Wednesday, August 27, 2008

So you want to rule the world ... please don't be stupid when you do

Look, I’ll be frank. It’s not easy getting to be the ruler of the world.

It’s going to take some brains. And once you are ruling the world, we’d all appreciate it if you did it wisely.

Yes, I know you already are a genius, but you’ll need to sharpen it up a little to do better than Napoleon, Stalin, Danny Kaye and Steve Jobs.

It’s time you did some heavy thinking…

Try some Martin Gardner....

Any Martin Gardner book you can get your hands on is going to help.

If you can get your hands on something like: "The Colossal Book of Mathematics: Classic Puzzles, Paradoxes, and Problems," you’ll be in good shape.

Before I go any further, let me note that I got a C in Algebra/Trig in 11th grade, so I'm no math dude. But Martin Gardner has a way of making it interesting.

I’m also a fan of “Aha! Gotcha: Paradoxes to puzzle and delight.” Everything is laid out in a very friendly fashion, complete with cartoons. But the simple language just make the insane complexities of reality easier to not grasp.

Here's a rather silly example:
Here we have a list of all the dull people and a list of all the interesting people.
Somewhere on the list is the dullest person in the world.
But this makes him or her very interesting. So we have to move the dullest person to the other list. someone else will be the dullest person, and he or she too will be interesting. So eventually everyone becomes interesting. Or do they?

Gardner will take you from there to time paradoxes, Einstein's thoughts about the nature of the universe, tachyons and carnival rip-offs.

If you like a little more plot with your deep thoughts, try “The Magic Numbers of Dr. Matrix.”

And if you’re ready to spring into action, try the Game of Life.

One of Gardner’s many services to mankind was spreading the word about this non-game. Birth, death, predation, evolution, extinction -- it’s all part of Life and it’s all run by a few simple rules.

I’m old enough that I used to try to run Life simulations on graph paper. You can go to this site and make your own or run those created by your fellow geniuses.

Yes, Life is its own world. And you can set it in motion easily enough. But rule it? Make it work the way you want? You’ll have to be really smart to do that.

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