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Shinichi Suzuki: Ability Development from Age Zero

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We must think deeply about the fact that Casals, at ninety-one years old, even now practices the cello two hours every day so as not to be stagnant at even his high level of ability.

Even if someone becomes a fine person who does great works, he is not so exalted that he does not need to study. Rather the opposite is true, because he finds more and more problems to study and he has the will to grow higher and higher. He is in a world so advanced that we cannot even imitate him, but we learn that people train themselves more and reach for truer beauty.

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lograh
4 days ago
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Four Ways of Thinking About a Line

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You don’t hear a lot of hot takes on straight lines. They’re lines; they’re straight; and that’s pretty much the full police report. If Hollywood ever options this into a screenplay, you’ll know it’s only because a truly A-list actor made it their passion project.

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That’s how I know philosopher W.V. Quine is a Jedi master: because in his adorably named Quiddities, he manages to make me feel confused and breathless about the concept of straightness.

Specifically, he highlights four physical ways to test a line’s straightness, each quite distinct:

1. Stretch a piece of string along the line. If it matches the tight string, then it’s straight. Thus, straightness is a matter of tautness.

“This test recalls indeed the origin of our word line, Latin linea,” explains Quine; “it is related to linen and lint.”

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2. Sight along the line, like an astronomer peering through a telescope. Your eye will detect deviations from straightness.

“We have here,” says Quine, “a notable quirk of nature: the light ray, which is our line of sight, matches the taut string…. Between yawns, try to recapture the fresh sense of naïve wonder that two such simple and disparate phenomena… should line up so nicely.”

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3. Fold a piece of stiff cardboard. This will be naturally straight, so you can hold it against your candidate line to test its straightness.

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4. Slide an edge along the line. For example, take a card’s edge, and slide it from one endpoint of the possible line to the other. If you can “preserve full contact” throughout the process, then you’ve got a straight line.

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Now, what do taut string, sniper scopes, stiff cardboard, and sliding edges have in common? In practical terms, nothing; in geometric and conceptual terms, everything. Each is a different doorway into the same underground chamber, a different perspective on the same surprisingly rich idea.

This brings us to my favorite part of blogging: the Indefensible Generalization Game. Ready? I’ll go first:

Mathematics is the art of perfect synonyms.

I know that’s not usually how we define math. We call it “the study of logical systems” or “the queen of the sciences” or “the class between social studies and lunch.” But chew on the idea of synonymy, and you’ll be surprised how nutritious you find it.

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The greatest insights in mathematics are equivalences. You can call them equations, or isomorphisms, or symmetries, or “Hey, there are octahedrons in my cubes, and cubes in my octahedrons!” The point is that math is about connections, and a connection is when you can describe the same thing two ways.

Just listen to the theorist Simon Kochen:

Mathematicians don’t talk a lot about analogy. Not because it isn’t there, but just the opposite. It permeates all mathematics.

Or Joseph Fourier:

Mathematics compares the most diverse phenomena and discovers the secret analogies that unite them.

Or Andre Weil:

Nothing is more fruitful—all mathematicians know it—than those obscure analogies, those disturbing reflections of one theory on another; those furtive caresses, those inexplicable discords; nothing also gives more pleasure to the researcher.

Okay, they’re talking more about “analogy” than “synonymy.” But my point, I guess, is that mathematical analogies establish two concepts as synonyms.

They’re ideas that rhyme.

Now, in case I’ve accidentally persuaded you to go buy Quine’s book, let me caveat. Quine is an analytic philosopher, which is to say that he makes a fetish of logic. I’m a big logic fan myself—it’s how I solve the Sherlock Holmes-style mysteries of where I’ve left my phone charger—but Quine takes logic to extremes that don’t always interest me.

Take this word-game on the meaning of “identity”:

Identity seems like a relation, but it does not relate things pairwise as a relation should; things are identical only to themselves. How then does identity differ from a mere property? Moreover, it applies to everything. How then does it differ from the mere property of existence…?

To me, logic is a cleansing agent, a clarifier. It weeds out certain pathogens in our thinking—inconsistencies, hypocrisies, circularities. Analytic philosophy like Quine’s, though, sometimes feels to me like an attempt to cleanse the cleansing agent itself. It’s like an autoimmune disorder of the intellect: logic’s antibodies attacking themselves.

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That’s why Quine’s discussion of lines jumped out at me: it’s concrete, physical. Its logic turns not inward, but outward, juxtaposing four tactile experiences and prodding us to inspect the commonality, the shared conceptual structure.

This, I think, is what math is all about: spotting the common features beneath reality. Taking languages that seem to have no words in common, and discovering—against all the odds—flawless synonyms.



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lograh
7 days ago
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Mindfulness

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lograh
11 days ago
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#1393; In which the Floor is open

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One second later, the floor LITERALLY opens. The audience trapdoor is in Herr Doktor's rider.

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lograh
58 days ago
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1 public comment
ChrisDL
61 days ago
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a million times this.
New York

03/30/18 PHD comic: 'Inbox Anxiety'

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Piled Higher & Deeper by Jorge Cham
www.phdcomics.com
Click on the title below to read the comic
title: "Inbox Anxiety" - originally published 3/30/2018

For the latest news in PHD Comics, CLICK HERE!

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lograh
82 days ago
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Scritches not stitches

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Please enjoy these videos of animals enjoying scritches: A tiger quoll | A birb | Jeddah the bat | A blind horse (reciprocal scritches!) | RonRon the fox | A teeny kitten | Marble the chinchilla | A cow | Max Lynx | and no post is complete without A dog.
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lograh
89 days ago
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