The gap between language and quantum mechanics

person writing on white board

Physics World has a fantastic article about the problem with using a language invented, in Terry Pratchett’s words, “to tell other monkeys where the ripe fruit is”, to describe the peculiar but very much real possibilities created by the rules of quantum mechanics. Excerpt: … despite the burgeoning growth of quantum technology, one thing that … Read more

Climate change, like quantum physics, will strain language

One of the defining features of quantum mechanics is that it shows up human language, and thought supported by that language, to be insufficient and limited. Many of the most popular languages of the world, including Tamil, Hindi and English, are linear. Their script reads in a line from one end of the page to … Read more

Writing itself is fantasy

The symbols may have been laid down on paper or the screen in whatever order but when we read, we read the words one at a time, one after another – linearly. Writing, especially of fiction, is an act of using the linear construction of meaning to tell a story whose message will be assimilated … Read more

The unclosed clause and other things about commas

The Baffler carried a fantastic critique of The New Yorker‘s use of commas by Kyle Paoletta on August 23. Excerpt: The magazine’s paper subscription slips have long carried a tagline: “The best writing, anywhere.” It follows that the source of the best writing, anywhere, must also be the finest available authority on grammar, usage, and … Read more

Caution: This piece contains a lot of mentions of the word ‘jargon’.

When writing one of my first pieces for The Hindu, I remember being called out for using a lot of jargon. While the accusation itself may have been justified, the word my supervisor chose as an example of the problem was surprising: “refraction”. He wanted me to spell it out in 10 words or so … Read more

Problems associated with studying the brain

Paul Broca announced in 1861 that the region of the brain now named after him was the “seat of speech”. Through a seminal study, researchers Nancy Kanwisher and Evelina Fedorenko from MIT announced on October 11, 2012, that Broca’s area actually consists of two sub-units, and one of them specifically handles cognition when the body … Read more

An experiment in propositional calculus

Q: Are truths simply objective reasons whose truth-values may or may not be verifiable? A: This question seems to possess a native paradox, but that simply arises from a logical error in the semantics: we can’t address unverifiable statements as “truths”. Instead, they are logically contingent statements. Even so: As Wittgenstein says in the preface … Read more