0435: "Purity"

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MysticTerminator
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Re: "Purity" Discussion

Postby MysticTerminator » Wed Jun 11, 2008 5:15 pm UTC

I've got to disagree with the attempts to make the line into a circle. I think math and possibly philosophy are the purest you can get and don't think you can really put anything ahead.

theklotz
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Re: "Purity" Discussion

Postby theklotz » Wed Jun 11, 2008 5:27 pm UTC

formal logic seems to be missing...or is it just so far on the purity scale that it's on another page? poor math with it's proofs and equations that couldn't be developed without a branch of philosophy :P

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Re: "Purity" Discussion

Postby theferrymantune » Wed Jun 11, 2008 5:28 pm UTC

MysticTerminator wrote:I've got to disagree with the attempts to make the line into a circle. I think math and possibly philosophy are the purest you can get and don't think you can really put anything ahead.

For the sake of philosophy, we should. ^_^
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Re: "Purity" Discussion

Postby dummy account » Wed Jun 11, 2008 5:46 pm UTC

gormster wrote:With the exception of sociology, you can apply Money Made in the opposite direction.

I would have said, "Human Utility," but whatever.

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The Rumpled Academic
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Re: "Purity" Discussion

Postby The Rumpled Academic » Wed Jun 11, 2008 5:46 pm UTC

**Edit: Wowsers... I did not realise how long this post was going to end up being. My apologies, beloved reader.**

jurpic wrote:I like your post! My own position on the ontological status of mathematical entities(and on most other philosophy of mathematics topics for that matter) hasn't completely matured yet though, so for now I will refrain from any in-depth comments about the subject (I hope I can get away with that). But still I wanted to say that I dig your post, it portrays an interesting position in an intelligent way.


Thanks, man. :D
I'm glad I can even manage to hold my head above water in a discussion based largely on mathematics. I kept on with physics for a little longer, but I gave up all maths in year 10, so some of the more technical posts in here simply whoosh prettily over my head.

(...and with that one admission, any credibility my views may once have had with average XKCD reader evaporates into a fine mist. ^_^)

Nevertheless; here are some responses to things said since my last post:

Incompetent wrote:I like to think of purity in terms of a hypothetical incorporeal intelligence trying to stay relevant while the world around it degenerates.

First, all but one of the people die off. Well, that's pretty much it for sociology.

When the last person dies, it's the end for psychology as well.Soon, the Earth is engulfed by the Sun. There's no life anywhere else either.

Bye bye biology.

What little conventional matter there is left in the universe disintegrates, and at some stage the last ever molecule (probably a hydrogen molecule) falls apart.

No more chemistry.

All this time, the intelligence could have been doing physics. But then, without warning, all matter mysteriously disappears, time and space fold in on themselves and wink out of existence, and there is absolutely nothing left except the intelligence. The intelligence thinks to itself, "Maybe it's time I had another crack at the Collatz Conjecture..."


By all means correct me if I'm wrong, but am I alone in thinking that this doesn't work? I mean, with the farewelling of sociology and biology and so forth, you seem to hold that once the subject of the discipline has been violently erased from the Universe, this Intelligence of yours may no longer dwell on it.
That's fair enough, I guess - I mean, the Intelligence could think about these dead fields in hypothetical terms, but not (as you say) in terms of relevance.
However, in your last stage - in the complete absence of all matter; all observable and divisible phenomena to split into numbers - you just seem not to apply the same logic to mathematics. If the subject of mathematics (numbers) is no longer present (as it could certainly not be in a world of nothing), how can this Intelligence still dwell on the interrelationships of numbers and theorums and conjectures? When the subject doesn't exist anymore; when it fails your own relevance test?
If the destruction of the last non-hypothetical molecule means the end of chemistry, then the destruction of the last non-hypothetical number must surely mean the end of mathematics. It's only fair.

mealone wrote:
The Rumpled Academic wrote:...

Numbers weren't discovered by people, they were invented by them.
Now, I'm not trying to be one of those annoying philosobitches who sit in the corner and responds to everything with, "Ah! But how do you know it really exiiiists?!"; I'm merely saying that numbers are indeed an epistomological construction. The purest mathematical axiom/whiddlydooda one could possibly come up (x time y = xy, even) with is essentially going to be:
[human concept] [doing something thought up by humans as pretty neat for these concepts to do] [human concept] = [human concept].
Insofar as they are internally consistent, I absolutely agree. My only point is that mathematicians oughtn't act as though they are dealing with absolute, Platonic truths, when in fact they're doing the exact same thing as the rest of us are doing - fiddling about with concepts the human brain has come up with, to try and deal with the essential strangeness of being.
...

While the representations systems are invented, they do deal with things that occur in nature. Clearly addition occurs (1 apple is added to a pile of 3 apples, there are now 4 apples), multiplication is just repeated addition. etc. In this case, I would consider math absolute. These are logically extended. When math is extended to principles which have not yet been prooven, that math cannot (in my mind) be considered pure until that principle is proven. I would, however consider the statements which have been proven to be pure, as they are a logical extension of observable phenomena.


It takes a conscious mind to differentiate those apples. To say, "here is an object, and here is another object that is similar to it, but different in occupying different space-time, so I shall take them to be two of the same thing." You say that "clearly addition occurs", but what you've actually presented with your apples is addition occuring in the mind of the observer, not in an unobserved reality.
In an unobserved (read: 'pure') reality, there wouldn't be 1 apple added to 3 apples to make 4 - rather, there would just be apples, carriers of energy; sprouting, growing, and rotting, all in a state of absolute undivision. We only have numbers to work with once we start arbitrarily breaking the Universe down into parts. Why, really, have you chosen to differentiate and group those few apples, when all of the criteria we might use for such a process are based on arbitrary sensory intuitions?

If I wanted to be really irritating, I could also point out that the fundamental principles of logic that base and extend all maths are all subject to the same criticism, and could in fact all be an elaborate charade placed in front of our eyes by Descarte's Evil Demon. I'm loth to do so, however, just because I know how truly despised a figure it made him. ^_^
(But, you know, the dude had a point. Just because something seems intuitionisically true, and is supported by phenomena observed by our immensely foolable senses, does not make it absolute truth. For, in the end, that is what the logical basis of all mathematics comes down to - and I'm positive that many of you would be distraught to hear a theist use the same criteria (of intuition and the support of observed phenomena) to affirm the existence of God with the same certainty as can be claimed of the existence of numbers.)

SolkaTruesilver wrote:Math isn't a "human invention". The number 2 hasn't been invented by humans. The symbol we use has, off course. be it 2 or II, it means the same thing that is universal across the universe. A twin-star has 2 stars in it, and
othing could ever change that save destroying one of them. A twin-star has 2 stars in it, and nothing could ever change that save destroying one of them.


What you're essentially saying with the twin-star example is the same as saying, "grass is green, because, to my particular conception of the Universe, grass looks green. Nothing could ever change that, save the destruction (or painting) of all grass."
Humans didn't look at green, previously existing independently of human observation or categorisation, and simply make up the label or symbol of green. Rather, creatures developed eyes with quite specific processes for converting light rays into sensations for the mind, which created the colour green, not in some Absolute Reality, but in our minds only. The same is true of numbers and mathematics. We looked at the Universe, and our brains developed reasoning processes that made it seem natural to differentiate things and to group them together - creating numbers, again, not in some Absolute Reality, but in our minds only.

The Universe exists - all the dividing we do beyond that is all in our own heads. It's perfectly understandable why mathematics developed this way - Jesus H. Macy, look at everything it's allowed us to do! I mean WHEE! - but it is absolutely an invention of the human brain. We attach numbers to things in the same way we do temperatures and moods and tastes - by sensing, and then by rationalising what we sense.

I don't quite know how well I've explained myself, but d'you get what I mean? SolkaTruesilver says that a twin-star has 2 stars in it with such conviction, but if he (or she, or someone else, or the floating Intelligence of the above example) hadn't come along and defined those stars as seperate things, then it could not be said to contain 2 stars. Rather, it would simply exist, within and unseperated from the wholeness of everything.

space_raptor wrote:I don't really mind the English and Arts students, they're just so darn CUTE.


Does this mean I have... what, a grace period of 10 seconds to run away before the pure-math guys come after my blood? :lol:

Xalerwons
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Re: "Purity" Discussion

Postby Xalerwons » Wed Jun 11, 2008 5:49 pm UTC

On a more whimsical note:
Math is just applied philosophy.

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pliny
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Re: "Purity" Discussion

Postby pliny » Wed Jun 11, 2008 5:52 pm UTC

Xalerwons wrote:On a more whimsical note:
Math is just applied philosophy.


Because repetition makes truth.

Haha.
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Re: "Purity" Discussion

Postby Patren » Wed Jun 11, 2008 5:54 pm UTC

João
However, I don't know why you would put anthropology as a science. Isn't it more like a compound full of other things?


Well, it is pretty much the study of all humanity. And even that line is getting slightly blurred with the inclusion of more animal studies for comparison reasons. So it isn't so much full of other things as it is full of all things. We enjoy the vagueness.

Izawwlgood wrote:Breakthroughs in biology mean cures

While breakthroughs in biological anthropology can mean the discovery of the ultimate cause of the disease leading to the anthropologists standing up on podiums shouting 'won't someone please listen to me! we won't have cancer anymore if you do this'. But of course everyone walks by without paying attention and then the biologists come along and go, 'well here is this pill or harsh medical treatment that will probably get rid of the cancer," and everyone goes Huzzah! Except for all the fields of anthropology banding together to comfort the biological anthropologist since no one will listen to them. Except for some of the cultural anthropologists going, 'See? Culture is a bigger determinant than biology'.

Of course there is also probably an ethnobotanist looking at that pill going, "Wait a minute, that has the same chemical formula as that flower the people of the OingoBoingo tribe use to cure their diseases for centuries and when I told everyone thirty years ago they went 'oh those quaint little oingoboingers and their eating of flowers'.

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Re: "Purity" Discussion

Postby SolkaTruesilver » Wed Jun 11, 2008 6:00 pm UTC

The Rumpled Academic wrote:What you're essentially saying with the twin-star example is the same as saying, "grass is green, because, to my particular conception of the Universe, grass looks green. Nothing could ever change that, save the destruction (or painting) of all grass."
Humans didn't look at green, previously existing independently of human observation or categorisation, and simply make up the label or symbol of green. Rather, creatures developed eyes with quite specific processes for converting light rays into sensations for the mind, which created the colour green, not in some Absolute Reality, but in our minds only. The same is true of numbers and mathematics. We looked at the Universe, and our brains developed reasoning processes that made it seem natural to differentiate things and to group them together - creating numbers, again, not in some Absolute Reality, but in our minds only.

The Universe exists - all the dividing we do beyond that is all in our own heads. It's perfectly understandable why mathematics developed this way - Jesus H. Macy, look at everything it's allowed us to do! I mean WHEE! - but it is absolutely an invention of the human brain. We attach numbers to things in the same way we do temperatures and moods and tastes - by sensing, and then by rationalising what we sense.

I don't quite know how well I've explained myself, but d'you get what I mean? SolkaTruesilver says that a twin-star has 2 stars in it with such conviction, but if he (or she, or someone else, or the floating Intelligence of the above example) hadn't come along and defined those stars as seperate things, then it could not be said to contain 2 stars. Rather, it would simply exist, within and unseperated from the wholeness of everything.


I think I do, and I totally disagree. Green isn't something we invented. It's a peticular range of electromagnetic waves. That we perceive it or not, that we label it or not, it's still there. Grass will be green since it's the electromagnetic wave it reflects, period. You may call it red, blue, or zimborg, it's still gonna be the same wavelenght, which means it's gonna be the same thing, independantly what you call it, or how you conceive it.

And you completely missed my point about the stars. I just wanted to say that if there are 2 things, any intelligence conceivable capable of seeing these things will see TWO (* *) things. Animals sometimes got to understand some limited "numbers" concept. Mathematics simply is. A prime number will always be a prime number, and there isn't a damn thing you can do about it. There isn't a way to comprehend it to change that fact. Multiply any number by nothing, and you will get nothing. Nothing can change that. It's pure fact, it doesn't even enter into the definition of "existance"

I would say Logic and Mathematics are both sides of the same coin. Logic is quantitative, mathematics is quantitatif. Both apply to each other.

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The Rumpled Academic
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Re: "Purity" Discussion

Postby The Rumpled Academic » Wed Jun 11, 2008 6:16 pm UTC

SolkaTruesilver wrote:I think I do, and I totally disagree. Green isn't something we invented. It's a peticular range of electromagnetic waves. That we perceive it or not, that we label it or not, it's still there. Grass will be green since it's the electromagnetic wave it reflects, period. You may call it red, blue, or zimborg, it's still gonna be the same wavelenght, which means it's gonna be the same thing, independantly what you call it, or how you conceive it.


The electromagnetic waves are there, absolutely - just as I've said throughout that matter is there - but green doesn't exist except for in human perception of it; in human minds. It isn't simply the labels we're talking about here: it's the true nature of the thing. To say that "Grass will be green since it's the electromagnetic wave it reflects, period" ignores the variability possible in the instruments we use to perceive it. I'm not a biologist, but I've definitely read that the different kinds of eyes possessed by different animals render things different colours to how we perceive them.
The matter that we use as the basis to invent mathematics is there, and without a consciousness to splash everything with numbers, they still would, but numbers would not. Why would they? There's a Buddhist term that describes this state very well - the 'simple suchness'; unencumbered by any, and all, human notions.

With such subjectivity and variability inherent in the tools used to see it alone, how can you say that the grass is green without an observer there to see it as such?
With its identical mind-dependentness, how can you say that the number 2 exists without an observer there to see it as such?

SolkaTruesilver wrote:And you completely missed my point about the stars. I just wanted to say that if there are 2 things, any intelligence conceivable capable of seeing these things will see TWO (* *) things. Animals sometimes got to understand some limited "numbers" concept.


I actually used the term 'creature' when discussing this necessary consciousness to avoid this very objection. I say human consciousness because we are the species who have taken numerical reasoning processes much further than any other creature we know of, but the things I've been saying about the mind-dependence of both numbers and green apply to all human consciousness, animal-consciousness, and floating consciousness.

SolkaTruesilver wrote:Mathematics simply is. A prime number will always be a prime number, and there isn't a damn thing you can do about it. There isn't a way to comprehend it to change that fact. Multiply any number by nothing, and you will get nothing. Nothing can change that. It's pure fact, it doesn't even enter into the definition of "existance"


Prove it.

More to the point, try and prove it without using mathematics (which would naturally render your proof null and void through the logic-sin of self-fulfilment).

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Re: "Purity" Discussion

Postby MysticTerminator » Wed Jun 11, 2008 6:23 pm UTC

so your argument seems to be veering towards something like "how do we know that any of our senses accurately reflect what's actually out there? we don't! therefore we don't know anything". in its purest form, this is true, but I don't think it's really an effective counterargument to what you're trying to disprove. For example, I think you're saying: hey! how do we know the grass is green? maybe it's not really green! maybe our eyes are lying to us since our eyes are different from everybody else's eyes and it's really something else! well, yes, but this doesn't serve to explain that green doesn't exist except in our mind. it just says that what we perceive the grass to be doesn't necessarily exist outside of our mind. we can still define green to be the wavelength between such and such nanometers, and then we can say that we perceive the grass to be green since we perceive it to reflect lights of wavelengths in that range, and then you could accurately point out that the fact that "we perceive the grass to be green" is necessarily lodged only within our own mind, but the problem isn't that green can't be defined elsewhere, the problem is that the perception part isn't applicable elsewhere. green still exists.

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Re: "Purity" Discussion

Postby abzman2000 » Wed Jun 11, 2008 6:27 pm UTC

I remember hearing this at penguicon; I actually considered switching my major to math, from physics but not anymore, nice comeback and such a good analogy

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Re: "Purity" Discussion

Postby Closet Science Geek » Wed Jun 11, 2008 6:28 pm UTC

I have an axe to grind.

Why, in the original, does the sociologist remain quiet? When have sociologists ever remained quiet? Couldn't she be at least mocking some anthropologists? I'm only a sociology minor (I'm far too dumb to study any "real" or "hard" sciences, even as a minor), but I identify with her. Maybe it's because she looks like me (i.e., short, female, dark-haired. That's about as specific as xkcd gets with people.)

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Re: "Purity" Discussion

Postby SolkaTruesilver » Wed Jun 11, 2008 6:31 pm UTC

The Rumpled Academic wrote:Prove it.

More to the point, try and prove it without using mathematics (which would naturally render your proof null and void through the logic-sin of self-fulfilment).


I agree with MysticTerminator, and I think your line of thinking falls into the "Existence Nihilist". You don't accept any proof that hasn't any base, but you require proofs for these bases, and you refuse self-evident proofs, or self-prooving ideas. Therefore, nothing exists to you.

I refuse that conception of reality

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Re: "Purity" Discussion

Postby Rage Cage » Wed Jun 11, 2008 6:36 pm UTC

Rage Cage wrote:But, economists easily take the assumption of human rationality to far. Where advances in sociology
Oh, and if you want to hate on econ more just remember this, we still get a nobel prize... bitches!

No, you don't! You don't have the Nobel Prize, you have The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel. Common misunderstanding :P


Thanks for straightening that out! :wink:

Unfortunately there are some inherent ethical problems (not to mention logistics) with testing a hypothesis in economics using traditional scientific method. It is similar to medicine in that way, only we don't have lab rats... hmmmm...

Hypothesis: Economic growth in underdeveloped countries increases at a rate directly proportional to education expenditure given a five year lag.

Control: Guatema... I mean, umm, none.

Which instead leads to a lot of statistical analysis or a "completely a priori theoretical argument." But there are some pretty cool consumer behavior experiments going on in econ. I think there was a 'Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel' given out a few years ago for work in the Experimental economics field. It's funny that economics has a seperate field for experimenting. Can you imagine Experimental Chemistry?

Experimental Economics

Back to the topic:

Isn't mathematics completely different from the Sciences in the comic? It's not just 'more pure,' it is different. Unlike the other fields, maths doesn't describe the universe, even though it used in all endeavors that do so.

I think the basic difference is that you can have something that is logically unflawed in the sciences and still be wrong. If your proof is unflawed in math, that's it, right?

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Re: "Purity" Discussion

Postby MysticTerminator » Wed Jun 11, 2008 6:42 pm UTC

Rage Cage wrote:Isn't mathematics completely different from the Sciences in the comic? It's not just 'more pure,' it is different. Unlike the other fields, maths doesn't describe the universe, even though it used in all endeavors that do so.

I think the basic difference is that you can have something that is logically unflawed in the sciences and still be wrong. If your proof is unflawed in math, that's it, right?


well I think all of the sciences are attempting to describe things that are true. maths simply has an easier time of it because it's closer to the root. so like all the sciences besides maths need the universe in order to exist (maths does not), and so there's a distinction there. but then all the sciences besides maths and physics need atoms in order to exist, and then all the sciences besides maths, physics, chemistry need life forms in order to exist, and then all the sciences besides maths, physics, chemistry, and biology need intelligent lifeforms in order to exist, and so on.

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Re: "Purity" Discussion

Postby mootinator » Wed Jun 11, 2008 6:44 pm UTC

But... Sociology is just applied statistics.

Math's evil twin is arguably the least pure of them all.

Which makes this a loop.

QED.

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Re: "Purity" Discussion

Postby davef » Wed Jun 11, 2008 6:47 pm UTC

Eight pages and nobody's mentioned this yet.
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Re: "Purity" Discussion

Postby pliny » Wed Jun 11, 2008 6:51 pm UTC

MysticTerminator wrote:so your argument seems to be veering towards something like "how do we know that any of our senses accurately reflect what's actually out there? we don't! therefore we don't know anything". in its purest form, this is true, but I don't think it's really an effective counterargument to what you're trying to disprove. For example, I think you're saying: hey! how do we know the grass is green? maybe it's not really green! maybe our eyes are lying to us since our eyes are different from everybody else's eyes and it's really something else! well, yes, but this doesn't serve to explain that green doesn't exist except in our mind. it just says that what we perceive the grass to be doesn't necessarily exist outside of our mind. we can still define green to be the wavelength between such and such nanometers, and then we can say that we perceive the grass to be green since we perceive it to reflect lights of wavelengths in that range, and then you could accurately point out that the fact that "we perceive the grass to be green" is necessarily lodged only within our own mind, but the problem isn't that green can't be defined elsewhere, the problem is that the perception part isn't applicable elsewhere. green still exists.


Perhaps predictably, I am going to defend Rumpled.

Green is not, in fact, a wavelength of light, it is a color as experienced by the human consciousness. There is absolutely no logical reason to break the spectrum of light into discrete sections, as we presently do, except to explain colors as we see them. Light wavelength is not quantized, it is not a staircase, it is a ramp.

The cultural concept of "green" (which is its truest and only real existence as "green") would never have arisen, say, if we were blind mole-people. That isn't to say the light wouldn't be of that wavelength, but rather to say it wouldn't be green. Despite whatever you may think, this holds for cultural concepts such as "two" "three" and "eleven".
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Re: "Purity" Discussion

Postby MysticTerminator » Wed Jun 11, 2008 7:04 pm UTC

Hm, maybe green is defined as the perception light of a certain wavelengths evokes in the human brain rather than those light particles themselves. I'm not sure. I was working under the latter definition. Just for the sake of clarity, I'll separate these two possibilities and define "greenoid" as photons with energy in such and such range. Greenoid exists independently of our cultural expectations and whatnot. Certainly, there's a reason that I defined it as I did - I didn't say there wasn't. Nonetheless, it exists independently of a mind which needs to perceive it.

This is even more obvious for numbers. Obviously, there's a reason why it occurred to humans to talk about numbers, but they exist without the need for a human to talk about them. 2 quarks will be 2 quarks will be 2 quarks, regardless of whether there's a human talking about them at the moment.
Last edited by MysticTerminator on Wed Jun 11, 2008 7:08 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: "Purity" Discussion

Postby beowulf29a » Wed Jun 11, 2008 7:05 pm UTC

where to statistician fall in the purity scale? i would think right after psychologists, but i'm not certain they are that pure ;-)

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Re: "Purity" Discussion

Postby PhazeDK » Wed Jun 11, 2008 7:06 pm UTC

I call for a t-shirt.

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Re: "Purity" Discussion

Postby scarletmanuka » Wed Jun 11, 2008 7:08 pm UTC

MysticTerminator wrote:of course; I didn't mean to imply that the entire extent of those subfields were proper subsets of physics (although it does seem that I meant that), rather, as you seem to agree, that neither analysis nor geometry would be near the level of sophistication at which they now Lie were it not for the great deal of physical intuition and motivation for the two fields

Fixed. I'm sorry I won't do it again please don't hurt me!

AstralRunner wrote:Or, as a quote I've forgotten the source of goes, "People who believe the Earth to be flat are wrong. People who believe the Earth to be a sphere are also, strictly speaking, wrong. But if you think that they are both equally wrong, then you are more wrong than both of them put together." Or something like that.

Isaac Asimov, in his essay "The Relativity of Wrong".

Warped_Jack wrote:Who was it who said he was "Standing on the shoulders of giants"?

Isaac Newton. Of course many parodies of this line exist; my favourite is "If I have failed to see as far as others, it is because giants have been standing on my shoulders."

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Re: "Purity" Discussion

Postby space_raptor » Wed Jun 11, 2008 7:09 pm UTC

Copelovitchski wrote:And the ME's have trebuchets and ballistae... YEAH!

Regarding purity, I would argue that Mechanical and Electrical Engineers would be about the same. They do each borrow (slightly) from each other... maybe very slightly... but even so (or perhaps because of said lack of overlap?), neither is appreciably less pure than the other. Also, you could argue that Civl Engineering is a subset of Mechanical (Disclosure: I am in fact studying ME, so this may be slightly biased due to the combination of ego and academic-isolation-from-real-world effect). And concurr about business students :D .


I was going to mention the trebuchets. Really, I was. See below. It is my opinion that EEs in general have to know more math than MEs, especially given the wide array of subjects EEs can get involved in. I know I took more calculus than the MEs at my school, and we definitely had to use more for calculating electric fields and Gauss thingamajiggies and there is that whole frequency domain thing (f*ck you, Fourier) and even the digital circuits world can get pretty complex.

There is a fair amount of overlap, for example when it comes to control systems and the like, but like this guy says, it's a really big field. I do think that the fields have parallels, but I think your average ME grad would take more "applied" type courses than the average EE grad, not that that's a bad thing, obviously, except in terms of this scale. I wish I'd taken a few more courses on how stuff actually works instead of more Laplace transforms and vector calculus, cause it turns out that stuff's not all that useful in the real world.

DeadCatX2 wrote:My only issue is that EE used to be this gigantic field which had massive sub-fields. Recently, Computer Engineering has splintered off, with a greater focus on programming. This helps make embedded systems designers much more versatile (of which I happen to be one of those versatile, hardware-software-hybrid-engineers), but at the expense of missing core principles in EE (like EM, antenna theory, analog filters, etc).

space_raptor wrote:I don't really mind the English and Arts students, they're just so darn CUTE.


Could it be that the male:female ratio in English and the Arts is much better than in Engineering?

Where I went, the business and engineering students often shared the same buildings. I once saw the following written on a bathroom stall...

limgpa->0 Engineering Major = Business Major


You are right, I think, on the sub-fields thing but that can also apply to the other fields. For example a structural civil engineer would be higher on the scale than, say, a transportation engineer or a soil engineer, and you could split ChemEs into petroleum engineers and materials engineers and Mechs into industrial or manufacturing and automotive or what have you, but I think those 4 would be the Kingdoms of the engineering world. One could argue that Civils are really a version of Mech but I wouldn't break it down like that, I think the differences are important enough to warrant a separate class. That could be because I've dated a few civil engineers and they get defensive about it, though. :)

Ten-four on the male-female ratio of Arts majors, but I more meant that they think of themselves, you know, as creating! and feeling! and translating the human experience into words and emotional expressions of art! You know, that kind of cute. I'm not saying one thing is superior, but I'm just saying it's way off the scale from the cold hard realities of engineering and math.

When I was in school me and some buddies put up some white board art in our IEEE room called "The Bridge Problem". We had a picture of each type of engineering represented, plus Arts, and the Management faculty. They showed how each discipline would get people across a canyon.

The Civil engineers had, obviously, a bridge, the ChemEs had a pipeline that went down and through the canyon and then back up, the MechEs had a trebuchet, the Geomatics engineers (they had their own department at my school) had a couple of satellites in the air and a bunch of question marks around their heads, and the EEs had a transporter. The arts faculty walked across on a magic rainbow. I wish I had a picture of that. Oh yeah, and there was a McDonald's sign on the other side of their bridge.

The Management bridge was made by filling the canyon with human bodies. There was a large stick figure ordering other stick figures off the cliff into the canyon. Heh.
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Re: "Purity" Discussion

Postby blazillian » Wed Jun 11, 2008 7:12 pm UTC

I'd argue that Chemistry and physics should be closer together. I study both, and there are a lot of times that chemistry is more fundamental than physics, and there are an equal number of times that principles of chemistry are one and the same as the principles of physics.

Granted, I'm biased as a chemist first and foremost. :)

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Re: "Purity" Discussion

Postby Droffats » Wed Jun 11, 2008 7:14 pm UTC

Thanks for the perfectly sized comic for viewing on an Eee PC.
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Re: "Purity" Discussion

Postby pliny » Wed Jun 11, 2008 7:17 pm UTC

@space_raptor:

And the philosophers stuck behind because they realized they didn't need to cross the canyon in the first place.
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Re: "Purity" Discussion

Postby MysticTerminator » Wed Jun 11, 2008 7:19 pm UTC

blazillian wrote:I'd argue that Chemistry and physics should be closer together. I study both, and there are a lot of times that chemistry is more fundamental than physics, and there are an equal number of times that principles of chemistry are one and the same as the principles of physics.

Granted, I'm biased as a chemist first and foremost. :)


hmm. certainly the principles of chemistry are all physics. when would chemistry be more fundamental than physics? just curious here.

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Re: "Purity" Discussion

Postby Sprocket » Wed Jun 11, 2008 7:21 pm UTC

I've seen this applied to sciences and math many many many many times. I've never had anyone bother to include Psychology and Sociology in there though. Seems a bit of a jump to me.

Regardless I've always felt "purity" was a bizarre sort of measurement.
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Re: "Purity" Discussion

Postby Rage Cage » Wed Jun 11, 2008 7:24 pm UTC

MysticTerminator wrote:
Rage Cage wrote:Isn't mathematics completely different from the Sciences in the comic? It's not just 'more pure,' it is different. Unlike the other fields, maths doesn't describe the universe, even though it used in all endeavors that do so.

I think the basic difference is that you can have something that is logically unflawed in the sciences and still be wrong. If your proof is unflawed in math, that's it, right?


well I think all of the sciences are attempting to describe things that are true. maths simply has an easier time of it because it's closer to the root. so like all the sciences besides maths need the universe in order to exist (maths does not), and so there's a distinction there. but then all the sciences besides maths and physics need atoms in order to exist, and then all the sciences besides maths, physics, chemistry need life forms in order to exist, and then all the sciences besides maths, physics, chemistry, and biology need intelligent lifeforms in order to exist, and so on.


How about putting it this way: If you were somehow able to change the universal constants, it would change all of the sciences. However, math (and economists) would still happily plod along with nothing changed.

Maybe (probably?) universal constans are not arbitrary and thus could not be hypothetically changed. Maybe there exists a proof for why the speed of light = c, waiting to be discoverd. That would be something.

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Re: "Purity" Discussion

Postby MysticTerminator » Wed Jun 11, 2008 7:26 pm UTC

well yeah, exactly. all the rest of the sciences depend on the universe. similarly, if you could change carbon backbone to silicon backbone or something, all the sciences from biology on would be affected, while physics and math would not. each layer requires a corresponding increase in dependence.

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Re: "Purity" Discussion

Postby Realist » Wed Jun 11, 2008 7:30 pm UTC

Why do people keep saying that math is a science? Math is not science! It doesn't use the scientific method and it's not empirical. Math is in the humanities along with literature, philosophy, history and the other analytical, nonempirical fields.

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Re: "Purity" Discussion

Postby crzygrl0902 » Wed Jun 11, 2008 7:38 pm UTC

i love it, and it's very true, but i have to say thea physics is totally applied math. just putting i tout there. :)

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The Rumpled Academic
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Re: "Purity" Discussion

Postby The Rumpled Academic » Wed Jun 11, 2008 7:46 pm UTC

SolkaTruesilver wrote:I agree with MysticTerminator, and I think your line of thinking falls into the "Existence Nihilist". You don't accept any proof that hasn't any base, but you require proofs for these bases, and you refuse self-evident proofs, or self-prooving ideas. Therefore, nothing exists to you.

I refuse that conception of reality


If all that you take 'nihilist' to mean is that I don't believe anything can be proven, 100%, to be true, under any circumstances, then I guess I am one. It certainly seems to me to be the path most supported by logic. (Certainly more so than an unshakable belief in the absolute truth of an unprovable proof just because you want to believe that it's true, no?) The part that certainly does not apply to me is this "nothing exists to me" junk. If I may (be a self-indulgent twat for a moment and) quote myself from earlier in this thread:

Me wrote:My personal view of this purity business would hold that, given that we can't prove any of our concepts or disciplines actually exist, the best thing to do is to hold on to what we can feel. Joy is the best kind of purity. If mathematics or ballooning anthropology or fishing makes you happy, then that should top it on your lists of both Purity and Awesome. I don't believe numbers exist in the untouchable Platonic way many in this thread seem to, but I believe that the satisfaction and happiness derived by millions of mathematicians from practising their art (I apologise; I do see it as an art) more than justifies its existence as a discipline. Just like fishing.


I live, and I breathe, and I listen to music, and I feel happiness. If they are illusions, then I wish them to continue with all my heart. I believe in a physical universe, but not a universe that somehow contains human ideas in it, even when unobserved by any consciousness - that contains an objective green, that contains the arbitrary distinction of matter necessary to the formulation of numbers. This in no way stops me from enjoying the many benefits of existence, or from loving the life and happiness that I accept I have no way of knowing are real.
(If you knew me, you'd think it pretty funny I'm being accused of nihilism (with all the wrist-slitting implications the term bears); to be frank, I'm the cheeriest person I know. :) )

Like I said before, my personal view sees happiness as the Endgame. Anything that creates happiness is good, and should be perpetuated; bubble-gum, cinematography, guitars, mathematics... everything. The reason I can not strictly believe in anything (even the most fundamental and allegedly self-evident proof) and still believe in this goodness is because even if both the Beach Boys and the happiness I'm deriving from listening to them right now is an illusion, I can feel the happiness it causes, and I like it, goddamn. :D I don't need to know it exists to enjoy it. I don't even need to know enjoyment exists to enjoy it!
That's what I meant when I said "the best thing to do is to hold on to what we can feel" - that, Solka, is what "exists to me". And I love life for it.
This yearning for the 'pure' and the 'true'... it was a vain and foolish notion to begin with. We can't see past our own eyes; every conception of reality we come up with will always be constrained and tainted by the human concepts and instincts that we are born with. Let go of the 'truth' and just enjoy what's in front of you!
...stop trying to find some pure form of heaven in logic and numbers, and just try to find it in life.

[/hippie rant. Apologies; I did need to show how completely opposed my philosophy of life is to 'nothing-matters' nihilism, though.]
Last edited by The Rumpled Academic on Wed Jun 11, 2008 7:59 pm UTC, edited 2 times in total.

babe_noit
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Re: "Purity" Discussion

Postby babe_noit » Wed Jun 11, 2008 7:49 pm UTC

What about geology? That is a science too, and its full of great puns... some say it rocks.

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Re: "Purity" Discussion

Postby ASW » Wed Jun 11, 2008 7:51 pm UTC

1. My wife and I are a Biologist MS and A CS BS respectively. We have this conversation a lot ;) I am all about physics as the pure, of course math is the most pure but as the subtitle of the pic says, "On the other hand, as physicists like to say, physics is to math as sex is to masturbation.
2. I would say in response to where CS lies, I would say right next to physics. because CS isn't really about computers we aren't engineers or programmers, it is much much different. “Computer science is no more about computers than astronomy is about telescopes.”
3. Math is a science, currently depending on different constants such as e and pi. You could travel across the universe and begin a discussion of mathematics because pi will still be pi. The only difference would be the linguistics involved. As far as I have taken math (not very far, just numerical analysis) math always appeared to me to be constructs describing the way our universe appears at any level.

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Re: "Purity" Discussion

Postby space_raptor » Wed Jun 11, 2008 7:56 pm UTC

pliny wrote:@space_raptor:

And the philosophers stuck behind because they realized they didn't need to cross the canyon in the first place.

Or they dropped some acid and crossed the canyon in their minds, man.
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Re: "Purity" Discussion

Postby SolkaTruesilver » Wed Jun 11, 2008 8:01 pm UTC

The Rumpled Academic wrote:[/hippie rant. Apologies; I did need to show how completely opposed my philosophy of life is to 'nothing-matters' nihilism, though.]


I hope I have not offended you. I did not meant to say you think as pure nihilism, but I took the meaning of "nihil" (nothing, nothingness, oblivion?) up to the consideration. Come on, you asked me to prove that a Prime number is such that nothing could ever change about that fact, refusing beforehand a mathematical proof.

If you do not accept that a prime number is prime, then I do not see why you care about what happens outside the range of your perception. The basic of mathematics is the fundemental of.. reality upon which the laws of the universe can be understood. I do not think it is ennough to see if mathematics follows reality, but we need to accept that mathematic is reality. When you study mathematics, you study What Is. You study the fundementals of what the universe is at the core.

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Re: "Purity" Discussion

Postby bcoblentz » Wed Jun 11, 2008 8:13 pm UTC

Yeah, this comic is kind of funny, but it sidesteps the real issue (the alt text helps a little, though). What does purity have to do with anything? What does purity mean? If it means living in an ivory tower of abstraction, why should that even be something to be proud of? Why doesn't everyone just drop the facade and simply say, "I think I'm better than you because I like the things I like"?

Apologies if these questions have already been answered, but I don't really feel like going through 8 pages of what ultimately boils down to "my dad can beat up your dad"-style posturing.

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Re: "Purity" Discussion

Postby You, sir, name? » Wed Jun 11, 2008 8:14 pm UTC

This would make a very nice T-shirt.

Anyways, mathematics is just applied logic, so a logician is obviously purer than a mathematician.
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