[FOM] Convincing math-blind people that math is different

Mario Carneiro di.gama at gmail.com
Thu Dec 25 04:15:03 EST 2014

On Wed, Dec 24, 2014 at 11:59 PM, Timothy Y. Chow <tchow at alum.mit.edu>

> The demonstration is simple to describe.  I build a computer and implement
> an algorithm that prints out, on paper, a million digits of some constant
> that hasn't been explicitly computed before---say, sqrt(12523599347).
> Then I build a completely different kind of computer and implement a
> completely different algorithm.  I announce that my new system will print
> out exactly the same million digits.  Then I hit the "go" button and the
> machine duly churns out the predicted million digits.  The math-blind
> person can verify that the million digits are indeed the same.
> This sort of demonstration would seem to have no analogue in other fields
> of knowledge.

Consider the following "experiment": In country A, using some legal code I
specify that the speed limit is 60 mph on the road connecting cities A1 and
A2, and in country B, using a completely different legal code, written in a
different language, I specify that the speed limit is 100 kph on the road
connecting cities B1 and B2 which are approximately the same distance apart
as A1 and A2, and observe that drivers take about the same time to travel
the road.

I can't say to what extent this is to be considered an experiment in legal
codes and not, say, physics or statistics, but the restrictions make it
difficult to even specify something resembling an experiment in other
fields, so it seems like an exclusion by definition to me.

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