…Heisenberg, Gödel, Derrida…


Actually it was none of the above who set me on this course. They all appeared later, or to be completely honest in case of Jacques Derrida, earlier. When his impact hit me it meant nothing and stills does little to change my day to day routine. I understand and appreciate him better maybe, though.

If you know nothing of these three, I will probably completely fail in introducing them to you, except for one thread that binds them together.

This is a quest that started far beyond the kitchen for me; it was kicked off via an odd and unusual book – exactly the sort I find myself devouring from time to time – called ‘mathematics and the imagination’ (Edward Kasner and James Newman), published at sometime in the 1950’s…. What intrigued me and made me yell at this particular book was all about geometry…

I grew up learning about Euclidean geometry, where triangles always consisted of angles that summed up to 180 degrees. Things were planar and laid in parallel. The Pythagorean theorem applied to solving an unknown side; an eternal relationship.

Planar mathematics are only approximations: there are other geometries based on space being curved inward and outward; such that a triangle sums to less than or greater than 180 degrees, depending on the curve. Which in reality – on this planet – is true. Boeing built a building so large, to construct 747’s, that the posts aren’t actually parallel to one another. They are perpendicular to the center of the earth, but ever so slightly askew to each other, nearer at the base and further away from each other at the top…

Planar mathematics are good approximations, though, and we forget that. they aren’t perfect or totally descriptive of what we do or what reality is; though they come pretty close in most cases…

Fascinating, to me, the sucker for philosophical diatribe and underlying meaning in things that I am, that Heisenberg, Gödel, and Derrida all came up with pretty much the same concept, albeit in different fields of application, at the same time. The concept is simple, really, intuitive and quite genius; You cannot describe, or measure a system when you are in it.

Gödel and Derrida went about describing why and how, logically, one can never describe numbers with numbers or words with words; really you have to step out of the ‘system’ to fully quantify it; as if there is another realm to delve into. That in and of itself is sort of a chaotic proposition! Heisenberg, went one step further, positing that even if you are outside of the system and only seek to measure it, quantify, judge the state of it, the moment you measure, touch it, you’ve introduced bias and chaos and can never really know…

Yet sometimes; it is good and noble to try and step out of the system you are in, the paradigm, and try, even though the sheer act of observing it from afar, measuring and assessing it inevitably biases the result. It is the reason why I vanish sometimes and go off on wild tangents and compare things in analogy to what I am really doing, if only to understand the why, or see it more purely.

Life is really intriguing and beautiful that way; you can never really describe it, touch it, grasp or keep any of it. It is never something that you fully own or get to keep or hold onto. It is just an experience you get to try and figure out, sort, put into simple little poems that keep your mind happy sometimes…



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