Re: [rp-ml] What to Read?

From: Michael Ervin <>
Date: Tue Aug 31 2004 - 23:17:01 EEST

> Dear RPML,
> Hurricane Frances will be here sometime Sunday =-O ! It is likely that I
> will have a bunch of time to read while this storm passes over. :-\ So I
> would really appreciate getting some recommendations, BTW my first thing to
> read is The Double Helix by James D. Watson.
> --
> Best Regards
> Greg Pettengill
> ===================
> Greg
> If you want to really expand your mind while avoiding the storm you might
> try:
> Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid
> by Douglas R. Hofstadter
> It is a tour de force.
> Editorial Reviews
> Twenty years after it topped the bestseller charts, Douglas R. Hofstadter's
> Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid is still something of a marvel.
> Besides being a profound and entertaining meditation on human thought and
> creativity, this book looks at the surprising points of contact between the
> music of Bach, the artwork of Escher, and the mathematics of Gödel. It also
> looks at the prospects for computers and artificial intelligence (AI) for
> mimicking human thought. For the general reader and the computer techie alike,
> this book still sets a standard for thinking about the future of computers and
> their relation to the way we think.
> Hofstadter's great achievement in Gödel, Escher, Bach was making abstruse
> mathematical topics (like undecidability, recursion, and 'strange loops')
> accessible and remarkably entertaining. Borrowing a page from Lewis Carroll
> (who might well have been a fan of this book), each chapter presents dialogue
> between the Tortoise and Achilles, as well as other characters who dramatize
> concepts discussed later in more detail. Allusions to Bach's music (centering
> on his Musical Offering) and Escher's continually paradoxical artwork are
> plentiful here. This more approachable material lets the author delve into
> serious number theory (concentrating on the ramifications of Gödel's Theorem
> of Incompleteness) while stopping along the way to ponder the work of a host
> of other mathematicians, artists, and thinkers.
> The world has moved on since 1979, of course. The book predicted that
> computers probably won't ever beat humans in chess, though Deep Blue beat
> Garry Kasparov in 1997. And the vinyl record, which serves for some of
> Hofstadter's best analogies, is now left to collectors. Sections on recursion
> and the graphs of certain functions from physics look tantalizing, like the
> fractals of recent chaos theory. And AI has moved on, of course, with mixed
> results. Yet Gödel, Escher, Bach remains a remarkable achievement. Its
> intellectual range and ability to let us visualize difficult mathematical
> concepts help make it one of this century's best for anyone who's interested
> in computers and their potential for real intelligence. --Richard Dragan
> Topics Covered: J.S. Bach, M.C. Escher, Kurt Gödel: biographical information
> and work, artificial intelligence (AI) history and theories, strange loops and
> tangled hierarchies, formal and informal systems, number theory, form in
> mathematics, figure and ground, consistency, completeness, Euclidean and
> non-Euclidean geometry, recursive structures, theories of meaning,
> propositional calculus, typographical number theory, Zen and mathematics,
> levels of description and computers; theory of mind: neurons, minds and
> thoughts; undecidability; self-reference and self-representation; Turing test
> for machine intelligence.
> Regards
> Mike Ervin
Received on Tue Aug 31 22:22:29 2004

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