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Posts Tagged ‘Tacoma Narrows bridge

“Me, poor man, my library / Was dukedom large enough”*…

Tsundoku (積ん読) is a beautiful Japanese word describing the habit of acquiring books but letting them pile up without reading them. I used to feel guilty about this tendency, and would strive to only buy new books once I had finished the ones I owned. However, the concept of the antilibrary has completely changed my mindset when it comes to unread books. Unread books can be as powerful as the ones we have read, if we choose to consider them in the right light.

What is an antilibrary? To put it simply, an antilibrary is a private collection of unread books. The concept was first mentioned by Lebanese-American scholar and author Nassim Nicholas Taleb in his book The Black Swan, where he describes the unique relationship Italian writer Umberto Eco had with books:

The writer Umberto Eco belongs to that small class of scholars who are encyclopedic, insightful, and nondull. He is the owner of a large personal library (containing thirty thousand books), and separates visitors into two categories: those who react with “Wow! Signore professore dottore Eco, what a library you have! How many of these books have you read?”* and the others—a very small minority—who get the point that a private library is not an ego-boosting appendage but a research tool. Read books are far less valuable than unread ones. The library should contain as much of what you do not know as your financial means, mortgage rates, and the currently tight real-estate market allows you to put there. You will accumulate more knowledge and more books as you grow older, and the growing number of unread books on the shelves will look at you menacingly. Indeed, the more you know, the larger the rows of unread books. Let us call this collection of unread books an antilibrary”…

The vastness of the unknown: “Building an antilibrary: the power of unread books.”

For inspiration: “7 Spectacular Libraries You Can Explore From Your Living Room.”

* Shakespeare, The Tempest

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As we cultivate curiosity, we might recall that it was on this date in 1940, at approximately 11:00 am, that the first Tacoma Narrows suspension bridge collapsed as a result of wind-induced vibrations. Situated on the Tacoma Narrows in Puget Sound, near the city of Tacoma, Washington, the bridge had only been open for traffic a few months.  For those who missed it in high school physics:

Written by LW

November 7, 2020 at 1:01 am

“A mathematician is a device for turning coffee into theorems”…

In 1937, Lother Collatz proposed that, when starting with any natural number (positive integer) n, then either dividing it by 2 if n is even, or multiplying n by 3 and adding 1 if n is odd, then continuing this process indefinitely, one will always reach the number 1.

The proposition is pretty broadly known as “The Collatz conjecture”; but as it commanded the energies of a number of other mathematicians, it is also sometimes called “the  Ulam conjecture” (after Stanislaw Ulam), “Kakutani’s problem” (after Shizuo Kakutani), “the Thwaites conjecture” (after Sir Bryan Thwaites), “Hasse’s algorithm” (after Helmut Hasse), or “the Syracuse problem.”  More generically, it’s often just called the “3n+1 conjecture”…  and the sequence that it generates, “the wondrous numbers.”

But as wondrous as the sequence may be, it is no pushover to prove.  Indeed, legendary (and legendarily “homeless”) mathematician Paul Erdos– the source of this post’s title quotation– posted a $500 prize for a proof… an offer he never had to make good.  Still, most mathematicians who have played with the problem believe the conjecture to be true,as both experimental evidence and heuristic arguments support it.

It is in any case, fascinating– and beautiful.  London-based designer Jason Davies has created a visualization of the Wondrous Numbers, an animation that runs the Collatz logic in reverse— starting with 1 and “growing” a tree of natural numbers:

click here to watch this grow from a single digit

 

As we remark that there’s a fundamental propriety to everything in the world ultimately coming back to one, we might recall that it was on this date in 1940, at approximately 11:00 am, that the first Tacoma Narrows suspension bridge collapsed due to wind-induced vibrations. Situated on the Tacoma Narrows in Puget Sound, near the city of Tacoma, Washington, the bridge had only been open for traffic a few months.  For those who missed it in high school physics:

 

 

Written by LW

November 7, 2011 at 1:01 am

Who you callin’ a Queen???…

Under the general heading of “too weird for words,” from Crikey Not Likely, BoHeMan Rhapsody:

As we re-gather our wits, we might stop to remember that celebrated span, The Tacoma Narrows Bridge, beloved of high school physics students around the world for its demonstration of the power of resonant waves; it collapsed on this date in 1940.

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