Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Kurt Godel

Since we have been talking a lot about the mental instability of mathematicians, I thought it would be interesting and rather relevant to blog about a particularly unstable mathematician that I have come across while researching for assignment 3. Kurt Godel is most famous for his two incompleteness theories, which had a profound impact on 20th century mathematics and philosophy. "The more famous incompleteness theorem states that for any self-consistent recursive axiomatic system powerful enough to describe the arithmetic of the natural numbers (Peano arithmetic), there are true propositions about the naturals that cannot be proved from the axioms. To prove this theorem, Gödel developed a technique now known as Gödel numbering, which codes formal expressions as natural numbers.He also showed that the continuum hypothesis cannot be disproved from the accepted axioms of set theory, if those axioms are consistent. He made important contributions to proof theory by clarifying the connections between classical logic, intuitionistic logic, and modal logic." (wikipedia)...... But enough with the boring stuff... as Godel got older, he became obsessed with the spread of germs and became notorious for wearing ski masks with eye holes everywhere he went in order to protect him from them. Also, he developed an obsessive fear of being poisoned. He would not eat anything without his wife eating it first (to make sure it wasn't poisoned).. what a gentleman! He died because his wife was hospitalized and could not test his food for him and so he refused to eat. His death certificate says he died due to "malnutrition and inanition caused by personality disturbance". Seriously, what's the deal with brilliant people and mental disorders.

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