Sunday, February 05, 2006


JSH: Headlines around the world

Let's just say for the sake of argument that mathematicians just came out and acknowledged that through accidents of history and subtlety of some difficult concepts an erroneous group of techniques became dominant in number theory.

That news would make headlines around the world.

Now though, there is quiet, so let's look at the other way this can work out, as mathematicians can instead try to ignore the result.

Then, as history shows, the result will emerge eventually as there is over 10,000 years of human civilization where these kinds of battles have played out, and the side opposing the truth, has always lost.

If the story emerges within a couple of years then clearly mathematicians will have been gambling on it not coming out within their careers, and will have lost that gamble.

Why is it a gamble?

Well these things have happened before. In the physics field recently there was the emergence of quantum mechanic and relativity, where adjustments had to be made with dramatic consequences for the entire world.

The physicists absorbed the impact, fought a bit, yes, but quickly came on the side of truth.

If mathematicians do not, then they will still lose, but they also get a much darker story, and those mathematicians who are in powerful positions when the story comes out, will probably take the worst of it.

Social castigation. Their pictures in the papers. Reporters hounding them with hard questions.

And it won't end during their lifetimes.

These stories are huge on a scale that's hard to comprehend.

They keep coming but people never see them coming. The stories get bigger with time, but while you're living in it, it can seem unimaginable.

Simple self-preservation would make some of you sing like canaries at this point if you had any sense of what is going to come, while otherwise you have to hold on to the belief that you can play the odds, play for time, and hope that the story stays buried long enough for you to have a long career in mathematics, retire, and die with no one ever knowing the truth.

Let the future handle it, you may think.

But you will not get that time. I'll make sure you don't get that time.

You will not get to grow old and die with the world thinking you're something you're not.

The story will come out before then and instead you'll be castigated by world society.

I'll paint you for what you are—a dangerous element in society fighting against the foundations of society and technological progress—and remind that if people like you ever succeed then our Progress as a species, comes to a screeching halt.

What if physicists had tried and succeeded at what some of you may now think you can succeed at? What if they'd shut down Einstein's work, ignored his papers? What if they'd fought quantum mechanics tooth-and-nail?

What if they'd blocked the knowledge?

Well, I wouldn't be typing this up on this computer as computers wouldn't be here. Or maybe we'd have some kind of clunky mechanical computer, but would we have had the transistor, and the technological revolution?

Or might we have physicists fighting to explain odd behavior within the framework of the old knowledge, vigorously attacking "cranks" and "crackpots" who attempted to push through the ideas of quantum mechanics?

You will not succeed in blocking the knowledge. But if you attempt to do so, when you are broken, you lose so much.

So why bother?

Why not just tell the truth now?

Why fight the future?

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