WolframAlpha

I wonder how many Sundays are between June 17th 2012 and today?

WolframAlpha: 79.

Ho. Lee. Crap. That’s awesome.

You do know about WolframAlpha, right? …the “computational knowledge engine”? No? Go there. Ask it things.

Stephen Wolfram is a character. (But anyone whose thesis committee contains Richard Feynman gets a complete pass in my book.) “This math stuff is annoying…” Bam! Mathematica. And if you want to really go “whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat?!”, try to wrap your brain around, A New Kind of Science.

Mathematics

To those who do not know mathematics it is difficult to get across a real feeling as to the beauty, the deepest beauty, of nature. C.P. Snow talked about two cultures. I really think that those two cultures separate people who have and people who have not had this experience of understanding mathematics well enough to appreciate nature once.

It is too bad that it has to be mathematics, and that mathematics is hard for some people. It is reputed — I do not know if it is true — that when one of the kings was trying to learn geometry from Euclid he complained that it was difficult. And Euclid said, ‘There is no royal road to geometry.’ And there is no royal road. Physicists cannot make a conversion to any other language. If you want to learn about nature, to appreciate nature, it is necessary to understand the language that she speaks in. She offers her information only in one form; we are not so unhumble as to demand that she change before we pay any attention.

~ Richard Feynman

Onward!

Richard Feynman, from The Pleasure of Finding Things Out:

feynman_pleasureWe are at the very beginning of time for the human race. It is not unreasonable that we grapple with problems. There are tens of thousands of years in the future. Our responsibility is to do what we can, learn what we can, improve the solutions and pass them on. It is our responsibility to leave the men of the future a free hand. In the impetuous youth of humanity, we can make grave errors that can stunt our growth for a long time. This we will do if we say we have the answers now, so young and ignorant; if we suppress all discussion, all criticism, saying, ‘This is it, boys, man is saved!’ and thus doom man for a long time to the chains of authority, confined to the limits of our present imagination. It has been done so many times before.

Feynman wrote several great, short books that are not hard science. This, and “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!”, are great places to start.