Monday, October 12, 2020

Hugh Woodin, Kurt Godel, Dwayne `The Rock' Johnson, Robert De Niro, David Frum, Tom Selleck: Do I care what they think? Should I?


My last post on CH mentioned that Hugh Woodin used to think NOT(CH) but now thinks CH. In both cases his reasons have some math content to them. Also, note that Hugh Woodin seems to believe that CH somehow HAS an answer. Kurt Godel also thought CH HAS an answer. It has been said that he could have announced  his result that CH is consistent by saying  L is THE model, and the problem is now solved. 

Should we care what Hugh Woodin and Kurt Godel think about CH?

YES- they have both studied the issue A LOT. If you think CH should have an answer, then surely you would care what they think. 

NO-  CH has no answer so there opinions are no better than mine. If you think CH does not have an answer then you might think this; however, I think you should still be at least INTERESTED in what people who have thought about the problem A LOT have to say, even if you will disagree with them.

But with MATH there are people who clearly know more than you on topics you care about, so it is worth hearing what they have to say. 


Recently Dwayne THE ROCK Johnson (by Wikipedia: actor, producer, businessman, and former professional wrestler) ENDORSED Joe Biden. Should we care about his opinion? Maybe, if wrestling fans and former pro wrestler tend to be Republicans, so this may indicate a shift. I do not know if this is the case. 

Robert De Niro was in favor of impeaching Donald Trump. He also said that Trump was like a Gangster. He would know because he was in the movie GOODFELLOWS and later THE IRISHMAN (about Jimmy Hoffa). To be fair I do not think he said that is how he would know. Even so, I don't think I care what he thinks, unless he has some specialized knowledge I do not know about. 

David Frum is a republican who had a break with the party NOT over Donald Trump, but over Obamacare- which you may recall was originally a CONSERVATIVE response to Hillarycare by the Heritage Foundation.  He has a good article on this here. Because he is an intelligent  republican in favor of Obamacare (or some version of it) he is worth listening to.

In POLITICS its trickier- who is worth listening to and why. For all I know, THE ROCK has made a detailed study of the Republican and Democratic platforms (actually this cannot be true since the Republicans did not have a platform this time). 


Tom Selleck (Actor-Magnum PI a while back, Blue Bloods now)  does commercials for reverse mortgages. A while back I asked a group of people WHY he is doing them. Here were some answers and reactions

a) He needs the money. Not likely, he seems to have done well and does not seem to have the kind of bad habits (e.g., drugs) that need money. Maybe he has expensive tastes (my only expensive tastes is in fine European Kit Kat bars--- which actually are not that expensive). 

b) He likes doing commercials. Maybe.

c) He believes in the product. At this, everyone cracked up in laughter.

This raises a more general point: Why does ANYONE believe ANY commercial since we KNOW the actor is being PAID to say it. I ask non rhetorically as always. 


  1. At some time, maybe a mythological one, stars in commercials had to use the product they were helping to sell.

    Money to time ratio is probably amazing for him on that commercial, and money is good to have so you never need to do a reverse mortgage. (nsfw words)

  2. Clearly, an actor is good at making funny (or sad) faces, there is no good reason why we should listen to their political opinions.

    But to turn it around, the author of this post and several other CS bloggers are good at proving theorems and writing grants. They also keep broadcasting their political insights. Should people listen?

    1. 1) Your comment made me wonder if indeed lance and I do pontificae our political views. I searched for all posts that had the word `Trump' in them since 2015 that were about politics at all
      Here is my rough estimate:

      16 were clearly NON-Partisan (e.g., a post about Deomocarts tend to pick Senators for VP, a strong trend, might favor Kamala for VP.)

      5 were on Climate Change which some might call Partisan since we believe it is real, man made, and needs to be dealt with.

      4 were partisan (all 4 were against Trump's policies).

      So at least we do not `keep broadcasting our political insights' (also we post once or twice a week, so 5 climate change, and 4 other partisans posts is NOT alot). However, YES,
      others bloggers do.

      2) SO, should someone with credentials in field X be listened to when talking in field Y?
      a) How close are X and Y?
      b) If X is a hard field the perhaps this person is VERY SMART
      c) LISTEN and then decide. If I listen to why THE ROCK is endorsing Joe Biden I might find that his REASONING is sound and insightful and that I've learned something. But see next point
      d) The `listen and see if it makes sense' might degenerate into
      `listen and see if you AGREE with them'--- which might lead to bad reasoning such as `The ROCK made good arguments FOR Joe Biden' just meaning `The ROCK made arguments I already agreed with'

      3) An Intellectual is someone who is an expert in one field and pontificates in another.

    2. Fair points, and I didn't claim you were not allowed to pontificate if you wish to, it is your blog afterall..

      But let me observe that pontification can be more subtle.
      In this post, you mention several celebrities who hate Trump. None that love him or that hate Biden.

      You ask whether former republicans turning anti-Trump is interesting. What about former democrats turning pro-Trump, are they worth listening to? etc. etc. etc.

    3. Excellent point, and I will add to it
      1) My comment on Robert De Niro cuts both ways- I am making fun of taking an actors point of view on politics BUT I am at the same time POINTING out that point of view. Like if I said:

      Celebrity X is AGAINT AMY B BEING ON THE SUPREME COURT! but why should we listen to him?

      2) Are there celebs who were dems but are now pro Trump- I can think of one, Rosanne, don't know others. But I might know others if I got out of my echo chamber.

      3) There seem to far more politicians that were Reps but are now ANTI-trump. I have NOT seen the other direction (there was a bogus `dems for trump' organization). But again, I may have missed it- if so let me know.

      4) Even my 16 `non-partisan posts' can slip in a partisan remark.

    4. Just walked out on a Zoom talk because their examples are all slamming Republicans when Democrats could equally be used, and vice versa on the praise.

  3. Sorry, typo report. I think that in the first paragraph after "consistent" you mean "by"?

    I understand that KG hated arguments, such as a person would get into by saying "L is THE model," and refused to say anything in public that could not be proved.

    1. Fixed typo- thanks.
      YES, KG was indeed like that. I am just saying that if he wasn't then we might think L is THE model.

  4. I've read Maddy's two papers and Rittberg's discussion of Woodin.

    I also looked at Woodin's "The transfinite universe" because Rittberg says Woodin explains why we should be Platonists. However, I don't understand what he is saying. It is something like large cardinals are related to consistency of formal theories, and the latter should be objective facts because we could have a computer generate all proofs forever and see if a contradiction occurs. I'm not sure what that is supposed to tell me.

    I think of numbers and geometric objects as things, while sets are when you point at a bunch of things. So, I have trouble thinking of huge sets, which are just assumed to exist, as real things. Maddy says something somewhat similar about things at the end of her second paper, but then explains why this gets abstracted into set theory, so we should think of sets as things (maybe I've misunderstood her).

    I think for now, I'll go with V = L. Maybe I'll change my mind some day, if the set theorists can explain better why I should. But, for now, I don't believe large cardinals really exist.

    Bill mentioned Banach-Tarski. We shouldn't be showing Banach-Tarski to people who can't understand the proof. The sets are very weird. But, this doesn't imply that there is something wrong with the concept of volume. Volume (i.e., Lebesgue measure) works just as everyone's intuition says it should. In fact, volume works for sets that are much crazier than any non-mathematician would ever think of. And, it even works when you have an infinite number of pieces. Would a non-mathematician think volume should be countably additive?

    Lebesgue measure was a triumph of pushing area/volume/integration much further than you might have thought possible. There is a nice book "Lebesgue's Theory of Integration: Its Origins and Development" by Thomas Hawkins that goes through all the history. I read it a few years ago after having it sit on my shelf for a couple of decades. It took a lot of effort by those mathematicians back then to get to the nice clean theory we have now.

    It is true that not all sets have a volume, but I'm not sure why you would expect every set to have one. Try asking your typical layperson what the volume should be of some strange sets (ones that are measurable). I'll bet they will say that volume doesn't make sense for many of them.

    Admittedly, Banach-Tarski is surprising because the number of subsets is finite. But, the sets are very weird. And, we know that infinite sets can do weird things.

    Space-filling curves and continuous nowhere differentiable functions are perhaps even more unintuitive. Sometimes weird things turn out to be useful: sample paths of Brownian motion are continuous nowhere differentiable; fractals can be useful; in PDE or geometric measure theory, we start with Schwartz distributions or similar things so that we can then prove regularity theorems.