Monday, April 03, 2017

The swans

I wasn't sure what to write today, but then someone asked about something I'd posted last night. My overly long reply made me realize I should probably write about it.

The status update in question was "Kind of getting interested in recursion and fractals."

There are two different things that have been pulling together. One is a memory of a math textbook cover. I'm not sure it was even my book, but I remember that there were swans interlaced and there was something about the pattern that was special. I kept thinking it was fractal, but that was not exactly right.

The problem was that any time I noticed a pattern that seemed fractal, I would remember the swans again and wonder what the deal with them was.

This may be a good time to review my math history. I was great at arithmetic, did pretty well with algebra and geometry when I applied myself, and then made it through Algebra-Trig and Pre-Calculus, but they didn't really stick in my brain. I have plans to go back and review them eventually, but math is not my strongest area.

Recently there have been some things going on where I am thinking about different kinds of bias and privilege and bigotry (I am not ready to get into those) and the way some aspects mirror other aspects, or repeat over time, or at different degrees at different levels. That reminded me of fractals again.

I suspect that is not the best way of thinking about it. Mathematics are supposed to be very exact, and psychology and social sciences aren't. I had been thinking about that recently because of "The Big Bang Theory".

One of our favorite episodes is "The Zazzy Substitution", where Sheldon and Amy end their relationship (in its early stages, before they consider themselves to be boyfriend and girlfriend). Sheldon denies that any hole has been left in his life, but nonetheless tries filling it with cats.

I like it for the cats, but also the dialogue, much of which I needed to look up. Previously it had caused me to search on Babinski (Joseph, neurologist, 1857 - 1932), Clerk Maxwell (James, scientist of mathematical physics, 1831 - 1879), and Dirac (Paul, theoretical physicist, 1902 - 1894), but on a recent viewing I realized that I was not familiar with the "rankest psychologism" that "was conclusively revealed as hogwash by Gottlob Frege in the 1890s".

(No, I didn't spell any of them right the first time.)

Friedrich Ludwig Gottlob Frege (1848 - 1925) was a philosopher, logician, and mathematician, but his philosophy was very analytic. That can mean trying to remove all of the non-logical elements from math, and thinking about the logic of expression and language, but yes, he also wrote about psychologism, the mistake of identifying non-psychological with psychological entities.

All of this was swirling around in my head, and how logical fractals can be in their natural occurrences, and what the heck were those swans, and then I remembered that they might have been an Escher drawing.

I don't know if what I found was actually the book cover, but there were Escher swans, and there was a mention of how recursion figured in the drawing, and what was that? And it's like that picture in The Mouse and his Child, where it just keeps repeating smaller and smaller. Apparently some fractals are recursive, and there is a lot to know about it that I don't, but it's interesting, especially in that both concepts can touch on the infinite.

That can be very mathematical, but it probably doesn't neatly correlate to how bigotry will infest a mind and a relationship and a society, which would be very non-mathematical, I assume.

But last week Sheldon and Amy decided to collaborate as a physicist and a neurologist to try and locate the beginning of consciousness. Maybe the psychological and non-psychological can be good neighbors, as long as you don't get them mixed up.

I have no real conclusions here, though I suspect some things will make sense at some point in the future. (More reading, more thinking, always.)

It does give me a chance to restate how interesting the world is. A recent Twitter thread showed me that the basics of Lao cooking that I wrote about in Asian food come from ideas of balance in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Combine that with another recent thread about various peoples naturally combining foods that helped with nutrient absorption and keeping glycemic levels steady and there's just a lot out there.

So I say again that the world is fascinating, and I'm glad of it, but it is definitely an "again".

Nothing new to see here. Move along.

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