On 03/01/2006, at 1:15 PM, Russell Standish wrote:

Thanks for your vote of confidence Kim, but sadly I am not attempting
to write a "laypersons" guide to the subject. Stephen Hawking did that
for cosmology in "Brief History of Time", which in my opinion is a
heroic failure. It is very well written, and avoids the use of terminology
(eg maths) unfamiliar with laypeople, but - sadly as a consequence
fails to educate anyone.

Well - if it's any consolation, I find "Theory of Nothing" way, way easier to grasp than BHoT which I read hungrily when it first appeared. A heroic failure indeed; I don't even find it very well written. I was unable to locate anyone at the time who could understand it either so gave up trying. Many authors have tackled the same subject matter since with a much higher degree of readability and explanatory power.

Rather I'm trying put things together at a level that people on this
list might understand, its a sort of least common denominator of the
various disciplines involved - computer science, physics, maths,
biology, cognitive science and dare I say philosophy. I picked for
reference the sort of mathematical/scientific understanding I had
achieved in year 11/12 of high school. This is not to say that your
average year 11/12 student will be able to manage this, but I'm hoping
that most of my intended audience can manage that level of logical
thought, that is, that anyone interested in the topic can, with some
effort perhaps, understand the material. Sad to say, I doubt that the
general public will ever get it.

Of course - you simply cannot and should not try to simplify it beyond a certain point. Otherwise it comes across as a bunch of hocus- pocus. That's what I like about it - you have struck the hoped-for balance between technical exposition and verbal summing-up (at least for me).

Perhaps this subject can get the Hawking BHoT treatment in due course,
but we're probably at least a decade or two away from that.

If, as DD argues, quantum computation should be available in about a decade, should we not try to accelerate the pace of public education in this field so that the intellectual terrain is prepared a little in advance, so to speak? Unless people generally have some grasp of multiverse theory, q comp is going to appear like magic. We don't want people turning this thing into a religion, do we?

On your music point, have you read "Goedel, Escher, Bach" by
Hofstadter? I've just finished reading it, and wondered why I didn't
read this gem 2 decades ago. It is full of musical references, so you
will appreciate it.

I mentioned this one to you a while back; I'm ready to re-read it now that I understand better the impact of Goedel's Incompleteness theorems (thanks mainly to the exploration of these by the very fine writers on this list). One thing is for sure, Hofstadter does approach my notion of a "musical object" spinning in its own space. I simply ask - where is this space? Probably in my head. Without necessarily talking about triangle land and blue mists of probability over Platonia a la Barbour, I have always had the firmest impression that musical statements are solid objects in some sense. That alone prompts me to seek some discussion on this point. Is music a description of a thing or is it the thing itself? Certainly no musician is able to answer that point unaided speaking from the standpoint of the "laws" of music alone - whence my bringing the notion to the rather broader field of discussion that this list allows.

Probably this is simply too wayward a notion; I'm happy to be taken apart and criticised by other thinkers (I already have been, roundly) but I reject out of hand the supercilious verbal sneers about "pseudomathematical nonsense".

cheers, Russ


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