Tuesday, August 29, 2006

More Philosophy Talk

Here's a fixed up version of something I posted this morning to a philosophers' sketch pad called Synergeo (a place for Fuller Schoolers to hang out -- gets argumentative sometimes (lots of heated discussions))...

Re: Perfect circles in Nature

> A perfect sphere example can be seen by viewing the Earth,
> by shaving off the extraneous extra-spherical material, the
> remainder (only slightly smaller in diameter than the minor
> axis) is a perfect sphere. Seen this way, Earth is a perfect
> sphere + dust and water (mud). Most near-spheres can be
> similarly shaved (excluding thin-shelled hollow objects) to
> perfect sphere status. Whether this is mathematically correct,
> I dunno. DD

It's not a perfect sphere the way they teach math in school (aside from the fact that it's oblate alittle). It has pores, holes. It's made of chemicals. Already, a big point against you, if any chemicals are involved (heaven forbid).

There's really no physical material that's perfect enough to make a perfect sphere. That's why they only exist in the mind's eye, where we have all the perfect materials we need.

Actually, that was just me being mean and sarcastic (so what else is new right?). When building for the mind's eye (some kind of mini-god -- like mini-me?), we don't need materials at all. We just do like JB does and zoom in and in and in, and marvel at the lack of imperfections.

"It's just all so perfect in here" the little voice says to itself, "not like imperfect Nature out there" -- arrogant little voice, ain't it? The sound of one more self-righteous little monkey.

OK, that was mean and sarcastic again. Sheesh, what's my problem?

The problem with the mind's eye is it's not all bright and beautiful like a well lit studio. Most people (including me) can't imagine a rhombic triacontahedron in every detail, just rotating perfectly. I actually go to "nature" and build a physical model.

Same with anything really complicated. The imagination ain't good enough. I want to see the cartoons (hungry hungry).

Same with "perfect pi" -- we needed digital computers to get the billions of digits we have today (more if you're willing to pay for 'em).

Those computers are in nature, sucking real juice from real power plants. Lots of chemicals involved.

When push comes to shove, we turn to chemicals, even after dissing them in math class as "too imperfect" to make any of the stuff we believe critical to mathematics (like perfect pi).

So in a way, I think all this celebration of the human imagination and its transcendent powers to envision Perfection is just a lot of overselling. I distance myself from JB when I see him doing it. That's not how I myself would like to be remembered -- as someone who "transcended Nature" (I'd be ashamed to be that big an egotist).

We use the real world for all our really important work. What goes on in the imagination, while critical, is really not the whole story, not in math, and certainly not in physics (although string theorists sometimes seem to think otherwise).

In some theology works, the so-called "real world" is what's in the Eye of God, is that Image in which the Brief History of Man has been unfolding (that's why they say we're created in His image -- not because we look like Him but because we emerged on his Reality Television).

I kind of like this approach because it implies if there's a perfect pi, it'll be in His or Her mind's eye (i.e. in the real world) and not in the musty dusty imperfect imaginations of lowly humans, who can barely do arithmetic in their heads, unless they're celebrated mini-god prodigies like Euler and Ramanujan (and even they needed pencil and paper).

Certainly I'm not into just agreeably supporting people who try to lord it over others, just on the basis of "what's in their heads" -- and yet they have little to no ability to express themselves except by trying to boss people around, trying to make them build a palace so Mr. Big Shot can move in. That's just pathetic.

Stephen Hawking is not like that at all, despite his limited degrees of freedom. He is surrounded by people who love and respect him, plus he communicates intelligently. It's those domineering yet incoherent slave drivers I despise, not the gentle geniuses.

So I'm philosophically on board with your project to find "perfection" (including in circles and spheres) in the natural world. I think that's honorable, and a good counter to all these people who put the human imagination on a pedastal, even though it's a constant source of paranoias for them and leads them to commit atrocities left and right.

Such a dysfunctional species.

I think we should all look for "absolute perfection" somewhere other than in our selfish little selves -- just an exercise mind you (you can go back to being Number One when you're done).

I don't consider myself misanthropic though. I think humans have the capacity to operate intelligently aboard Spaceship Earth and what gives me hope are the trends, as well as all the hard work people commit to doing. They're troopers, these people. I just wish they had less misinformation to contend with, which makes their jobs even harder.

But I'm hopeful there too. More and more people are coming to understand Synergetics for example. I see evidence everywhere, despite the catalog of mutant soccerballs David Koski's been sending me. We're due for another Renaissance here soon.