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Darth Paradox

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Books'n'such [Jul. 10th, 2010|02:24 pm]
Darth Paradox
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34. The Sacrilege (SPQR III) by John Maddox Roberts
35. Thief of Time by Terry Pratchett
36. Group Theory in the Bedroom by Brian Hayes
37. The Clan Corporate (Merchant Princes 3) by Charles Stross
38. Logicomix by Apostolos Doxiadis and Christos H. Papadimitriou
39. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle (list book)

Not gonna talk a lot about these, except to highly recommend Logicomix, a graphic-novel quasi-biography of Bertrand Russell and, through his life, the story of the ultimately doomed quest to put mathematics on a completely sturdy foundation. Russell's magnum opus, the Principia Mathematica, coauthored with his mentor Alfred North Whitehead, was the closest anyone ever got... but I shouldn't spoil the story completely. The novel is a fascinating glimpse into the lives and madnesses of the preeminent mathematicians of the early 20th century - for, indeed, nearly all of them were at least dysfunctional to some degree, if not outright insane. For that reason, Russell's own fear of manifesting the madness that runs through his family makes an excellent lens through which to view his peers in the mathematical community. And of course, it's not just about mathematics - the philosophical questions which grew out of the mathematical quest play a part, particularly in the person of Russell's protege Wittgenstein, and of course so does the pacifism for which Russell was so well known.


Together with nightsinger, aprivatefox, and muficat, I went to ConPac last weekend - the annual convention of the National Puzzler's League, held this year in Seattle. We hadn't even known about it until selinker told us - Slik is one of the organizers - but he sold it pretty well, and so I ended up staying up until 3 AM or so every night playing games and solving puzzles with a bunch of similarly inclined people. ("Slik" is Milke Selinker's "nom" - kinda like an internet handle. Everyone in the NPL has them; the four of us attended as "Darth", "Cytherea", "Near Mad", and "Mufi".)

Among the entertainments: two puzzle hunts (one kind of smallish, one a bit larger), piles of homemade game shows, a cryptic crossword tournament, an after-dinner speech by Ken Jennings, charades, trivia competitions, stacks of paper puzzles people brought, and a bunch of other stuff. Hungry for more details? Slik has assembled a bunch of short "con reports" in a column for Wired.

Anyway, the whole experience has gotten me and nightsinger thinking about writing puzzles again. Or maybe "more". We've been contemplating joining the next group trying to put together a puzzle hunt at Microsoft, but that won't be possible until we get some of that other stuff off of our plates.

"That other stuff"

More on that soon, I hope...

[User Picture]From: selinker
2010-07-11 10:59 pm (UTC)
Thanks for coming, Darth! For those of you that missed the NPL con in Seattle, next year's will be in July in Providence. Plus there are mini-cons around the country as well.

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