Archive for September, 2012


Prelude and Austro-Hungarian Rhapsody

Goedel's picture

Kurt Gödel. Note the binary hair

The picture above is one of Kurt Gödel, the notorious Austrian mathematician. I am not quite sure he was a communist (he wouldn’t have been able to admit it, anyway, and he doesn’t seem to have ever talked much about politics), but he was probably the smartest man in recorded history. He is mostly known for his incompleteness theorem, which, in layman’s terms, shows that, whatever premises one adopts, there will always be statements that are true but can’t be demonstrated. His intellect is perhaps best appreciated by comparing it with that of Einstein, who once admitted that talking to Gödel was more interesting than his own work. Gödel showed appreciation too: for Einstein’s birthday, he presented him with his idea of a joke, a solution of the general relativity equations (which Einstein had found, but thought had no explicit solution) which, though formally correct, made absolutely no physical sense, basically describing the universe as being made of swirling dust.

There is even a widespread myth that Gödel mathematically demonstrated the existence of god.

However, the most interesting thing about Gödel’s life is how it ended: he willingly starved to death. He believed that all food was poisoned, except for that prepared by his own wife; when she fell sick and could no longer cook, he stopped eating entirely. Most people consider it a sign that Gödel was schizophrenic; this, I think, is arrogant: the claim of a man of such genius should be taken seriously and, if one does take it seriously, one finds it is very likely: all food, with the possible exception of that cooked by Adele Gödel is, indeed, poisonous. And Mrs. Gödel is dead.

The coming series of posts will focus on how poisonous food is in the age of capitalism, and why.