1866: "Russell's Teapot"

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1866: "Russell's Teapot"

Postby Angua » Fri Jul 21, 2017 5:42 am UTC

https://xkcd.com/1866/
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Unfortunately, NASA regulations state that Bertrand Russell-related payloads can only be launched with launch vehicles that do not launch themselves.

I'm going to admit, the only reason I am starting this thread is for someone to explain the title text.
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Re: 1866: "Russell's Teapot"

Postby Tub » Fri Jul 21, 2017 5:51 am UTC


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Re: 1866: "Russell's Teapot"

Postby rhomboidal » Fri Jul 21, 2017 6:05 am UTC

Russell's teapot really raises a profound question: Will it make hot tea or iced tea?

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Re: 1866: "Russell's Teapot"

Postby somitomi » Fri Jul 21, 2017 7:52 am UTC

rhomboidal wrote:Russell's teapot really raises a profound question: Will it make hot tea or iced tea?

But where will we find a rocket big enough to raise all these questions into orbit?
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Re: 1866: "Russell's Teapot"

Postby Payton M. » Fri Jul 21, 2017 8:32 am UTC

Cueball is trying to settle the teapot argument by actually launching a teapot into space... but how would doing this settle the argument? The comic is funny, but logically it's not changing anything. I wonder what "Cueball" thought this mission would proof...

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Re: 1866: "Russell's Teapot"

Postby Von_Cheam » Fri Jul 21, 2017 9:24 am UTC

Angua wrote:[Title Text] Unfortunately, NASA regulations state that Bertrand Russell-related payloads can only be launched with launch vehicles that do not launch themselves.

I'm going to admit, the only reason I am starting this thread is for someone to explain the title text.

I think this is a reference to Principia Mathematica; Bertrand Russell and A. N. Whitehead's unsuccessful attempt to find a set of mathematical axioms from which all of mathematics could be proven - including proving those same axioms, themselves. Kurt Gödel later showed that the reason they failed was a fundamental property of all axiomatic systems - including mathematics, logic and computer science - it's really complicated and I certainly don't pretend to understand it, but I believe one major component of Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem is that statements [payloads], even if true and valid, can only be proven starting from axioms [launch vehicles] that do not prove themselves.

Edit: Refactored for clarity..

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Re: 1866: "Russell's Teapot"

Postby peregrine_crow » Fri Jul 21, 2017 9:45 am UTC

Von_Cheam wrote:
Angua wrote:[Title Text] Unfortunately, NASA regulations state that Bertrand Russell-related payloads can only be launched with launch vehicles that do not launch themselves.

I'm going to admit, the only reason I am starting this thread is for someone to explain the title text.

I think this is a reference to Principia Mathematica; Bertrand Russell and A. N. Whitehead's unsuccessful attempt to find a set of mathematical axioms from which all of mathematics could be proven - including proving those same axioms, themselves. Kurt Gödel later showed that the reason they failed was a fundamental property of all axiomatic systems - including mathematics, logic and computer science - it's really complicated and I certainly don't pretend to understand it, but I believe one major component of Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem is that statements [payloads], even if true and valid, can only be proven starting from axioms [launch vehicles] that do not prove themselves.

Edit: Refactored for clarity..

I'm assuming it is a reference to Russell's paradox which involves the set of all sets that do not contain themselves (the paradox is whether this set contains itself). See here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russell%27s_paradox.

The obvious solution for the condition mentioned in the title text is to use a giant catapult to launch the launch-vehicle into space.
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Re: 1866: "Russell's Teapot"

Postby Confusion » Fri Jul 21, 2017 9:46 am UTC

Unfortunately, NASA regulations state that Bertrand Russell-related payloads can only be launched with launch vehicles that do not launch themselves.

I'm going to admit, the only reason I am starting this thread is for someone to explain the title text.

This is a reference to Russel's Paradox for naive set theory where he creates the set that is a member of all sets that are not members of themself:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russell%27s_paradox

A classical variant of this paradox is the Barber paradox:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barber_paradox

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Re: 1866: "Russell's Teapot"

Postby rmsgrey » Fri Jul 21, 2017 9:48 am UTC

Payton M. wrote:Cueball is trying to settle the teapot argument by actually launching a teapot into space... but how would doing this settle the argument? The comic is funny, but logically it's not changing anything. I wonder what "Cueball" thought this mission would proof...


Russell's Teapot is a hypothetical teapot that may or may not be out there in space. Inserting an actual teapot into a suitable orbit would settle the question "is there a teapot out there or not?"

Similarly, creating a God would settle the question "is there a God or not?"

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Re: 1866: "Russell's Teapot"

Postby Ae7flux » Fri Jul 21, 2017 9:49 am UTC

It's a reference to Russell's para. . . oh wait.
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Re: 1866: "Russell's Teapot"

Postby orthogon » Fri Jul 21, 2017 10:32 am UTC

rmsgrey wrote:
Payton M. wrote:Cueball is trying to settle the teapot argument by actually launching a teapot into space... but how would doing this settle the argument? The comic is funny, but logically it's not changing anything. I wonder what "Cueball" thought this mission would proof...


Russell's Teapot is a hypothetical teapot that may or may not be out there in space. Inserting an actual teapot into a suitable orbit would settle the question "is there a teapot out there or not?"

Similarly, creating a God would settle the question "is there a God or not?"

It comes down to the ambiguity of language, though. Is "is there a God?" the simple present or the gnomic aspect? Surely to plead the former is to drain the question of its true and interesting meaning as most people would understand it.

ETA: in other words, as POTUS#43 put it: it depends what the meaning of "is" is.
xtifr wrote:... and orthogon merely sounds undecided.

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Re: 1866: "Russell's Teapot"

Postby Angua » Fri Jul 21, 2017 10:38 am UTC

I knew what Russell teapot was but got confused by the self launch thing. The sets containing themselves makes sense though.
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Re: 1866: "Russell's Teapot"

Postby cellocgw » Fri Jul 21, 2017 10:54 am UTC

rhomboidal wrote:Russell's teapot really raises a profound question: Will it make hot tea or iced tea?


Yes.

Next profound question?
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Re: 1866: "Russell's Teapot"

Postby cellocgw » Fri Jul 21, 2017 11:10 am UTC

Also very disappointed to find that the identifier texts for each element of the cubesat & vehicle are just random pixels. Someone send this to CSI so they can Enhance! and retrieve the original text.
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Re: 1866: "Russell's Teapot"

Postby peterdavidcarter » Fri Jul 21, 2017 11:16 am UTC

orthogon wrote:
rmsgrey wrote:
Payton M. wrote:Cueball is trying to settle the teapot argument by actually launching a teapot into space... but how would doing this settle the argument? The comic is funny, but logically it's not changing anything. I wonder what "Cueball" thought this mission would proof...


Russell's Teapot is a hypothetical teapot that may or may not be out there in space. Inserting an actual teapot into a suitable orbit would settle the question "is there a teapot out there or not?"

Similarly, creating a God would settle the question "is there a God or not?"

It comes down to the ambiguity of language, though. Is "is there a God?" the simple present or the gnomic aspect? Surely to plead the former is to drain the question of its true and interesting meaning as most people would understand it.

ETA: in other words, as POTUS#43 put it: it depends what the meaning of "is" is.


This whole line of argument results in a new question: do you believe, without proof, that the teapot is still there post-launch? Also, perhaps Cueball faked the whole launch, as happened with the moon landings and Cher.

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Re: 1866: "Russell's Teapot"

Postby Soupspoon » Fri Jul 21, 2017 11:23 am UTC

You're not one of those "Cher never walked on the Moon" people, are you? Sheesh...

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Re: 1866: "Russell's Teapot"

Postby Ae7flux » Fri Jul 21, 2017 11:30 am UTC

I'm sure he isn't but he probably things he's a brain in a vat.
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Re: 1866: "Russell's Teapot"

Postby morriswalters » Fri Jul 21, 2017 12:16 pm UTC

rmsgrey wrote:Russell's Teapot is a hypothetical teapot that may or may not be out there in space. Inserting an actual teapot into a suitable orbit would settle the question "is there a teapot out there or not?"

Similarly, creating a God would settle the question "is there a God or not?"
It would certainly settle the question, is there at least one teapot in orbit? It wouldn't settle the question, is it Russell's teapot. The second would prove that there was a God after you created him, it would not settle the question of did any God exist before you did. Could these questions be related to axioms and proofs about axioms and Russell's Paradox and Randall's strip? My head spins as I tumble in a teapot, somewhere.

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Re: 1866: "Russell's Teapot"

Postby Murderbot » Fri Jul 21, 2017 1:07 pm UTC

peregrine_crow wrote:The obvious solution for the condition mentioned in the title text is to use a giant catapult to launch the launch-vehicle into space.

The even more obvious solution is to get another space agency to launch it for you.
orthogon wrote:ETA: in other words, as POTUS#43 put it: it depends what the meaning of "is" is.

Tea-POTUS#43?

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Re: 1866: "Russell's Teapot"

Postby orthogon » Fri Jul 21, 2017 1:26 pm UTC

For the space geeks: might we at some point be able to disprove the existence of Russell's teapot? Might we eventually have enough instruments in orbit to scour the alleged region of space exhaustively and with sufficient resolution?

What if we knew the orbital radius more accurately than stated in Russell's formulation? What if we were to launch a spacecraft specifically for the purpose? What if it were in terrestrial, rather than solar, orbit? Lunar? What if it were a metal rather than ceramic vessel?

(That he postulated a teapot is so twee and so quintessentially British that I can't help picturing Russell as a kind of Alan Bennett of philosophy. An American would probably have mentally launched a "football" [handegg]; a French philosopher - I don't know - a baguette, perhaps?)
xtifr wrote:... and orthogon merely sounds undecided.

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Re: 1866: "Russell's Teapot"

Postby Payton M. » Fri Jul 21, 2017 1:31 pm UTC

rmsgrey wrote:
Payton M. wrote:Cueball is trying to settle the teapot argument by actually launching a teapot into space... but how would doing this settle the argument? The comic is funny, but logically it's not changing anything. I wonder what "Cueball" thought this mission would proof...


Russell's Teapot is a hypothetical teapot that may or may not be out there in space. Inserting an actual teapot into a suitable orbit would settle the question "is there a teapot out there or not?"

Similarly, creating a God would settle the question "is there a God or not?"


It's all about logical deduction, not about making sth true by manipulating it, because then it is physically true, but logically still false. Additionally, I might be able to place a teapot out there, but I cannot place a God there. Russells teapot was only an example to show, that there is no proof about the existance of something only because you can't proof the opposite. So, this launching of a teapot by Cueball is a nice joke, but a fallacy, because it would settle the existence of a teapot, but it would not settle the argument, the nonvalidity of which was demonstrated by the teapot-example of Russell.
Last edited by Payton M. on Fri Jul 21, 2017 1:34 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: 1866: "Russell's Teapot"

Postby Keyman » Fri Jul 21, 2017 1:32 pm UTC

Murderbot wrote:
peregrine_crow wrote:The obvious solution for the condition mentioned in the title text is to use a giant catapult to launch the launch-vehicle into space.

The even more obvious solution is to get another space agency to launch it for you.

Sheesh! Strap it to the back of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
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Re: 1866: "Russell's Teapot"

Postby morriswalters » Fri Jul 21, 2017 1:44 pm UTC

orthogon wrote:For the space geeks: might we at some point be able to disprove the existence of Russell's teapot? Might we eventually have enough instruments in orbit to scour the alleged region of space exhaustively and with sufficient resolution?
Nope, no good. consider the volume of space you are looking at. You can't look everywhere at once. All that would tell you is that it isn't where you were looking.

I suppose I'm wasting my breath, but the argument itself is an argument to absurdity, explicitly.

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Re: 1866: "Russell's Teapot"

Postby Flumble » Fri Jul 21, 2017 1:54 pm UTC

cellocgw wrote:
rhomboidal wrote:Russell's teapot really raises a profound question: Will it make hot tea or iced tea?


Yes.

I would guess "no": there's just too much of a chance someone forgets to fill it before launching it into space, and even then, who's going to pour it into cups before all the tea has evaporated? Never mind they will probably forget the scones, so they better not pour the tea lest they want a war against the UK.

cellocgw wrote:Also very disappointed to find that the identifier texts for each element of the cubesat & vehicle are just random pixels. Someone send this to CSI so they can Enhance! and retrieve the original text.

Enhancing it just gives you smoother squiggly lines. :roll:

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Re: 1866: "Russell's Teapot"

Postby Reka » Fri Jul 21, 2017 2:15 pm UTC

Flumble wrote:Enhancing it just gives you smoother squiggly lines. :roll:

That's just because you don't have CSI/NCIS's magic Enhance! (note the exclamation mark) function.

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Re: 1866: "Russell's Teapot"

Postby Archgeek » Fri Jul 21, 2017 2:33 pm UTC

Payton M. wrote:Cueball is trying to settle the teapot argument by actually launching a teapot into space... but how would doing this settle the argument? The comic is funny, but logically it's not changing anything. I wonder what "Cueball" thought this mission would proof...

Well, it would at least provide a future star-empire with something weird to study until their scientists almost go mad.

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Re: 1866: "Russell's Teapot"

Postby ucim » Fri Jul 21, 2017 2:50 pm UTC

Payton M. wrote:I might be able to place a teapot out there, but I cannot place a God there.
Just wait for a few years, and AI will prove you wrong.

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Re: 1866: "Russell's Teapot"

Postby Heimhenge » Fri Jul 21, 2017 4:02 pm UTC

Reka wrote:
Flumble wrote:Enhancing it just gives you smoother squiggly lines. :roll:

That's just because you don't have CSI/NCIS's magic Enhance! (note the exclamation mark) function.


I watch a lot of NCIS and have to say they get most of the science right ... except for that Enhance! (or whatever they really call it) thing. On one episode they were trying to read a license plate from a security camera image. The numbers/letters were seriously foreshortened by the angle of the view. Somehow they managed to "rotate" the plate like it was 3D to better see the numbers/letters. What bullshit. If the writers don't already have a science consultant they need one. If they do have one, get somebody better.

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Re: 1866: "Russell's Teapot"

Postby Old Bruce » Fri Jul 21, 2017 4:06 pm UTC

Angua wrote:I knew what Russell teapot was but got confused by the self launch thing. The sets containing themselves makes sense though.

May make sense to you but my brain always seizes up and I smell that burnt toast smell (until I unplug any and all toasters).

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Re: 1866: "Russell's Teapot"

Postby Stargazer71 » Fri Jul 21, 2017 4:22 pm UTC

You know, the Falcon Heavy is going to launch soon and Elon Musk has already said that they're going to launch it with some absurd payload. This would be surprisingly doable.

Unfortunately, I think a lot of people (including some who have already posted in this thread) would take it seriously instead of seeing it as a joke. Sigh.

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Re: 1866: "Russell's Teapot"

Postby Stargazer71 » Fri Jul 21, 2017 4:28 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:Nope, no good. consider the volume of space you are looking at. You can't look everywhere at once. All that would tell you is that it isn't where you were looking.


Depends on how you approach the problem. If you had a telescope that could actually see such a thing (a stretch for sure) and if you were to assume that such an object were following an elliptical orbit (which would seem to be a necessary assumption), then you could do a probabilistic analysis--lowering the probability of such an object existing as you increased your number of observations. While it may be true that the probability would never reach 0, it would approach zero.

Unless of course you found one. No one ever talks about that earth-shattering possibility :P

(And for the record--I'm not talking about religion here. I'm talking about a literal telescope looking for a literal teapot orbiting the sun between the Earth and Mars. Don't take life too seriously :P)

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Postby miket » Fri Jul 21, 2017 4:29 pm UTC

I got this strange error code when I tried to go there. This was the first line of the HTTP header I got back:

Code: Select all

HTTP/1.1 418 I'm a teapot

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Re: 1866: "Russell's Teapot"

Postby measure » Fri Jul 21, 2017 4:48 pm UTC

Reka wrote:That's just because you don't have CSI/NCIS's magic Enhance! (note the exclamation mark) function.

When they Enhance! something are they Enhancing! it or Enhance!ing it?

We must know.

"Enhance" no longer looks like a word.

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Re: 1866: "Russell's Teapot"

Postby morriswalters » Fri Jul 21, 2017 4:58 pm UTC

Stargazer71 wrote:Don't take life too seriously :P)
I take nothing on this topic seriously.

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Re:

Postby Flumble » Fri Jul 21, 2017 5:08 pm UTC

miket wrote:I got this strange error code when I tried to go there. This was the first line of the HTTP header I got back:

Code: Select all

HTTP/1.1 418 I'm a teapot

From RFC7168:

Code: Select all

   To distinguish messages destined for TEA-capable HTCPCP services from
   pots compliant with the base HTCPCP specification, a new MIME media
   type is defined by this document.  The Content-Type header of a POST
   or BREW request sent to a TEA-capable pot MUST be "message/teapot" if
   tea is to be requested.

Perhaps your browser fails to set the MIME type?

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Re: 1866: "Russell's Teapot"

Postby DennyMo » Fri Jul 21, 2017 5:23 pm UTC

orthogon wrote:ETA: in other words, as POTUS#43 put it: it depends what the meaning of "is" is.

That would be POTUS#42, Bill Clinton.

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Re: 1866: "Russell's Teapot"

Postby richP » Fri Jul 21, 2017 6:04 pm UTC

rhomboidal wrote:Russell's teapot really raises a profound question: Will it make hot tea or iced tea?


According to Russell's cat, the tea exists in both a hot and iced state until you drink it.

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Re: 1866: "Russell's Teapot"

Postby Pfhorrest » Fri Jul 21, 2017 6:20 pm UTC

DennyMo wrote:
orthogon wrote:ETA: in other words, as POTUS#43 put it: it depends what the meaning of "is" is.

That would be POTUS#42, Bill Clinton.

Not sure if orthogon meant to say this directly or not, but that famous Clinton quote is actually talking about the exact same thing, present-tense vs tenseless "is". Clinton had said that something was not the case, something that had previously been the case, and when accused of lying about it clarified that since it was not the case at the time he said it wasn't, even though it had been before that, he wasn't lying. That his "is" was present-tense, not tenseless.
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Re: 1866: "Russell's Teapot"

Postby The Devils Engineer » Fri Jul 21, 2017 7:07 pm UTC

Am I the only one who would like to see the actual design shown? Not just the text but look at the design closer. Randall, can you post the design?
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Re: 1866: "Russell's Teapot"

Postby Rombobjörn » Fri Jul 21, 2017 7:40 pm UTC

peregrine_crow wrote:The obvious solution for the condition mentioned in the title text is to use a giant catapult to launch the launch-vehicle into space.

The vehicle would have to be extremely aerodynamic to avoid losing all its speed to air resistance. I wonder whether it would be possible.

morriswalters wrote:It would certainly settle the question, is there at least one teapot in orbit? It wouldn't settle the question, is it Russell's teapot.

Of course it isn't. It's Randall's teapot.

This approach, to settle an argument about the truth of a statement by making the statement true, should henceforth be known as Randall's teapot.


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