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[Saturday, December 06, 2003]


For sorrow and for shame

Northbard reminds me that I should do this, which I had forgotten on account of lying in my sick-bed all day.

Dec 6th, 1989.
Ecole Polytechnique, Montreal

Geneviève Bergeron
Hélène Colgan
Nathalie Croteau
Barbara Daigneault
Anne-Marie Edward
Maud Haviernick
Maryse Laganière
Maryse Leclair
Anne-Marie Lemay
Sonia Pelletier
Michèle Richard
Annie St-Arneault
Annie Turcotte
Barbara Klucznik Widajewicz

posted 5:25 PM |

[Thursday, December 04, 2003]


Three in a tower

Today is (or rather, was) the Feast of St. Barbara. She did not exist, but if she had existed she would certainly have been confined to a tower with two windows, and insisted that a third needed to be added; and she would have not only specified this declaratively ("Look, I insist that nWindows == 3") but directed the workers in carrying it out. Thus, she is the patron saint of engineers, and by extension mathematicians; and by even more extension of gunners and other People Who Knock Holes In Things, and by even more extension of those in danger of sudden death, though picking a specific martyr for that seems a little exclusionary -- there was a lot of danger of sudden death for Nonconformists in those days. Anyway, since I am sort of a mathematician and sort of an engineer, this is a mildly celebratory day for me; and I feel entitled to indulge in wanton contrafactuals like the one that began this paragraph, since I am also something of a logician. It is, as following the first link will confirm, not an official feast anymore, but then I am not exactly an official anything myself these days; my excuses for parties are ecumenical, though leaning towards more familiar (to me) traditions.

I also wished to argue for extending Barbara's patronage to many-valued logic: if there was ever a clear message that two values are not enough to capture all truths, hers was it.

But out of the third lattice
Under low eaves like wings
Is a new corner of the sky
And the other side of things.
--G.K. Chesterton, "The Ballad of Saint Barbara"

posted 1:13 PM |