Monday 18 May 2020

Manically Screaming Number Theory

From the pen of Jimmie Durham: 'There are quite a few "irrational" numbers such as Pi. If we could find a number that would express the position of the primes in relationship to the other numbers, that might be the ultimate irrational number.'
There exists the common misconception among non-mathematicians that irrational numbers are numbers that somehow behave like coked-up psychotics. An irrational number is simply a number that can't be expressed as a ratio of two integers. Hence they are not-rational. Perhaps non-fractional numbers would have been a better name.
While Jimmie's second sentence thus makes poetic sense, it misunderstands what makes a certain number irrational and it also ignores that relationships between numbers are expressed in functions, not other numbers.

Please don't think that I'm a pedantic asshole for pointing out the easily made mistakes of somebody who does not make any claim about his mathematical knowledge. The only reason I bring this up is because the quote was taken from a book that was published on occasion of the exhibition 'In the Holocene' which took place at MIT of all places. In its blurb it's written that 'both art and science can be seen to share an interest in knowledge and disruptive insights, yet are subject to different logics and conclusions.' While in the arts the notion of manifold interpretations being equally correct has become engrained, in the exact sciences such things as wrong conclusions and faulty logic still exist.