What was the last straw?

### Suresh Venkatasubramanian

Shared publicly -Unreasonably miffed by repeated headlines of the form "brilliant researcher uses methods from X to solve Y" where X and Y are in two different universes. It betrays a basic lack of understanding of computational thinking and why we study abstract problems. It's also lazy since you can generate a never ending stream of such things without actually revealing anything of value.

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On using spam-filtering techniques to fight HIV.

There is something broader at work here. The beauty and mystery of the natural world is almost always because the beholder does not sufficiently understand it. Naturally, news writers prefer to emphasize beauty at the expense of understanding. Once you fully grasp how something works the sense of mystery/wonder/whatever almost always goes away. Incidentally, in my experience scientists and mathematicians are collectively in denial about the inverse relationship between beauty and understanding.

Magda Procopiuc

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+Arvind Narayanan I disagree. The more math I understand, the more beautiful I find it. I don't equate beauty with mystery, like you do. I equate beauty with truth. But I also keep in mind that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. :-)

It's more than that. For example, I can cite at least 10 different proofs of why a set of n points in d dimensions really behaves like they are in log n dimensions. It doesn't make it less beautiful to me. I understand that conplexity classes can be described purely in terms of logic, but that's still amazing and cool. I think it's more that science writers are now experienced at writing about the natural world (the good ones are) but describing algorithms is still something newer.

"Poets say science takes away from the beauty of the stars – mere globs of gas atoms. I too can see the stars on a desert night, and feel them. But do I see less or more? The vastness of the heavens stretches my imagination – stuck on this carousel my little eye can catch one-million-year-old light. A vast pattern – of which I am a part… What is the pattern, or the meaning, or the why? It does not do harm to the mystery to know a little about it. For far more marvelous is the truth than any artists of the past imagined it. Why do the poets of the present not speak of it? What men are poets who can speak of Jupiter if he were a man, but if he is an immense spinning sphere of methane and ammonia must be silent?" –Feynman

What he said :)

Actually, I agree with everybody above. But I tend to agree most with Arvind. IMHO he seems to be talking of the "transcendent beauty of nature", while Magda and Suresh seem to be talking of the process. That said - I like to think of what Arvind said as - As entropy increases, complexity first increases and then decreases (like in a low entropy state).

Taking of mathematical abstraction and this line from Arvind "The beauty and mystery of the natural world is almost always because the beholder does not sufficiently understand it." reminds me of the closing remarks from "The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences" by Eugene Wigner.

http://www.dartmouth.edu/~matc/MathDrama/reading/Wigner.html

Taking of mathematical abstraction and this line from Arvind "The beauty and mystery of the natural world is almost always because the beholder does not sufficiently understand it." reminds me of the closing remarks from "The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences" by Eugene Wigner.

http://www.dartmouth.edu/~matc/MathDrama/reading/Wigner.html

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