Sunday, September 24, 2006

Indexing woes

Indexing a book is no fun. None at all. Yet it can be so annoying when a book has a perfunctory index that I feel compelled to try to do the job decently.

You can only work on so many pages at a stretch. Distractions are needed. One that works for me is opening up sci.logic in Google groups every so often and sounding off. Hence a rash of posts battering away at some of the dafter stuff there. Who knows if anyone appreciates it ... but it keeps me amused, and is one of the more harmless ways of wasting time on the web.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Coffee Time in Memphis

Passing the CUP bookshop, I couldn't resist picking up a copy of Béla Bollobás' brand new The Art of Mathematics: Coffee Time in Memphis -- no less than 157 mathematical problems and their solutions, problems (he says) of the kind that would have delighted Littlewood and Erdös.

Here's the very first in the book. A lion and a Christian in a closed circular Roman arena have equal maximum speeds. Must the Christian in the end be caught by the lion? Here's another later one: Is an infinite family of nested subsets of a countable set necessarily countable. (These are fun, because it is difficult to shake off the temptation to say that the answer in each case is "yes" when it is "no".) Hours of amusement to be had here.

But I suspect that there are two kinds of mathematicians, puzzle-setters and puzzle-solvers on the one hand, and (for want of a better word) more philosophically minded mathematics who want to see the deep interconnections between Big Ideas. Erdös vs. Gödel, perhaps. Once upon a time I used to be fairly good at the puzzling; but these days, it's Gödel for me.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Passing it on

I've just put another full draft of the Gödel book online. There's an amount of work still to be done (in particular, I've yet to take account of some comments I've had on the last chapter); but things are progressing towards a terminus. One task now, while I'm thinking about more substantive things as well, is to decide what kind of index or indexes to do. What a thrill.

I've been distracting myself a bit by dropping into the newsgroup sci.logic and posting in some of the threads. Which probably shows that I need to get a life. Yet I can't help finding it irritating (indeed offensive) when loud-mouthed ignorant blockheads are allowed to dominate a public forum which can occasionally can be very useful. So I've been diving in and trying to help sort things out here and there.

Two enthusiastic book recommendations, one logic-related, one not. First, I didn't know Piergorgio Odifreddi's Classical Recursion Theory before, but I've been quickly working through it and it is excellent -- I very much like the style and pace. In a way, I'm quite glad that I didn't read it before or I might have been tempted to follow some of his nice modes of presentation. As it turns out, the treatment in my book is nicely complementary at various points.

The other, my late-night book at the moment, is Alan Bennett's Untold Stories. Perhaps I should take the words at the end of his Introduction, which he quotes from his own play The History Boys, as the motto for the Gödel book: "Pass it on. Just pass it on." For that's exactly what I'm trying to do ...

Thursday, September 07, 2006

And another update

A revised version of Chapters 1 to 26 is now on-line. Next, the two chapters which probably need the most work/thought, so off to the Moore library again to minimize distractions.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Another Gödel update

I've been wrestling with that loose and baggy chapter which needed carving into two. Annoying that what should have been a simple task took so long, but I think I've cracked it. So the latest version of what are now the first 23 chapters of the book can be downloaded from the website.

Greg Restall has a link to a terrific Australian radio talk on 'they' as a singular pronoun. Which reminds me I'd better check through my book that I haven't, for example, called all logicians 'him'.

[Added] Damn. Heaven knows why, but I still find after all these years using computers that when I waste a tree and print out hard copy I immediately spot glaring errors that I hadn't noticed on-screen. Very odd. So there's now a better version of those first 23 chapters on-line.