## 'To Live Your Best Life, Do Mathematics' (quantamagazine.org) 229

Excerpts from an article on Quanta Magazine, rearranged for clarity and space:

*Math conferences don't usually feature standing ovations, but Francis Su received one last month in Atlanta. In his talk he framed mathematics as a pursuit uniquely suited to the achievement of human flourishing, a concept the ancient Greeks called eudaimonia, or a life composed of all the highest goods. Su talked of five basic human desires that are met through the pursuit of mathematics: play, beauty, truth, justice and love. Su opened his talk with the story of Christopher, an inmate serving a long sentence for armed robbery who had begun to teach himself math from textbooks he had ordered. After seven years in prison, during which he studied algebra, trigonometry, geometry and calculus, he wrote to Su asking for advice on how to continue his work. After Su told this story, he asked the packed ballroom at the Marriott Marquis, his voice breaking: "When you think of who does mathematics, do you think of Christopher?" If mathematics is a medium for human flourishing, it stands to reason that everyone should have a chance to participate in it. But in his talk Su identified what he views as structural barriers in the mathematical community that dictate who gets the opportunity to succeed in the field -- from the requirements attached to graduate school admissions to implicit assumptions about who looks the part of a budding mathematician. When Su finished his talk, the audience rose to its feet and applauded, and many of his fellow mathematicians came up to him afterward to say he had made them cry. [...] Mathematics builds skills that allow people to do things they might otherwise not have been able to do or experience. If I learn mathematics and I become a better thinker, I develop perseverance, because I know what it's like to wrestle with a hard problem, and I develop hopefulness that I will actually solve these problems. And some people experience a kind of transcendent wonder that they're seeing something true about the universe. That's a source of joy and flourishing.*
## Mathematicians don't let mathematicians do drugs (Score:4, Funny)

Those would be the ones that took an illegal substance before solving for x.

## Re: (Score:3)

Those would be the ones that took an illegal substance before solving for x.Not all, but Erdos I think definitely fell into that category.

## Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

Those would be the ones that took an illegal substance before solving for x.Not all, but Erdos I think definitely fell into that category.

Probably not. Were amphetamines illegal then? For most of human history, the War on Drugs would have been an absurd concept (because it is an absurd concept). We have to make sure that genius mathematicians don't take all the amphetamines. Otherwise what will we pump our elementary school children full of!?

## Re: (Score:2)

Coffee was illegal?

Oops, I guess that saying was wrongly attributed to Erds. But Erds is said to have drunk a lot of coffee.

## Re: (Score:2)

Oops, I guess that saying was wrongly attributed to Erds. But Erds is said to have drunk a lot of coffee.Indeed. He attributed it to someone else. Nevertheless he did drink a lot of coffee and also took a lot of amphetamines.

## Re: (Score:2)

On a semi-related topic, I guess /. doesn't do Unicode (I recall seeing that in someone's sig line). When I typed in my post, I had an umlauted 'o' in Erdos' name, and I see it's gone now. Weird, I wonder why /. can't get with the times? It's not like Unicode is new...

## Re:Mathematicians don't let mathematicians do drug (Score:4, Interesting)

The ugliness of the real world in comparison to that mathematical beauty can unfortunately be a bit too much. [wikipedia.org]

## Re: (Score:3)

The ugliness of the real world in comparison to that mathematical beauty can unfortunately be a bit too much. [wikipedia.org]

The profession with the highest suicide rate is farming.

The lowest are teachers and librarians.

Mathematicians are in the middle.

Farmers tend to be old, they often work alone, and one bad season can ruin them financially.

These are all aggravating factors for suicide.

## Re: (Score:2)

I thought it was Air Traffic Controllers.

## Re: (Score:2)

some people experience a kind of transcendent wonder that they're seeing something true about the universe

Isn't the same math true in any universe?

Could there be an alternative universe where 1+1=3?

Or where 4 is prime?

## Re: (Score:2)

Math is not an empirical concept. It's not a property of our universe. It's a set of first principles, plus a set of principles of deduction, like any other formal system.

Math works shockingly well in predicting our universe, though. Handy, that.

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Who choosed that there are exactly five platonic solids in a 3D universe?

Plato [wikipedia.org].

Duh.

## Transcript and Audio Recording (Score:5, Informative)

Transcript: https://mathyawp.wordpress.com/2017/01/08/mathematics-for-human-flourishing/ [wordpress.com]

Audio Recording: https://www.dropbox.com/s/55i43l2irm57y9c/01%20Mathematics%20for%20Human%20Flourishing.mp3?dl=0 [dropbox.com]

## Thanks (Score:2)

Thank you.

## Atl-math (Score:1)

Even better with atl-math you can make up you own truths... it makes doing proofs a lot easier.

## Re:Atl-math (Score:5, Interesting)

Even better with atl-math you can make up you own truths...What you've just described is not alt-maths, it is in fact actual regular maths.

For example, you can make up your own truth about how 1+1 isn't really 2 and you wind up with Galois theory and finite fields. Or invent something impossible like x*x=-1 and you end up with complex numbers.

Or you can invent absurd things like "infinity" and so find that 1-2+3-4+5-... to infinity ends up rather oddly as 0.25 (don't even look at 1+2+3+4+...).

Mathematics is in fact all about making up the rules and seeing where they lead. There are basically 3 outcomes:

1. trivial (and therefore not interesting).

2. inconsistent (and therefore not interesting).

3. interesting.

## Re: Atl-math (Score:1)

## Re: (Score:2)

Inconsistent need not be uninteresting. Many things that at first glance are inconsistent need a minor change to behave consistently. sqrt -1 was inconsistent until a new perspective was imposed that made a newly consistent system.I don't think sqrt -1 was inconsistent. Inconsistent is where you can for example prove both a and not a from the same axioms.

## Re: (Score:2)

And the difference being?er huh? The difference being that they're different?

If you limit yourself to the reals, how can you prove some proposition P and also prove not P?

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I meant, what was the difference thst makes your example inconsistent and my example not inconsistent.Pretty much the definition of inconsistent is when, for some proposition, P, you can prove P and prove not P from your axioms.

You haven't proven any proposition let alone its inverse, so you example is not one of inconsistency. I don't follow what you consider to be inconsistent about 2*3=6 and 3*2=6 and 3+3=6.

## Re: (Score:2)

Thanks... you know I felt a bit guilty about posting such a trollish comment but now reading your interesting post made it worth.

## Re: (Score:2)

That's... not true. Like at all. You can group the terms and then argue it comes out to negative infinity. Or positive infinity. But I don't see any way to make it come out to 0.25.

## Re: (Score:2)

Unless you want to know what your actual acreage is.

## Re: (Score:2)

<-- kr5ddit.com [kr5ddit.com]

Linked site collects user data and is suspected to harbor malware.

Often causes shark attacks.

Site owner is vindictive and abusive.

Site prone to fail when accessed by more than five users simultaneously.

Approach with Caution

## Re: (Score:2)

As a linguist, I guess I have to agree with you about skyscrapers. (There's a story about a certain skyscraper and some languages...) And you're right in lots of what you say. But I guess there are other things you can't describe with math, but you can with language. The beauty of a sunset, the uglyness of a burned out car; love, hate; joy, sorrow. We would not be human if we had math but no language.

Math is not the better language, nor is language the better math. I'd say they were orthogonal, but th

## Re: (Score:2)

Just for reference the important caveat is no logic

that can encode basic Peano arithmeticcan be consistent and complete. There are plenty of axiomatic systems that are complete and consistent, even complicated mathematical ones (the first order theory of complete ordered fields, a.k.a. the real numbers is complete and consistent). Also a stronger logic can prove the consistency of a subset contained within it. Thus the first order theory of Peano arithmetic can be proved to be consistent via second order## Re: (Score:2)

The flexibility allows you to store more energy and launch the weapon faster.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BkK2vEZ5bTk [youtube.com]

## The Romans didn't do mathematics (Score:5, Interesting)

... since they didn't have the numbers for it. Still their aqueducts lasted centuries and millennia. Nassim Taleb says a side effects mathematics is to optimize and cut corners, making things fragile. He also quoted a science historian that before the 13th century no more than five persons in Europe knew how to perform a division. But their architects made all those cathedrals that are more or less still standing. (They apparently didn't know geometry either: a triangle was visualized as the head of a horse.)

Not saying don't use mathematics, that would be insane, just listing counterexamples to the claim that life is best lived with mathematics. Any boxing in becomes counterproductive at some level.

## Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

You're a moron if you think that the engineers and architects who designed those things didn't know advanced mathematics (geometry and algebra of that time).

## Re: (Score:2)

... since they didn't have the numbers for it. Still their aqueducts lasted centuries and millennia. Nassim Taleb says a side effects mathematics is to optimize and cut corners, making things fragile. He also quoted a science historian that before the 13th century no more than five persons in Europe knew how to perform a division. But their architects made all those cathedrals that are more or less still standing.

In other words, the available evidence seems to indicate he's full of shit. Same as the convict probably didn't get much "love" while in jail thanks to math.

## Re: (Score:3)

Ah yes, prison rape joke.

Prison rape jokes are a GOOD THING. You should look at them as a sign of progress. Remember the old adage: First they ignore us, then they laugh at us, then they fight us, then we win. Jokes about prison rape mean we have moved from stage 1 (ignoring) to stage 2 (laughing). The brutality of our prison system is a horrific stain on our civilization, and the current rate of incarceration (America's rate is four times higher than either China or Russia) is appalling. Prison reform and sentencing reform are

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Assuming what your hearsay suggests is true - and it most certainly isn't - those "no more than five persons" were probably living a better life than the average European.

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to posit a claim as false but still manage to derive an outcome dependent on the false claim being true

They even have a name for that [wikipedia.org].

## Re:The Romans didn't do mathematics (Score:5, Informative)

## Re: (Score:2)

I think they had plenty of math to build an arch.

It doesn't take math to build an arch. It doesn't take math to build a cathedral. What it initially takes for a civilization is some trial and error, and then often a sort of procedure is created. Yes,

math can helpand new architectural procedures did follow during the Renaissance along with more sophisticated mathematical analysis. But a lot of those problems can be overcome with the well-learned mechanical procedure after trial and error coupled with some factor of "overengineering" to prevent collap## Re: (Score:2)

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Screw Taleb.

Taleb has an all-world point to make, and yet somehow he manages to advance his thesis on an all-world edifice of rhetorical corner-cutting. It's almost as if he feels the need to degrade his argument to prove that even broken argumentation strategies can be robust, if advocated by a person uniquely possessed of this particular ray of enlightenment (only).

On the mat

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all those cathedrals that are more or less still standing

That's survivor bias. We don't see all those structures that collapsed because they weren't strong enough.

a side effects mathematics is to optimize and cut corners, making things fragile

And the side effects of not using math are:

a. the occasional disaster,

b. huge time and money sinks because structures were massively overbuilt. Those medieval cathedrals took a hundred years to build, during which they soaked up all disposable income of a province. An optimized cathedral would have left time and money to do other things.

## Re: (Score:2)

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(1) Of course they had numbers. They just had notation system that made arithmetic hard.

(2) Math isn't limited to arithmetic.

(3) Limitations in one area drive innovations in another. If John Napier had a four function calculator he probably wouldn't have invented the logarithm.

## Do you just need the right teacher? (Score:5, Interesting)

I think one of the problems with mathematics is that it's pretty hard to get the average person to see it as anything other than a tool. Maybe that's how it's taught, but how do you get average students interested in math the same way mathematicians are? Where is the hook in people's minds that turns them on to it as something other than a bunch of formulas and operations? I know it's a cop-out to say I suck at math, but I really do feel I'm mathematically challenged. I wonder if it was just because I didn't get some magic spark early on. I remember all of my elementary and high school math being a long slog of memorization with very little understanding. I was never very good at it and just learned enough to handle the exams. Like every high school student, I still remember to this day that x = -b +/- (sqrt(b^2 - 4ac)/2a) but I have no idea why that is or what it's good for other than getting the answers to a quadratic equation. I think my lack of math background kept me out of civil or chemical engineering, despite a huge interest in both.

One reason why I think proper teaching may play a role is because I had a similar experience studying chemistry in college. I had a very good introductory chemistry teacher and something just clicked. Almost everyone saw it as a bunch of nonsense formulas and equations for various phenomena that had to be memorized for the exams and forgotten, but somehow I got a little more out of it and it was interesting enough that I got a degree in it. Good thing too -- by the second year of engineering school I knew I wasn't going to be able to keep up with my poor math background and didn't want to end up a generic business major!

## Re: (Score:2)

I always enjoyed it, but somewhere around 15 or 16 I started seeing it as a handmaiden to physics rather than a subject in its own right.

Oddly, I wasn't aware of that at the time or I might have got a better grade in it.

## Re:Do you just need the right teacher? (Score:5, Insightful)

The right teacher, someone like Richard Feynman:

Check out his book "Surely You're Joking Mr. Feynman".

http://www.earth.northwestern.... [northwestern.edu]

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A major problem is that practically no teachers in U.S. elementary schools actually understand math (and so they teach the emergency fall-back of remember this nonsense). Education majors in the U.S. have perennially had the lowest qualifications of anyone entering college, and the highest rating for math dislike/anxiety. They're effectively self-selected for lack of mathematical understanding. I talked to a guy who used to run a middle school, and he said that he had no hope or even desire of getting math

## Re: (Score:2)

IMHO, the tool approach is important but it has its issues. Promoting the tool aspect seems to attract the "engineer" types of people, while the artist/humanist types may feel left out. It's part of a larger divide among students, but the math issue isn't helping. For example, when I was at school, the usual question to a bright student was "are you a language person or a math person?" Similarly, there are these divides between artists and scientists. It's silly because, for instance, you need a lot of cre

## Re: (Score:2)

I believe the problem with finding a love for mathematics is that most lectures don't give the students a sense of wonder. In a state school math department I only had a few professors who were inspiring to students - maybe 10% of all professors I encountered. I've been told that upper tier schools

## I'm still trying to prove P=NP (Score:2)

## Math (Score:1, Interesting)

I have a math degree, I went into medicine. I can honestly say very very little math that I learned has been useful in any meaningful way (only really some basic stats), Analysis, partial differential equations, algebras and all that stuff while enjoyable (and incredibly work/ time intensive in undergrad) have really not improved my life in any way and really it seems like a sad waste as most of it has just faded away (although epsilon and delta will always cause a small smile in my heart) but damn you Ji

## Re: (Score:2)

I was a fuck-up in high school. I took geometry three times. Later in life I picked it back up again, went through Algebra 2, trigonometry, and on to calculus, but I dropped out there because it all had become too time-consuming.

Ironically, I've never had any cause to use anything past geometry. Turns out geometry is pretty damn useful in real life ... proportions, the Pythagorean theorem, the concept of three points determining a plane, circular geometry with pi, all very useful for designing and building

## Please limit your applause. (Score:2)

Math conferences don't usually feature standing ovations, ...

That's because the usually ask people to limit their applause, but as the number of people still standing approaches zero, there's always one guy who keeps clapping for *way* too long...

## Re: (Score:2)

So, what you're saying is:

lim applause(x) > 0

x->0

## Clearly he's never met a statistician (Score:2)

Clearly, he's never met a statistician.

## And some of us (Score:2)

## Summary (Score:2)

Mathematicians Agree That Mathematics Is The Best

## Music and Math (Score:2)

I think wh

## Re: (Score:2)

Agreed, and I'd like to go a bit further with the art/music analogy. I think mathematics is an integral (pun intended) part of our culture, like it or not. You might not like classical music, but you'll probably appreciate its influences on more modern music.

This is somewhat related to the idea of math as a tool. For instance, I'd like young people to appreciate all the scientific research that went into creating their shiny electronic toys. But there's a lot more than the utilitarian aspect. A lot of ou

## Arrogant maybe? (Score:2)

At first, when I read the title I thought to myself, "how arrogant." What about people who are primarily verbal - and don't do math, or don't care to do math? Are they not equally fulfilled in their lives? How rich - a scientist who makes sweeping generalizations in a scientific journal.

If he had prefaced it with, "I have observed in some people that...blah blah blah," then yeah, that would be defensible.

## Until Rudin boggs you down somewhere in Real and (Score:2)

## What a twist! (Score:2)

Mathematician presents some "Math(s) is bwetiful auwsome" nonsense at a math(s) conference and gets a standing ovation from other mathematicians.

I'm

stunned, I tell you!## This could backfire (Score:2)

There is an odd but persistent correlation between mathematics and insanity. A prison math program could convert an ordinary robber into a crazed serial killer who becomes a political hero to other wackjobs: https://www.google.com/search?... [google.com]

## Re: To reduce STEM wages (Score:4, Insightful)

## Re: (Score:1)

Good thing for most of us in fields that are lumped into that acronym, the difficulty of the work generally selects for who ends up in those careers.

Simply not true. Those of us who are most passionate about STEM are those who never enter the field, because careers are made by mediocre morons who manipulate their way into positions of power and close ranks to keep talented upstarts out. If we're lucky, we end up working dead-end jobs while blogging about our STEM-related hobbies. If we're unlucky, we end up committing armed robbery and studying STEM in a prison cell.

Maybe if we encourage more people to stand and deliver

To which meaning of "stand and deliver" are you referring here?

"A phrase traditionall

## Re: To reduce STEM wages (Score:2)

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Another movie you might like, with similar point of view, is "Spare Parts" (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3233418/). Also a book. A Wired article tells the story more briefly (https://www.wired.com/2014/12/spare-parts/).

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The counter-argument is that people should be educated or have the opportunity to be educated to the extent that they're willing to pursue it.

Calculus itself may not be of-use to most people, but learning how to learn Calculus is itself a skill which may translate into other learning that the individual as an adult will need, especially when it is now the norm that people will change careers potentially several times through their working

## Re: (Score:2)

I took algebra, geometry, trig, and calculus in High School, and a smattering of linear algebra; finished with a semester of calculus and a semester of probability and statistics in college. The latter was a very theory-oriented course: we learned that there is a theorem that says it's possible to cut up a solid object and put it back together in such a way that it's twice as big (radius, volume, doesn't matter) with no space. (Of course it only works if the sphere is infinitely divisible, i.e. not atomic

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## Re: To reduce STEM wages (Score:5, Insightful)

The problem with test scores is that they don't mean shit except that you have either been an ass-kiss student who was used by a professor,

For the literature teacher who wants you to exalt their favorite author or the history/civics teacher who will give you a higher grade for parroting their political point of view, you might have a point.

One of the better points of science and math is that it's not quite as subject to that sort of kiss-assery. When you answer "What's 2+2" with the number 4, your teacher can't dock you points because they don't like the way you wrote the 4.

## Re: (Score:2)

When you answer "What's 2+2" with the number 4, your teacher can't dock you points because they don't like the way you wrote the 4.They can, however, dock you points for getting the wrong answer if, for example, you're supposed to be working in GF(3).

## Re: (Score:3)

That's not true, I had two 1st grade math teachers. : I was doing multiplication problems and powers of 2 in with my first one (a continuation of stuff I learned from my father). Then my family moved. My second 1st grade math teacher docked me for writing fours with a triangular top (4) as opposed the accepted fours that look like an upside down 'h'. I was also docked for writing 9's that look like upside down 6's, instead of the accepted nines that look like mirrored P's. As punishment, I was required to f

## Re: (Score:2)

My second 1st grade math teacher docked me for writing fours with a triangular top (4) as opposed the accepted fours that look like an upside down 'h'. I was also docked for writing 9's that look like upside down 6's, instead of the accepted nines that look like mirrored P's.

I've heard similar stories, but it's always in the early grades of elementary school, where the teachers aren't expected to understand specific subjects -- the school is more about fitting in than knowing or learning. After the first few years, you should have proper subject teachers. In contrast, the GP's points about kiss-assery in certain subjects is a lifelong issue.

## Re: (Score:2)

Similar story here, although I can't remember (it *was* almost 60 years ago) whether I got points off for writing your kind of 4 and 9 (and a 2 that looked like the printed 2, rather than some kind of curly-cue thing), or whether I just gave in so I wouldn't lose points. It wasn't until drafting class in High School that I reverted to my father's 2, 4 and 9. (He was an engineer, and in those days being an engineer meant hand-written numbers and words on your blueprints: drafting.)

## Unlikely? (Score:2)

You could be correct, but your s

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Arithmetic is less than .01% of math.

## Re: (Score:1)

Why is the mathematics profession dying?

Fixed that for you. Short answer: It's not. Long answer: Purists don't like applied mathematics, but the modern world is applied not theoretical.

## Re: (Score:2)

Seriously. This sounds like a sad sad man.

Actually, it sounds like a very happy man. The thing that is missing though is that he doesn't seem to realize that just because something makes him happy it doesn't mean that it will make everyone else happy. Everyone is wired a little different. I'm pretty good at math but I find it boring. I enjoy programming which is similar but for whatever reason I find it a lot more interesting and can get lost for hours in a tedious problem that would drive other people crazy. I have a good friend who can't sta

## Re:LOL! NERD! (Score:5, Insightful)

I'm pretty good at math but I find it boring. I enjoy programming which is similar but for whatever reason I find it a lot more interesting

Me too. I think the big difference is the lack of feedback in math. If I work for hours or days to construct a proof, I don't really know if it is valid or not, and maybe it was all a waste of time because I made an error in the first few steps. With programming, I can test incrementally, fix errors as I go, and I can see the end result is valid because the program works. The feeling of accomplishment is much better.

Also, programming pays better.

## Re: (Score:2)

If you use automated proof verifiers, like HOL, Metamath, Mizar, etc., the experience is

## Phbbbbt. (Score:5, Insightful)

That's just... bullshit.

Is walking "accessible to anyone who really tries"? What if they have no legs?

Lots of people simply do not have the intellectual facilities -- not training, I'm talking about capacity here -- to even

beginto approach mathematics beyond various levels. Every person is a mix of capacities and limits. To claim that undertaking X is accessible to any person who "really tries" demonstrates nothing more than that the claimant has very little understanding of people in general.Or to look at it from the other end of the stick, you're not going to become Einstein just because you "really try."

We're not identical cupcakes spewed out by a cupcake factory, some of us missing the icing just because we went down a different conveyor belt.

Not yet, anyway.

## Re:Phbbbbt. (Score:4, Interesting)

Lots of people simply do not have the intellectual facilities -- not training, I'm talking about capacity here -- to even

beginto approach mathematics beyond various levels.Every time one of my co-workers needs to calculate the volume of a shipping container, he asks me how to do it. He knows that he needs to use the length, width and height, but he can never remember whether he needs to

multiplyoraddthem together.The belief that, with the right training, this guy could prove the Riemann Hypothesis, is absurd.

The New Math [wikipedia.org] fiasco was driven by the belief that everyone could master abstract math, and that the ability of everyone to do so was important. They can't, and it is not.

## Re: How much effort (Score:2)

the concepts behind which operator to use? Even going bact to two dimensions and illustrating what happens when you take three rows of three and multiply them as opposed to adding them and explaining that the word "by" can signla a multiplication may scratch deeper than what he has picked up on so far. You have to get his attention first though, and there are lots of other unexplored details. So we know too little about how people work and fail to work to a## Re: (Score:3)

Why is it incumbent on him to even give a shit? Personally, I'd let the co-worker flounder. He's had plenty of time in life to learn. More likely, he's just lazy. Not like it's difficult to slap a sticky on the wall that says "package volume takes multiplication".

Untrue. We *can*

## Re: (Score:2)

Are you saying he is incapable of understanding that?

No. I am saying that if, after 13 years of math education (K-12, he is a HS grad), he still doesn't understand a 2nd grade concept like the volume of a box, then he sure as heck is not going to contribute to the advancement of mathematics, by proving the Riemann Hypothesis, Goldbach's Conjecture, or anything else. Although it is politically incorrect to say so, the "tabula rasa" theory of human intelligence is baloney. Some people are just plain stupid. If you really think otherwise, then you should spe

## Re: (Score:2)

Tabula rasa refers to the epistemological idea that individuals are born without built-in mental content and that therefore all knowledge comes from experience or perception. (wikipedia)

The tabula rasa concept refers to lack of innate knowledge, not any particular level of potential.

The tabula rasa concept is more true than not. A newborn has reflexes like breathing and suckling, and some memory of events in the womb, but little else. It may learn morals and math and language and physics, and that's no cont

## Re: (Score:2)

"[The newborn] may learn...language... and that's no contradiction of the blank slate because it's not born with those things."

Chomsky would disagree with you about language, and so would I (I'm a linguist). Virtually everyone learns at least one language, which is unlike the learning of math, physics, and (to some extent) morals. The only plausible explanation (I think) is that we do not come to language with a blank slate; we have some innate understanding of how languages work, and some more or less au

## Re:Phbbbbt. (Score:5, Insightful)

Using an unqualified "anyone" is indeed too broad because the statement can be disproved by a single counterexample. How about we say that mathematics is accessible to "Anyone that has the intellectual facilities to master a spoken language" and who really tries?

We're not identical, but we have similar mental circuitry. Understanding a language indicates a capacity for abstract thinking. When you think of times, places and events outside the scope of your immediate environment, you're exercising much of the same mental circuitry that you use when you're working on a math problem.

"Accessible" doesn't mean that everyone is capable of being a prodigy through sheer effort, but when an English major claims a mathematical disability, it's almost certainly a software issue(probably bad early experiences) not some genetic impairment.

## Re:Phbbbbt. (Score:4, Interesting)

When people who aren't pedantic nerds say "anyone", they mean "almost anyone" in pedantic nerdspeak.

And almost anyone can learn math. The human brain has the ability for abstract reasoning, assuming it isn't damaged in some way. How

proficientvarious people will be at it is a different question. Most people will never make a living at anything math-related, and that's OK. But they can still learn enough to appreciate the beauty of math.The barrier that defeats most people is that the early stages of learning abstract logic are intensely frustrating, and painful in a way we don't have a word for - you overload the subconscious reasoning engine, and that

hurtsfor lack of a better word. Not normal pain, but intense discomfort even so. We suck as a society at teaching math, so we're not there to explain that it's just a barrier to push past. If you've ever seen freshman logic student break down and start crying in class, you know what I mean.## Re: (Score:2)

"Lots of people simply do not have the intellectual facilities...you're not going to become Einstein just because you 'really try.'"

Of course. But I think the point of the original article (and the talk) was that somewhere along the line, someone who did have good intellectual facilities got lost in the system. To what extent it was his fault (for falling in with the wrong gang), and to what extent it was the system's fault (for not recognizing his ability and helping him use it), I have no idea. And how

## Math and science are not the tango, and v-v (Score:2)

"Data" is not the plural of "anecdote."

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## Is Slashdot the target of Post-Bots? (Score:2)