as Wheeler approaches the beginning-end of all things,
there is a bucket of Borelian dust. Out of this filth,
through the proposition machine of quantum mechanics
comes pregeometry; pregeometry makes geometry;
geometry gives rise to matter and the physical laws
and constants of the universe. At once close to and far
from the crystalline story that Bourbaki invoked,
Wheeler’s genesis puts one in mind of Genesis 3:19:
'In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou
return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken:
for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.'"

See also posts tagged Wheeler.

Friday, February 8, 2013


Filed under: General,Geometry — Tags: — m759 @ 3:00 PM

A review of the life of physicist Arthur Wightman,
who died at 90 on January 13th, 2013. yields 
the following.

Wightman at Wikipedia:
"His graduate students include
 Arthur Jaffe,  Jerrold Marsden, and Alan Sokal."

"I think of Arthur as the spiritual leader
of mathematical physics and his death
really marks the end of an era."

— Arthur Jaffe in News at Princeton , Jan. 30

Marsden at Wikipedia
"He [Marsden] has laid much of the foundation for
symplectic topology." (Link redirects to symplectic geometry.)

A Wikipedia reference in the symplectic geometry article leads to

Symplectic Geometry Lies at the Very
Foundations of Physics and Mathematics

Mark J. Gotay
Department of Mathematics
University of Hawai‘i

James A. Isenberg
Institute of Theoretical Science and Department of Mathematics
University of Oregon

February 18, 1992


We would like to thank Jerry Marsden and Alan Weinstein
for their comments on previous drafts.

Published in: Gazette des Mathématiciens  54, 59-79 (1992).


"Physics is geometry .  This dictum is one of the guiding
principles of modern physics. It largely originated with
Albert Einstein…."

A different account of the dictum:

The strange term Geometrodynamics 
is apparently due to Wheeler.

Physics may or may not be geometry, but
geometry is definitely not physics.

For some pure geometry that has no apparent 
connection to physics, see this journal
on the date of Wightman's death.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


Filed under: General — Tags: , — m759 @ 2:00 PM

From a New York Times  weblog last night—

The Reconstruction of Rome

The New York Times , Nov. 27, 2012, 9:00 PM

Logic Pro software enables us to layer complex
technolike tracks and simulate meta, sampled orchestras—
fake orchestras that have on more than one occasion
fooled a jury of the most discriminating composers
into thinking it was the real thing. …

Several decades of cultural relativism has helped to
hasten the decline of the dominance of Western canon….

This next generation is becoming adept at taking small
bits of information, unformed, and assembling it
into larger asynchronous maps, of nonlinear order. 

IT from BITS*

These failures of number agreement—
orchestras… it,  decades… has,  bits… it —
suggest a look at synesis.

Synesis is a traditional grammatical/rhetorical term
derived from Greek σύνεσις (originally meaning "unification,
meeting, sense, conscience, insight, realization, mind, reason").
A constructio kata synesin  (or constructio ad sensum  in Latin)
means a grammatical construction in which a word takes
the gender or number not of the word with which it should
regularly agree, but of some other word implied in that word.
It is effectively an agreement of words with the sense,
instead of the morphosyntactic form. Example:
"If the band are popular, they will play next month." —Wikipedia

The conclusion of Wikipedia's synesis article is of particular interest:

See also…. Elohim , a Hebrew word whose number varies.

* A nod to the late John Archibald Wheeler

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Chiral Problem

Filed under: General,Geometry — Tags: , — m759 @ 1:06 AM

In memory of William S. Knowles, chiral chemist, who died last Wednesday (June 13, 2012)—

Detail from the Harvard Divinity School 1910 bookplate in yesterday morning's post


Detail from Knowles's obituary in this  morning's New York Times

William Standish Knowles was born in Taunton, Mass., on June 1, 1917. He graduated a year early from the Berkshire School, a boarding school in western Massachusetts, and was admitted to Harvard. But after being strongly advised that he was not socially mature enough for college, he did a second senior year of high school at another boarding school, Phillips Academy in Andover, N.H.

Dr. Knowles graduated from Harvard with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry in 1939….

"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

From Pilate Goes to Kindergarten

The six congruent quaternion actions illustrated above are based on the following coordinatization of the eightfold cube

Problem: Is there a different coordinatization
 that yields greater symmetry in the pictures of
quaternion group actions?

A paper written in a somewhat similar spirit—

"Chiral Tetrahedrons as Unitary Quaternions"—

ABSTRACT: Chiral tetrahedral molecules can be dealt [with] under the standard of quaternionic algebra. Specifically, non-commutativity of quaternions is a feature directly related to the chirality of molecules….

Friday, February 17, 2012

Pregeometry and Finite Geometry

Filed under: General,Geometry — Tags: — m759 @ 7:35 PM

Today's previous post, on the Feb. 2012 Scientific American
article "Is Space Digital?", suggested a review of a notion
that the theoretical physicist John Archibald Wheeler called
pregeometry .

From a paper on that topic—

"… the idea that geometry should constitute
'the magic building material of the universe'
had to collapse on behalf of what Wheeler
has called pregeometry  (see Misner et al. 1973,
pp. 1203-1212; Wheeler 1980), a somewhat
indefinite term which expresses “a combination
of hope and need, of philosophy and physics
and mathematics and logic” (Misner et al. 1973,
p. 1203)."

— Jacques Demaret, Michael Heller, and
Dominique Lambert, "Local and Global Properties
of the World," preprint of paper published in
Foundations of Science  2 (1): 137-176

Misner, C. W., Thorne, K. S. and Wheeler, J. A.
1973, Gravitation , W.H. Freeman and Company:
San Francisco.

Wheeler, J.A. 1980, "Pregeometry: Motivations
and Prospects," in: Quantum Theory and Gravitation ,
ed. A.R. Marlow, Academic Press: New York, pp. 1-11.

Some related material from pure mathematics—


Click image for further details.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Saturday December 20, 2008

Filed under: General — Tags: — m759 @ 11:11 AM

Cheap* Epiphanieshttp://www.log24.com/images/asterisk8.gif
for the Church of
the Forbidden Planet

Mid-day lotteries Dec. 19:
* NY 198  http://www.log24.com/images/asterisk8.gif PA  918

From 9/18:

O the mind, mind has mountains,
   cliffs of fall
Frightful, sheer, no-man fathomed.
   Hold them cheap
May who ne'er hung there.


Evening lotteries Dec. 19:
* NY 198  http://www.log24.com/images/asterisk8.gif PA 414

From 4/14:

"minds blazing, to the barricades"

The New York Times
    on the Wheeler effect

See also
Bloomsday for Nash:
The Revelation Game —

      Black disc from end of Ch. 17 of Ulysses

For details,
click on the
black hole.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Wednesday April 16, 2008

Filed under: General — Tags: — m759 @ 10:10 AM

Poetry for Physicists:
The Gates of Hell

From the obituary of physicist John Archibald Wheeler at Princeton:

In the fall of 1967, he was invited to give a talk…. As he spoke, he… [mentioned] something strange… what he called a gravitationally completely collapsed object. But such a phrase was a mouthful, he said, wishing aloud for a better name. "How about black hole?" someone shouted from the audience.

That was it. "I had been searching for just the right term for months, mulling it over in bed, in the bathtub, in my car, wherever I had quiet moments," he later said. "Suddenly this name seemed exactly right." He kept using the term, in lectures and on papers, and it stuck.

From Log24 last year on this date ("Happy Birthday, Benedict XVI"):

"Know the one about the Demiurge and the Abridgment of Hope?"

— Robert Stone, A Flag for Sunrise, Knopf, 1981, the final page, 439

From Dante, The Inferno, inscription on the gates of Hell:

"Abandon all hope, ye who enter."

From Psychoshop, an unfinished novel by Alfred Bester completed by Roger Zelazny:

His manner was all charm and grace; pure cafe society….

He purred a chuckle. "My place. If you want to come, I'll show you."

"Love to. The Luogo Nero? The Black Place?"

"That's what the locals call it. It's really Buoco Nero, the Black Hole."

"Like the Black Hole of Calcutta?"

"No. Black Hole as in astronomy. Corpse of a dead star, but also channel between this universe and its next-door neighbor."

"Here? In Rome?"

"Sure. They drift around in space until they run out of gas and come to a stop. This number happened to park here."

"How long ago?"

"No one knows," he said. "It was there six centuries before Christ, when the Etruscans took over a small town called Roma and began turning it into the capital of the world."


Related material:

Log24 on

Life of the Party
(March 24, 2006),
(March 26, 2006)

Monday, April 14, 2008

Monday April 14, 2008

Filed under: General,Geometry — Tags: — m759 @ 2:00 AM

Classical Quantum

From this morning's
New York Times:

Physicist John A. Wheeler with diagrams of classical and quantum ways to get from point A to point B

"John A. Wheeler, a visionary physicist… died Sunday morning [April 13, 2008]….

… Dr. Wheeler set the agenda for generations of theoretical physicists, using metaphor as effectively as calculus to capture the imaginations of his students and colleagues and to pose questions that would send them, minds blazing, to the barricades to confront nature….

'He rejuvenated general relativity; he made it an experimental subject and took it away from the mathematicians,' said Freeman Dyson, a theorist at the Institute for Advanced Study….

… he [Wheeler] sailed to Copenhagen to work with Bohr, the godfather of the quantum revolution, which had shaken modern science with paradoxical statements about the nature of reality.

'You can talk about people like Buddha, Jesus, Moses, Confucius, but the thing that convinced me that such people existed were the conversations with Bohr,' Dr. Wheeler said….

… Dr. Wheeler was swept up in the Manhattan Project to build an atomic bomb. To his lasting regret, the bomb was not ready in time to change the course of the war in Europe….

Dr. Wheeler continued to do government work after the war, interrupting his research to help develop the hydrogen bomb, promote the building of fallout shelters and support the Vietnam War….

… Dr. Wheeler wondered if this quantum uncertainty somehow applied to the universe and its whole history, whether it was the key to understanding why anything exists at all.

'We are no longer satisfied with insights only into particles, or fields of force, or geometry, or even space and time,' Dr. Wheeler wrote in 1981. 'Today we demand of physics some understanding of existence itself.'

At a 90th birthday celebration in 2003, Dr. Dyson said that Dr. Wheeler was part prosaic calculator, a 'master craftsman,' who decoded nuclear fission, and part poet. 'The poetic Wheeler is a prophet,' he said, 'standing like Moses on the top of Mount Pisgah, looking out over the promised land that his people will one day inherit.'"

Dennis Overbye, The New York Times,
    Monday, April 14, 2008

As prophets go, I prefer
 the poet Wallace Stevens:

"point A / In a perspective
that begins again / At B"

— Wallace Stevens,
"The Rock"

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