Sunday, 30 December 2007

Dangerous Knowledge

Dangerous Knowledge
1 hr 29 min 1 sec - Sep 3, 2007
Average rating: (487 ratings)

In this one-off documentary, David Malone looks at four brilliant mathematicians - Georg Cantor, Ludwig Boltzmann, Kurt Gödel and Alan Turing - whose genius has profoundly affected us, but which tragically drove them insane and eventually led to them all committing suicide.

The film begins with Georg Cantor, the great mathematician whose work proved to be the foundation for much of the 20th-century mathematics. He believed he was God's messenger and was eventually driven insane trying to prove his theories of infinity.

Ludwig Boltzmann's struggle to prove the existence of atoms and probability eventually drove him to suicide. Kurt Gödel, the introverted confidant of Einstein, proved that there would always be problems which were outside human logic. His life ended in a sanatorium where he starved himself to death.

Finally, Alan Turing, the great Bletchley Park code breaker, father of computer science and homosexual, died trying to prove that some things are fundamentally unprovable.

The film also talks to the latest in the line of thinkers who have continued to pursue the question of whether there are things that mathematics and the human mind cannot know.

They include Greg Chaitin, mathematician at the IBM TJ Watson Research Center, New York, and Roger Penrose.

Dangerous Knowledge tackles some of the profound questions about the true nature of reality that mathematical thinkers are still trying to answer today.

Friday, 14 December 2007

No, really...

Honestly, you gotta snigger at that one. Well, I didn’t at the time but the tension is coming down now...

Basically, what happened was I decided to change jobs in order to improve my quality of life – on many different fronts. The finances were gaunt, the job satisfaction was gone, the boss was getting weird on me…? 2.5 years is long enough.

Everything went really well – especially the 5 interviews I had to sit for in order to get into the next dream environment. Except, my boss had other ideas and decided to make it difficult for me to leave.

So he gave me terrible references. What a perfect plan – your employee will never leave now because nobody will want him! Suddenly, the vision of a much-needed pay rise (or life for that matter) was beginning to fade away in front of my very eyes.

This is when you get creative.

I managed to chase down a marketing manager from Hong Kong who was in Japan waiting for the next plane to get back home. He didn’t mind telling the truth to my prospective employer. In fact, if it wasn’t for his giving disposition, I would not have been able to get out of this dangerous and scary situation.

I also collected enough written material to reassure my prospective employer that I am not evil, lobotomised or lazy. This was the bit that really lifted my spirits because I simply forgot how many people were pleased to benefit from my services – and how often those thanks were coming down the grapevine.

It’s just that I forgot because I was so busy constantly repairing the damage to my soul. As this is ultimately the price you pay for hanging out with predators – you get eaten. And it hurts. And it can get very hairy for you.

The problem is – you do not always realise that you are hanging out with predators. They have ways of convincing you otherwise, of making you feel inadequate and ill-prepared. Even if everyone around you is wondering what the hell is wrong with your eyes.

So I got it but my boss would not let me go that easily and really put in a lot of effort into harassing me, trying to scare me, pleading, threatening with legal documents that seem serious but really make no sense, etc etc. It went on for two weeks.

So what do you do?

You disconnect - and then you expose them. You cease all contact and get it through to your thick skull that this harassment is the only point there is. It’s only designed to drain you emotionally and physically. There is never a possibility to reason or argue your way out of it.

You just gotta walk away and refuse to play!

So by the end of the first week I would not have it any longer and abandoned my employment. The notice had already been given anyway and I was prepared to go without pay for a couple of weeks. The new employer recommended that I take a week off too but it was never meant to be this dramatic.

This is when the unsolicited visits started happening, harassing phone calls and – surprisingly – weird text messages. As my rant is getting long already, I just want to leave this topic with a quote that we all here had a good giggle about.

SMS Communication – 2 of 3
From: H* A*
Time: 14 December 2007, 08:38

It was witnessed [by me] u picked up and read letter fully dressed at 07.42. Had hopes u would have made contact with us by now as action is needed. H*

Well, it certainly seems that some sort of action was needed – I am just quietly pleased that, on this occasion, I was “fully dressed” while opening my letter box...