Russell’s Paradox

Lars Å emailed me about my mention of Russell’s Paradox in a strip from years ago. He included this panel:

My answer was that Russell’s Paradox is best illustrated by this description in Boolean algebra: It is the set of all subsets which are not subsets of themselves.

And this brought back memories of an old math professor I had back then. I might have mentioned him. I forget the name of the class, but it had to do with all those convoluted mathematical theorems and systems. (Sometimes 1+1 doesn’t equal 2)  It was about the hardest course I ever took, and that includes graduate physics. I was the only kid in the class who knew what was going on. My undergraduate degree was in mathematics. The course was very difficult, as I said, and it wasn’t made much easier because the professor who taught it was a really bad teacher. (I only had one professor who was worse. He taught advanced electromagnetic theory. I won’t mention his name.) The math professor was Marion Tinsley.

He also happened to be the all time world’s greatest checker player. Google him. Once he played 26 different people simultaneously and won every game. And he was blindfolded while he did it. He was an absolute genius. He was also a devout Baptist. He lived with his mother who was still alive when I took the course in 1964. He retired from checkers in 1992, but he  came out of retirement several years later to regain the championship. He did so because the current champion at the time was an avowed atheist. According to Marion, an atheist wasn’t fit to be champion. Evidently the man didn’t know whom he was playing against until he lost. He said something to the effect “No wonder I lost.”

The reason I tell this story was because it was Dr. Tinsley who told me that “The set of all sets which are not subsets of themselves is Russell’s Paradox.”

I have to apologize for this dialog. When I wrote it I didn’t realize the “M” word is insulting. Please excuse me. Later on I used the word again and one of my editors pointed it out. I changed the the word to jockey.

 

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One Response to Russell’s Paradox

  1. Chris M says:

    Man up a little if you like, Bud. It’s your blog and you are the overseer. You can be as politically incorrect as you please. Now let’s go watch Tod Browning’s “Freaks” to get in the swing of things!

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