Random Observations C.A (306 pages is enough)

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Re: Random Observations C.A (306 pages is enough)

Post by Warren » 02 May 2019, 22:06

Where did you see a Coexist sans cross?
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Re: Random Observations C.A (306 pages is enough)

Post by Hugh Akston » 02 May 2019, 22:43

Shem wrote:
02 May 2019, 21:37
What do they use for the "T?"
The one I saw today used an ankh, which has the ancient Egyptians covered I guess?
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Re: Random Observations C.A (306 pages is enough)

Post by Aresen » 02 May 2019, 22:49

Shem wrote:
02 May 2019, 21:37
What do they use for the "T?"
From Wikipedia, they could use the Shinto gate or the Zoroastrian symbol, both of which could be used as a 'T'.

For the X, of course, they could use the Fylfot.
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Re: Random Observations C.A (306 pages is enough)

Post by Shem » 03 May 2019, 00:26

Hugh Akston wrote:
02 May 2019, 22:43
Shem wrote:
02 May 2019, 21:37
What do they use for the "T?"
The one I saw today used an ankh, which has the ancient Egyptians covered I guess?
Never seen it. Have seen a "RESPECT" with an ankh, but that has a chrismon in the "P" position.
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Re: Random Observations C.A (306 pages is enough)

Post by Hugh Akston » 03 May 2019, 01:30

Shem wrote:
03 May 2019, 00:26
Hugh Akston wrote:
02 May 2019, 22:43
Shem wrote:
02 May 2019, 21:37
What do they use for the "T?"
The one I saw today used an ankh, which has the ancient Egyptians covered I guess?
Never seen it. Have seen a "RESPECT" with an ankh, but that has a chrismon in the "P" position.
I've seen that one too, but this was definitely a Coexist. The O was a peace symbol.
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Re: Random Observations C.A (306 pages is enough)

Post by tr0g » 07 May 2019, 15:44

So, my news feed tells me that Maine has banned styrofoam containers. I’m curious about an unintended consequence. My wife gets some of her medication delivered monthly in a styrofoam cooler with a couple of frozen gel packs. What is the replacement solution if people in Maine don’t have that option anymore?
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Re: Random Observations C.A (306 pages is enough)

Post by nicole » 07 May 2019, 16:11

tr0g wrote:
07 May 2019, 15:44
So, my news feed tells me that Maine has banned styrofoam containers. I’m curious about an unintended consequence. My wife gets some of her medication delivered monthly in a styrofoam cooler with a couple of frozen gel packs. What is the replacement solution if people in Maine don’t have that option anymore?
Our frozen dog food comes packaged in cardboard and some sort of 100% recyclable biodegradable semi-foam-like business.
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Re: Random Observations C.A (306 pages is enough)

Post by lunchstealer » 07 May 2019, 17:07

Green chef and hello fresh use cardboard boxes with either a carpet pad type foam, a bubble wrap insulator, or a cardboard insulator. With two large ish gel packs they take days to fully thaw. Like shipping probably Friday, arriving Monday, and a couple times I’ve found the gel packs still partially frozen on Thursday.
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Re: Random Observations C.A (306 pages is enough)

Post by Hugh Akston » 07 May 2019, 22:32

I'm not in favor of bans, but styrofoam seems like one of the things it would be easiest for civilization to do without.
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Re: Random Observations C.A (306 pages is enough)

Post by Number 6 » 07 May 2019, 23:45

Shem wrote:
02 May 2019, 21:37
What do they use for the "T?"
Well, in Texas, they use black gold.
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Re: Random Observations C.A (306 pages is enough)

Post by nicole » 08 May 2019, 08:45

Man f these IDW idiots for making me agree with MattY

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Re: Random Observations C.A (306 pages is enough)

Post by Warren » 08 May 2019, 09:57

nicole wrote:
08 May 2019, 08:45
Man f these IDW idiots for making me agree with MattY

I don't understand why any of the above are saying what they're saying.
I've not heard about the "true and also knowable" debate. Sounds Hindenburgesque.
I knew a little about a Consistency and Completeness question. I thought it was answered by Godel who proved there was no such thing and therefore nothing could be proven to be "true". Which was a great achievement that all the mathematics community acknowledged and then promptly ignored. At any rate math is not "culturally constructed" and even if nothing is "timeless, universal & true" that doesn't mean everything is equally true.
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Re: Random Observations C.A (306 pages is enough)

Post by tr0g » 08 May 2019, 10:03

Warren wrote:
08 May 2019, 09:57
At any rate math is not "culturally constructed" and even if nothing is "timeless, universal & true" that doesn't mean everything is equally true.
There's only few things I'm going to cling to bitterly when it comes to knowable facts about the universe, but the three laws of thermodynamics and most especially the 2nd are at the top of that list. Everything else is, in my worldview, less true than those.
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Re: Random Observations C.A (306 pages is enough)

Post by Aresen » 08 May 2019, 10:08

tr0g wrote:
08 May 2019, 10:03
Warren wrote:
08 May 2019, 09:57
At any rate math is not "culturally constructed" and even if nothing is "timeless, universal & true" that doesn't mean everything is equally true.
There's only few things I'm going to cling to bitterly when it comes to knowable facts about the universe, but the three laws of thermodynamics and most especially the 2nd are at the top of that list. Everything else is, in my worldview, less true than those.
Scratches tr0g off the list of people to promote my gasoline-from-water pills to.
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Re: Random Observations C.A (306 pages is enough)

Post by thoreau » 08 May 2019, 10:39

Godel proved that there are mathematical statements that are both true and yet unprovable. Yglesias is not stating it well. Neither is Warren.

There certainly is a sense in which math is a cultural construct. This is very different from most of the other things that often get labeled cultural constructs. Math is not a cultural construct in the way that, say "pink=feminine and blue=masculine" is a cultural construct, or in the way that arguing religion at the dinner table is often considered rude but arguing over football is fine. It is a very different type of cultural construct, so different from other cultural constructs that it arguably needs a different label.

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Re: Random Observations C.A (306 pages is enough)

Post by JasonL » 08 May 2019, 11:43

Right. It's part of Po Mo Motte and Bailey to say something like "even mathematics is socially constructed" as a way of suggesting there is no truth outside of power dynamics, but then to retreat promptly when pressed on "ok, so lets dive in to what exactly you are suggesting by comparing the statements "dolls are for girls" and "the square of the length of a hypotenuse of a right triangle is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides".

You don't get very far trying to suggest those things are comparably true under a wide range of ideas about truth but people like to invoke it so that it seems like you can't ever argue empiricism or reason against their mono lens of social power.

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Re: Random Observations C.A (306 pages is enough)

Post by thoreau » 08 May 2019, 11:48

A very nice article in Physics Today 15 years ago (give or take) asked why so many people have spent so much time studying electrons confined to thin planar semiconductor layers and exposed to strong magnetic fields. There are technological reasons to study such systems, of course, but there are also plenty of technological applications of other solid-state systems, with and without magnetic fields. His answer was that physicists are fascinated by the symmetry and elegant mathematics underlying such systems, and that is very much a product of physics culture favoring certain types of questions over others.

That is a cultural construct.

Things that are not cultural constructs include the spacing of the energy levels, the properties of the materials, the transition temperature of the superconducting magnets used in these experiments, etc.
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Re: Random Observations C.A (306 pages is enough)

Post by Aresen » 08 May 2019, 11:51

thoreau wrote:
08 May 2019, 11:48
... the transition temperature of the superconducting magnets used in these experiments, etc.
Not allowing magnets to transition freely is just another example of ferro-magnetic privilege. :D
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Re: Random Observations C.A (306 pages is enough)

Post by Jadagul » 08 May 2019, 19:43

thoreau wrote:
08 May 2019, 10:39
Godel proved that there are mathematical statements that are both true and yet unprovable. Yglesias is not stating it well. Neither is Warren.

There certainly is a sense in which math is a cultural construct. This is very different from most of the other things that often get labeled cultural constructs. Math is not a cultural construct in the way that, say "pink=feminine and blue=masculine" is a cultural construct, or in the way that arguing religion at the dinner table is often considered rude but arguing over football is fine. It is a very different type of cultural construct, so different from other cultural constructs that it arguably needs a different label.

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This has nothing to do with the Gödel thing. (And I hate that description of Gödel's result: he proved that there are sentences in any sufficiently complex formal system that cannot proved or disproved within that system. If you want to say those statements are "true" you have to specify the system in which you're analyzing truth. It gets rounded off to your description because many of the obvious Gödel sentences in Peano arithmetic are provable in ZFC. And also because Hofstadter let his philosophical grandstanding run away from clearly explaining the actual result).

Math is a cultural construct much more so than physics is. Physics studies the actual world, insofar as that's possible. Math studies rulesets and formalisms that have been created by people. This is a useful discipline, because you can then try to build rulesets and formalisms that reflect something you care about, so understanding "formalisms" is really useful. But the formalisms don't have any existence preceding the people who formalized them.

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Re: Random Observations C.A (306 pages is enough)

Post by thoreau » 08 May 2019, 20:41

1) I accept your correction regarding Godel. Will you grant that my 1-sentence synopsis was more accurate than what Yglesias or Warren said?

2) Sure, math is a cultural construct, but within the rulesets and formalisms that people define there are indeed true and false statements. (Even Godel agreed on that! He's famous for proving a theorem rather than making a statement whose truth value is all just, like, your opinion, man.) Marking a student wrong for incorrectly computing some eigenvalues is different from marking a student wrong because they said that the losing side in whatever war had some valid grievances. The notion of an "eigenvalue" is a cultural construct, but not in the same way as a notion of valid grievances in whatever conflict.
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Re: Random Observations C.A (306 pages is enough)

Post by Jadagul » 08 May 2019, 22:17

1) Yglesias wasn't talking about Gödel at all. He was referencing a pretty much completely distinct debate within epistemology, and if people are invoking Gödel's incompleteness theorem in that debate they're almost certainly doing it inaccurately. (Now, Gödel had strong opinions and he worked on that theorem partly to try to move that debate, but I don't think his theorem is actually relevant there).

2) Most people who talk about "cultural constructs" are deeply confused about what that actually means. I'm a lot more comfortable saying that math is a cultural construct than I am saying that valid grievances are. (I would also argue that ethics are a social construct, but the argument is much clearer and more definitive for math---you can actually ask the question "so who constructed it?" and get a definitive answer).

That doesn't really mean that math is "subjective". There are correct answers to questions. But math can be as objective as it is precisely because it's socially and culturally constructed: because we built the rules, we can state them precisely and know exactly what they are, and have full agreement on the rules (most of the time), and so it's easy to tell when people are breaking them.

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Re: Random Observations C.A (306 pages is enough)

Post by thoreau » 08 May 2019, 23:05

I stand corrected about Yglesias, but can we agree that Warren is wrong about Godel?

As to cultural constructs, I will agree that there are some well-constructed notions that are culturally constructed, and I agree that most mathematical structures are well-constructed products of culture. I will also concede that my example about wars and valid grievances was not the best, but I was just grasping for an example of a subjective statement that a student might offer in a class.

You are right that the term "cultural construct" gets used in many ways, and often as something similar to a motte and bailey. I was there in the nineties when a deeply confused comparative lit student felt the need to explain that all of physics is subjective because something something cultural construct.

These days there's more of a motte and bailey aspect to it. People can scold about how Western physics allegedly is, and strongly imply that our knowledge claims are somehow tainted. That is mostly bullshit (though I will consider arguments that quantum interpretation might just have some cultural baggage...), so when challenged they retreat to the more modest claim that there is a certain amount of arbitrariness in preferring, say, studies of thin, clean semiconductor layers over disordered systems.

tl;dr At some point if enough people use "cultural construct" to mean "subjective" then that is indeed one of its meanings.

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Re: Random Observations C.A (306 pages is enough)

Post by Hugh Akston » 08 May 2019, 23:06

Jadagul wrote:
08 May 2019, 22:17
That doesn't really mean that math is "subjective". There are correct answers to questions. But math can be as objective as it is precisely because it's socially and culturally constructed: because we built the rules, we can state them precisely and know exactly what they are, and have full agreement on the rules (most of the time), and so it's easy to tell when people are breaking them.
That...doesn't make math objective, at least not as I understand the term, which is 'existing independent of the mind.' Are you saying that math is objective because it exists independent of any given mind?
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Re: Random Observations C.A (306 pages is enough)

Post by Jennifer » 08 May 2019, 23:46

Hugh Akston wrote:
08 May 2019, 23:06
Jadagul wrote:
08 May 2019, 22:17
That doesn't really mean that math is "subjective". There are correct answers to questions. But math can be as objective as it is precisely because it's socially and culturally constructed: because we built the rules, we can state them precisely and know exactly what they are, and have full agreement on the rules (most of the time), and so it's easy to tell when people are breaking them.
That...doesn't make math objective, at least not as I understand the term, which is 'existing independent of the mind.' Are you saying that math is objective because it exists independent of any given mind?
Arguably, at least some aspects of it are. IIRC there is or was a radio project trying to communicate with distant aliens, and one of the things intended to demonstrate "these signals are coming from intelligent beings" was a list of prime numbers. That's something "objective" -- if you have 13 objects, regardless of what numerical system you use for counting, you cannot divide them into groups containing equal amounts.
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Re: Random Observations C.A (306 pages is enough)

Post by Jadagul » 09 May 2019, 04:31

thoreau wrote:
08 May 2019, 23:05
I stand corrected about Yglesias, but can we agree that Warren is wrong about Godel?
Definitely.

As to cultural constructs, I will agree that there are some well-constructed notions that are culturally constructed, and I agree that most mathematical structures are well-constructed products of culture. I will also concede that my example about wars and valid grievances was not the best, but I was just grasping for an example of a subjective statement that a student might offer in a class.

You are right that the term "cultural construct" gets used in many ways, and often as something similar to a motte and bailey. I was there in the nineties when a deeply confused comparative lit student felt the need to explain that all of physics is subjective because something something cultural construct.

These days there's more of a motte and bailey aspect to it. People can scold about how Western physics allegedly is, and strongly imply that our knowledge claims are somehow tainted. That is mostly bullshit (though I will consider arguments that quantum interpretation might just have some cultural baggage...), so when challenged they retreat to the more modest claim that there is a certain amount of arbitrariness in preferring, say, studies of thin, clean semiconductor layers over disordered systems.

tl;dr At some point if enough people use "cultural construct" to mean "subjective" then that is indeed one of its meanings.

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Sure, some people use "cultural construct" in a dumb way, and it's worth acknowledging when that happens and reading what they actually say.

Yglesias is not one of those people, at least at this particular moment. He has training in philosophy and was applying that here. Someone said that no one at Vox would dream of saying that "math is a social construct", and Yglesias responded "Well, it's not _not_ a social construct" and then cites a Princeton philosopher of mathematics. And then people got mad at him.

And a bunch of mathematicians on twitter are like


Jordan Ellenberg wrote:Of course math is a social construct! It's one of our very best and we're rightfully proud to have constructed it!
Hugh Akston wrote:
08 May 2019, 23:06
Jadagul wrote:
08 May 2019, 22:17
That doesn't really mean that math is "subjective". There are correct answers to questions. But math can be as objective as it is precisely because it's socially and culturally constructed: because we built the rules, we can state them precisely and know exactly what they are, and have full agreement on the rules (most of the time), and so it's easy to tell when people are breaking them.
That...doesn't make math objective, at least not as I understand the term, which is 'existing independent of the mind.' Are you saying that math is objective because it exists independent of any given mind?
Math _claims_ are objective because they all, explicitly or implicitly, have the form "If you make these set of assumptions and follow these rules then you draw those conclusions". It's not asserting that the assumptions are true or that the rules are the best. And a lot of math takes the form of saying "Well, what if we use some completely different and unreasonable set of assumptions? What happens then?"

Now, some mathematicians will argue about which of these assumptions and rules are "true". And I am contending that those arguments are incoherent. But even people who think the axiom of choice is, like, morally and Platonically wrong can still agree about what its implications are. So those claims are objective and mind-independent, at least as much as anything is.

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