Short notes: generic brain dump

There is no god.

Thursday’s temperature was 37.2 degrees Celsius (99 F). That is 1.3 degrees more than the previous all-time record for all of Finland. And it happened right smack dab in the part of Finland where I happened to exist then.

The worst thing is, you can get momentarily comfortable, but if you do as much as just stand up and fart, you’re veiled in sweat again. I fear I have become a proto-Deep One now, dripping fluids and breathing in water (and some ice), my eyes bulgy and stary (not to mention scary!); and Y’ha’nth’greenland’n’lei is calling, but I cannot go there. (Damn you, University of Greenland, for not having a maths department! Damn you!)

(Also, if anyone wants to set up an Antarctic University, somewhere there at the waters’ edge, I’m willing to come fiddle with maths. And to defend the fort against maraudering gangs of carnivorous punk penguins, if need be. I’m handy with heavy objects you can swing while screaming “Nharrrgh!”; it’s this Scandinavian heritage. And if you ask me, the Antarctic Mammal Exclusion Agreement of 1959 was a trick, and would never have happened if not for the boids’ scam of a nuclear program. Them penguins never had no nukes; they don’t have none now. There’s no need to send, every year, a hundred nubile young human beings to cruel, dehumanizing indentured servitude at the throne of Amundsen-Scott! The scientist hostages at the other bases are small price to pay for the heavy feathery head of the Emperor Penguin, that blood-drinking lunatic tyrant! I say we take the land back from those frock-clad fisheaters! They did the southern polar bear to extinction — we’ll do the same to them! Their bone daggers and chemical rifles are no match to our jets and missiles —)

(Er, sorry for the tangent. With this heat one’s thoughts tend to wander.)

* * *

Also, a gem from a survey, translated from the Finnish:

Which life stage (elämänvaihe) are you in right now?

[ ] I live at home with my parents
[ ] I live alone
[ ] I live with my spouse
[ ] I live with my spouse and children
[ ] I am a single parent
[ ] Other
[ ] I don’t want to say

Clearly “I don’t want to say” is the Great Unspeakable, Death, but the whole trajectory of life stages displayed here is pretty depressing. (“Boom! You’re a single parent now! Life stage five activated!”) And apparently “Other” is a prettier word for “Old Fart”.

* * *

Curious how, when you happen to the university and there’s no-one else around, no-one at all (they didn’t have something unexpected for Monday that needs a bit of Friday to prepare), curious when you’re sitting there alone in your room, with silence all around you… how you get into thinking whether someone would come, should you strip naked and walk up and down the corridor.

The answer, I reckon, is “the headmaster and a delegation of ten foreign headmasters and master academicians, including the Supreme Mugwump of Olden Tenuria”.

Good thing my imagination is wild all the way. If there was no dread of bizarre consequences, I’d be running around already.

* * *

Never have heard a peep about the philosophy of mathematics in any official way; looking at Wikipedia makes my eyes water. Such silliness about an idea-world where all mathematics dwells, waiting for our call — that’s no better than some delusion of gods and heavens.

If you ask me, mathematics is a game, a free art, a statue of cold austere beauty swaying up in a hurricane of undetached logic. Mathematics is a patchwork of statements of the form “if this is true, then by these rules the following is (not) true”. A mathematician studies the patterns made by a choice of axioms and the application of a set of rules; no less; no more. No need to invoke a Platonic world of ideas there, or any pre-existence or fundamentality; mathematics is the record of many a round of a very subtle and beautiful game. (Who thinks such freeform mess is not much of a game hasn’t tried playing 1000 Blank White Cards.)

Since most games are best started with some training wheels, many chosen sets of mathematical assumptions are similar to those underneath the rules that govern the existing world. Hence physicists and biologists and the like are happy to use some mathematics; but to a mathematician that’s not very important. (Well, except for funding.) Sometimes mathematicians try to run away from the application people, into something bizarre and unreal like number theory or non-Euclidean geometry; but usually those bloody applicators follow, and applying hone the art of cryptography, Einstein’s scribbles or the like. That might be great and good for humankind, but to a mathematician it is not very interesting. Might as well ask a painter if she finds postcards featuring her work interesting.

(“Well, the associated fame is nice, you know. And the money, oh yes. But it doesn’t give the same nice warm fuzzy feeling as first creating the thing, or the ‘oh!’ of a fellow artist, viewing it as the object it is, not as a vehicle for some cause. These… postcards? Not very interesting.”)

* * *

Heard the phrase “saada joku langan päähän“, or “to get some on the end of a string”; that means reaching someone on a phone. The said phone was then hurtling along a road at 80 km/h; there was no telephone line string connecting the two phones, as there once should have been.

In a few decades the young ones will still use that casual phrase, but when they stop to think where it comes from, they may not have had the necessary experiences to know. There are more and more cell phones; less and less landlines; soon the phrase will be as puzzling as “earning one’s spurs”. (“What spurs? What is a spur anyway?”)

The same with computers — a lot of computer slang in various languages makes no sense anymore because the technology where it originated isn’t in use anymore. (Even the blue screen of death is, so I’ve heard, now green.)

It’s a bit startling to see the process that one usually thinks involves medieval customs happening here and now.

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