Tuesday, October 7, 2008


Yeah, so this blog is suffering from a definite lack of attention.

I don't have any particularly meaningful, worked-out content to post now, so I'll just mention some of the things I've been thinking about lately.

I recently started learning about Alonzo Church's lambda calculus (via Penrose's The Emperor's New Mind), and I'm very impressed. It's so cool that logicians were able to construct systems like this (and like Turing's work) before the advent of computers – indeed, these logical systems led directly to and facilitated the advent of computers. They start from such simplicity, but possess incredible power.

The lambda calculus reminds me of the programming language LISP (unsurprisingly, of course, since LISP was based on this very calculus), and reading about it makes me want to get back into programming again. I dabbled with Haskell a bit at the start of this summer, and I found it oddly fascinating. There is something quite elegant about these functional* languages that more practical languages (C/C++, Python, Perl) don't quite capture.

* Apparently only certain variants of LISP (like Scheme) are fully functional, but anyway.

Still, it is difficult for me to remain interested in these things for their own sake. I think I would need some kind of projects to work toward if I were to take up programming again seriously. Ah, motivation, that state which so often eludes me...

There are so many things I would love to learn, but somehow actually sitting down and doing the work required bores me terribly. Sometimes it doesn't; sometimes I go through brief periods where I feel a great deal of enthusiasm toward some subject (say, Wittgenstein's Tractatus, or some aspect of symbolic logic), but then I end up dropping it again, feeling utterly bored with it for months.

I would like to have a very extensive knowledge of mathematics, physics, philosophy, logic, computer science, linguistics, music, and (select aspects of) history. It would be swell to know Greek, Latin, German, and French. It is so difficult to care about, though; sometimes my mind just seems to shut off, and whatever I'm currently trying to study becomes excruciatingly dull; sudde
nly I can't remember why I wanted to learn about it in the first place. I value knowledge generally, but to actually feel something for it, to care – somehow that is different from merely saying "I value it"?