Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Astro picture for the day/ quote/thought extras

Credit & Copyright: T. Rector (U. Alaska Anchorage) & H. Schweiker (WIYN, NOAO, AURA, NSF)

Quote for the day,

"The moving finger wrights and having writ moves on. Nor all your piety nor whit can cancel half a line.  Nor all your tear wash out  a word of it." - Omar Khayyam

In episode 30 of the Mechanical Univese(Potential and Capacitance), David L. Goodstein mentions how come lightning rods have round nobs on them instead of a sharp point as Benjamin Franklin thought. The reason is because of King George(of the British/American revolutionary war fame) thought they should be round instead of a sharp point. These are the types of connections that James Burke seems to be most in to. But, he makes some other connections.  I make some connections between these other connections and Jacob Bronowski's understanding of the nature of mathematics here,

Mathematics is the real connections. It's the underlying structural connections found by questioning assumptions - like the way questioning the assumptions of the flat Earth because that's what it looks like on first appearance.

Mathematics is an abstraction.  Abstraction is a common form that many other structures have.  For instance, two apples and two oranges both have the similar structure of the number two. Or the way differencial equations can be used to describe chemical, mechanical, electrical phenomenon. Yet, James Burke is proudly quoted as saying,

“Learners may study either history or physics, or perhaps only Renaissance history and astrophysics. People tend to become experts in highly specialized fields, learning more and more about less and less.” –James Burke

It happens(James Burke connections like) that legitimate things are done for illegitimate reasons.  For instance, Brahmagupta comes up with the general form solution of the linear Diophantine equation(Diophantus doesn't solve this in his collection of 'Diopantine equations.') to fix the stats of planetary motions collected by generations of Indian(India indian) astronomers. James Burke shows that the major historical events of Western civilization at least can be mapped out and clarified by the history of science and technology.  But, as the quote above indicates, he doesn't understand the connections of mathematics(the fundamental knowledge) to everything else.

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