Thursday: Hili dialogue

March 23, 2017 • 6:30 am

Good morning (and good night to those of you in countries with their noses on the International Date Line).

Today is the birthday of the man who invented the safety elevator, Elisha Otis (1811). The invention was born out of necessity – he wanted to use hoisting platforms at his bedstead factory, but they were unreliable as the lifting cable often broke. Initially he didn’t seem to think much of his invention, he’d created other things before: a safety brake for trains and an automatic bread baking oven. However he showed it at the New York World’s Fair in 1854, and the rest, as they say, is history.

German physicist and mathematician Emmy (Amalie) Noether was born today in 1882. She is the discoverer of Noether’s theorem which Wikipedia states as:

“…every differentiable symmetry of the action of a physical system has a corresponding conservation law.”

German aerospace engineer Wernher von Braun was also born today in 1912. He moved to the US after World War II, recruited through the secretive Operation Paperclip, where he worked on the Saturn V program.

Franz Schreker (1878) is a little-known Austrian composer born to a Jewish father and Catholic mother. His promising career was cut short by the Weimar Republic; rising anti-Semitism and National Socialist demonstrations irreparably damaged his reputation. He died in 1934 in relative obscurity. Since 2004 however, there has been a revival of interest his works, and they have been performed in Germany and Austria.

And so, onto Dobrzyń where Hili the cat is being obscure. Maybe she is showing off to Cyrus, or perhaps she is an astute observer of trends and weaknesses in philosophy.

A: What are you thinking about?
Hili: I’m thinking that philosophers didn’t arrive at post-existentialism yet.

In Polish:

Ja: Nad czym myślisz?
Hili: Nad tym, że filozofowie nie dotarli jeszcze do postegzystencjalizmu.

18 thoughts on “Thursday: Hili dialogue

  1. Regarding Emmy Noether,
    I am always astonished on how much Jews contributed to science/philosophy in Europe during a 100 years between 1840-1940.

    The only pre-19th century Jewish intellectual of note I can recall right now is Spinoza.

    Can anyone name a major Jewish scientist before 1800?
    Since then we can all name giants like Einstein, Von Neumann, Freud, Haber, Pauli etc.

  2. Noether’s theorem is amazing! It explains some of the most fundamental laws of nature: conservation of Energy, Momentum, Electric Charge, and several others. Very few laws of nature are mysterious any more!

      1. Yes, just signifying that some invention can have a down side. Maybe Eli Whitney’s cotton gin would be a more appropriate example.

  3. As the article sort-of points out, Otis’ invention was actually a self-actuating braking system, so that a failure of the hoisting cable didn’t result in screams, plummets, and a brief opportunity to practice free-fall manoeuvring without a “Vomit Comet.” But the hoisting equipment component led, unsurprisingly, to OTIS (I believe the same company) getting involved in lowering things into oil wells and pulling them back out again. Unfortunately, technology being what it is, and oil wells being what they are, the company acquired the backronym “Our Tool Is Stuck.”

  4. I think Hili’s “post existentialism” is a play on postmodernism, which probably has not yet been fully succeeded by “post-postmodernism”. I think cats are all, with their emphasis on the individual “me,me,me”, existentialists.

  5. I’d be interested to hear from Musical Beef and or Ben Goren on Franz Schreker. I’d never heard of him before.

    1. Schreker was one of the great opera composers of all time. In the 30’s he had more operatic productions being staged than Richard Strauss.
      His music is a glorious combination of dissonance and late romanticism. While Strauss survived through the Nazi period, Schreker’s fame and glory was thoroughly crushed and obliterated by the regime. Another sterling example of Jewish contribution to culture.

    1. As Tom Lehrer sang: “Once rockets are up, who cares where they come down. That’s not my department said Wernher Von Braun.”

  6. Emmy Noether’s theorem is very significant for physicists, but amongst mathematicians her main claim to fame is her many contributions to the field of group theory originally developed by Évariste Galois and Joseph-Louis LaGrange. Another thing named after her is the quite abstruse concept of “Noetherian rings”, and the Noether-Lasker theorem.

    Group theory is a key part of “dynamical systems theory” which can study things like water flow and pendulums.

    But, of special interest to readers of WEIT, group theory played a key role in deciphering the genetic code a la Watson, and does so in the study of self-organizing systems including things like molecules in organic chemistry.

    Wikipedia notes of Noether that “She was described by Pavel Alexandrov, Albert Einstein, Jean Dieudonné, Hermann Weyl, and Norbert Wiener as the most important woman in the history of mathematics”

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