Ah, to be a grad student again…

One nice thing about spending a sabbatical at LPS in Irvine is that I get to sit in on some really cool classes. One, I’m attending Jeff Barrett‘s course on Quantum Mechanics. I never actually had a chance to study QM, and I’ve always been interested. Maybe it’ll help me understand what quantum logic is about. Guido Bacciagaluppi taught a seminar on that at Berkeley the last term I was there; but I was teaching at Stanford then (not to mention I had to finish my thesis!) and was unable to take it. Then Pen Maddy is giving an exciting graduate seminar entitled “Second Philosophy: Word-World Connections [PDF]” which will basically be on truth (correspondence and disquotational theories, Wright’s minimalism) and on Mark Wilson‘s forthcoming book Wandering Significance. It starts tomorrow. I have to go re-read Tarski (and Field and Etchemendy) now.

The OC

Yesterday, I arrived in Irvine, Calif., where I’ll be spending the Fall quarter at the Department of Logic and Philosophy of Science at the University of California. I’m very excited: it’s a very good department, there are lots of people here to talk to, and I get to take some seminars! The downside: it’s in the middle of Orange County, and you need a car to do anything. I walked for 2 hours today, and passed exactly 5 people (who weren’t walking to or from a car).

LaTeX for Logicians

It’s been up for a while now, but better late than never: Peter Smith (Cambridge) has set up a very handy page of links to LaTeX class files, style files, and instructions, especially for logicians. It includes, for instance, links to Josh Parson’s style file for setting formulas in Frege’s Begriffsschrift notation. Also, Peter’s own Using beamer.cls, mostly for transparencies: An intentionally incomplete guide, a short (12 pages) intro to using beamer. Something like that was urgently needed–the official manual is 127 pages long, and definitely does not tell you in a few simple steps how to get a simple presentation done using beamer.

History of mathematics soon won’t need libraries

If you’re into history of logic (or mathematics generally), or are just looking for old articles, and you’re stuck at a university whose libraries holdings go back to only about 1965, what can you do? Say you’re looking for a paper from Mathematische Annalen 1924, where do you go to find it online? Well, JSTOR is one option, although not for the Annalen. There you can find back issue of the main English-language journals (Am. J. Math, etc.) including the Journal of Symbolic Logic and various philosophy journals. There are, however, a number of free digitization repositories around the world that have materials in other languages as well. The GDZ has digitized back issues of not just Mathematische Annalen and Mathematische Zeitschrift but also more obscure periodicals such as the Abhandlungen der Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften in Göttingen, Mathematisch-Physikalische Klasse. It’s a little difficult to navigate, especially because in “browse” mode you don’t get the journal titles unless you also select “group by title.” I recommend advanced search with “*” in the title field and “Mathematica” selected in the “Digital Collections” field. There’s a nice list of other such “retrodigitization” repositories, at World Digital Mathematics Library, and an even more extensive and detailed one maintained by Ulf Rehmann here. Most of these repositories also have digitized books (e.g., the GDZ has the collected works of Dedekind and Hilbert). The neatest thing, though, is something I found out a little while ago. The Jahrbuch über die Fortschritte der Mathematik, which was the review journal at the time it was published (1868-1942), is now available as a searchable database. And some of the entries are directly linked to the GDZ and other repositories.

Alfred Tarski: Life and Logic

I just finished reading the new Tarski biography, Alfred Tarski: Life and Logic, by Anita Burdman Feferman and Sol Feferman. It is a well-researched, interesting, beautiful, and sometimes moving account of the life of one of the leading figures in the field. It was especially interesting reading for me, since a great chunk of his life was spent building up a center for logic at the University of California, Berkeley. When I studied there, in the Program in Logic and the Methodology of Science, it was of course a far cry from the excitement of it’s heyday in the 1960’s, but a good number of the people that Tarski had taught and/or hired were still there. Bill Craig shared his office with me! The stories and the gossip are enthralling. I knew that Tarski was an exacting and sometimes intimidating teacher and supervisor; I didn’t know that he was also a notorious “ladies’ man” around female students (i.e., a sexual harasser), or that he took speed (and later on, caffeine/cola pills). Fascinating. It hits the North American shelves in October.