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The Redshirt's Guide to Russell's Paradox

I thought I'd explain my new tagline today.

You know how Kirk is always talking master computers to death?
Computers that have usually just killed a bunch of people?
Well, who are the most killable people on Star Trek (or on any Sci-Fi show in general)? Redshirts.
So, I thought I'd do the multiverse a public service and teach redshirts about Russell's paradox as a way to talk computers to death.
Some sets, such as the set of all teacups, are not members of themselves. Other sets, such as the set of all non-teacups, are members of themselves. Call the set of all sets that are not members of themselves "R." If R is a member of itself, then by definition it must not be a member of itself. Similarly, if R is not a member of itself, then by definition it must be a member of itself. Discovered by Bertrand Russell in 1901, the paradox has prompted much work in logic, set theory and the philosophy and foundations of mathematics.

Old Tiberius, of course, has killed computers with simpler paradoxes before, such as utility conflict between Asimov's Zeroth and First Laws. Silver-tongued devil that he was, he could probably kill one with an omega combinator. Of course, computers of "his day" (1969 displaced) would intone "SUBMIT TO THE WILL OF LANDRU" and the like.

Some don't like Russell, Whitehead, and Hardy so much on USENET (especially the more Americans in rec.arts.books.tolkien and alt.fan.tolkien) because all three men were agnostics, but I'm sure the convert_me crowd and aspiring philosophers such as oikade make a point of reading and thinking a lot about their work on the foundations of logic and mathematics. All the mathematicians (of whom there are too many to enumerate on my friends list) should, too!

In other news: Kudos to narvi for having the courage to go here at midnight last night.

--
Banazir

Comments

( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
vretallin
Mar. 20th, 2005 09:15 pm (UTC)
You know how Kirk is always talking master computers to death?
Computers that have usually just killed a bunch of people?
Well, who are the most killable people on Star Trek (or on any Sci-Fi show in general)? Redshirts.


I think I am afraid it made it in to the wikipedia.
banazir
Mar. 20th, 2005 10:55 pm (UTC)
Redshirts?
I think I am afraid it made it in to the wikipedia.
Oh, that's the newest greatest thing: Wikipedia is full of pop-culture reference entries. Some of them are better than the USENET Jargon List; others are frighteningly dateable, and will be obsolete in a year. But such is the ephemeral nature of net references.

--
Banazir
yahvah
Mar. 20th, 2005 09:26 pm (UTC)
My grandpa McGinnis used to see some of those monstrous computers when he was off on business for Cooper-Bessemer (which is now part of the Cooper Cameron corporation). He gave me this weird little blue computer for my fourth birthday. It had these cardboard cards you could slide in and out of it. But I don't remember what it was named or who made it, and I really wish I did because I want to at least see a picture of it for memory's sake. I played with computer a lot as a kid, and I'm sure he bought it for me because he had any idea of what I'd be doing in the future (grandma McGinnis typed >100wpm on one of those old-fashioned mechanical typewriters, which is in my old bedroom back in Ohio).

That paradox hurts my head (even though I get it after re-reading it a couple times), and I was teaching pre-algebra to my classmates in the 7th grade. I didn't get into 8th grade algebra because we had to get a certain score on a test in order to qualify to get into the class, and Ms. Rice wouldn't recommend me to get into the class even though I got straight As in pre-algebra. I took pre-algebra again, and it was a waste of my time and killed my self-esteem for mathematics. It didn't help that I was really bad at taking tests, and also really bad at reading the examples on the test we were given.
auriam
Mar. 21st, 2005 04:35 am (UTC)
Being a "confirmed agnostic" myself, I tend to think that the more one learns, the less one "knows".
auriam
Mar. 21st, 2005 04:37 am (UTC)
...and that, maybe, true wisdom comes in knowing not only what you know, what you don't know, but also what you can't know, and what you don't need to know. If you seek infinity, you come away emptyhanded, or you end up like the raccoon caught in a trap because he won't let go of the bait...
auriam
Mar. 21st, 2005 04:40 am (UTC)
Not to say that it's "bad" to eternally seek knowledge, but that it's more... adaptive to be able to see it as an openended game, which is fun but not essential to your existence; if I take learning lightheartedly and pursue it at my leisure, at my whim, and just for the fun of it, I generally spend a lot more time at it, and come away with more information and less worry.
(Anonymous)
Mar. 21st, 2005 11:12 pm (UTC)
All that work and you still have too much time on your hands!
I have so much to read already. There are so many seminal works that I have yet to read (and I still need to take the classes so I can *understand* them first). So much to learn! ACK!

*falls down*

--grain_king@RCC (http://www.rcc.edu)
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )

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