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Ok, Let’s Put Our Heads Between Our Knees and Take a Few Deep Breaths

Ok, Let’s Put Our Heads Between Our Knees and Take a Few Deep Breaths May 1, 2012

Keep Calm and Look at this Bacteriophage (which will never compare you to Hitler)

Mark’s got another post up today, profiling a gay friend he greatly admires, and I’ve got a few more things I’d like to respond to, but I’m going to take a little break.  Judging by the comment threads, this hasn’t been a particularly helpful discussion.  I’ve registered and explained my objection to the Nazi allusions, and I’m going to hold off on following up until I think I’ve got a better strategy for the discussion.

It seems like, to have a conversation about LGBT rights with this readership, it’s necessary to tightly constrain the issue we’re talking about, so there aren’t a lot of non-sequiturs and sprawling rants.  We’ve had more success discussing only the possible erotization of same-sex friendship or empirical data on gay marriage that will exist in 20 or so years.  Limiting the discussion to rhetoric didn’t work because people felt it made sense to bring anything into the conversation to explain why their hyperbolic language was necessary.

I’ve never banned anyone from commenting at Unequally Yoked, and I don’t plan to start, but I did notice a problem during these discussions where a couple people were dominating the threads by making really hyperbolic claims (even given that we started at Godwin’s Law).  I really want to emphasize that it’s fine to walk away from a fight.

No one was going to believe those claims were true if no one replied to them.  I made this mistake a couple of times, and I don’t want to see our often productive discussions derailed because everyone thinks it’s most urgent to reply to the craziest person in the thread.  It’s a lot better to respond to the sanest person you disagree with and work your way up from there as time and blood pressure permits.

So, while we’re taking a breather, I think we deserve something pretty to relax with.  Here’s 30,000 tons of sodium being exploded by exposure to water (via i09).

 

Hmm, a little better, but I’m still feeling a little worn down.  Let’s try something from Less Wrong:

The joy of mathematics is inventing mathematical objects, and then noticing that the mathematical objects that you just created have all sorts of wonderful properties that you never intentionally built into them. It is like building a toaster and then realizing that your invention also, for some unexplained reason, acts as a rocket jetpack and MP3 player.

Numbers, according to our best guess at history, have been invented and reinvented over the course of time. (Apparently some artifacts from 30,000 BC have marks cut that look suspiciously like tally marks.) But I doubt that a single one of the human beings who invented counting visualized the employment they would provide to generations of mathematicians. Or the excitement that would someday surround Fermat’s Last Theorem, or the factoring problem in RSA cryptography… and yet these are as implicit in the definition of the natural numbers, as are the first and second difference tables implicit in the sequence of squares.

This is what creates the impression of a mathematical universe that is “out there” in Platonia, a universe which humans are exploring rather than creating. Our definitions teleport us to various locations in Platonia, but we don’t create the surrounding environment. It seems this way, at least, because we don’t remember creating all the wonderful things we find. The inventors of the natural numbers teleported to Countingland, but did not create it, and later mathematicians spent centuries exploring Countingland and discovering all sorts of things no one in 30,000 BC could begin to imagine.

Ah, that’s the stuff.


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