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Monday, November 24, 2014

Talking With Hilbert Space

A couple years ago, I posted a poem entitled "Planting In Hilbert Space". Nine people looked at it but none commented --not an unusual count for my poetry but I have come to suspect some confusion overtook the dynamic of delivery and concept. Nor do I understand what I have just written, so let us examine this enigma together. First, an examination of Hilbert is in order.

Hilbert space is named after David Hilbert (German mathematician, 1862-1943). It generalizes the concept of Euclidean space and extends the method of vector algebra from two- and three-dimensional space to spaces of any finite or infinite number of dimensions. Hilbert decided, "Physics is too hard for physicists", so he devised a kinetic geometry consistent with human imagination. Hilbert Space became a computational model universe that is mathematically complete and can be used to generate proofs of theoretical phenomena.

Hilbert kept it inside his really really big hat.

My success in duplicating this device depended upon carefully collecting the principal components over a period of many years. Normaphoto below shows the apparatus consists of two globes of Hilbert Space, one nickle-plated steel (1920's ice-cube shaver) and one plexiglass (so we can see the plasmoid flux inside), a 1900 Western Electric candlestick telephone, some wires and a bell.

I assembled these items into a unified philosophical instrument and waited...and waited...oh then I remembered to plug it in. Then the bell rang.

"Hello?"

"Hello, this is Hilbert Space 1 and 2. What?"

At this point I hurriedly recited my poem:

Planting In Hilbert Space




Something wakes as from a dream,
Shakes itself and begins.
It is you, me, everyone who
Has been and will be.
It can see
Time, swim gravity,
Stretch its electric body
Over rises, bends,
To wonders where
Galaxies spin and what
Is born where all
Of it ends.
Every spark contains our
Hopes, sorrows.
As from a dream, I ask:
Tomorrows, please, can
You promise tomorrows?


To which Hilbert Space replied, "Oh sure, why the hell not?"


40 comments:

  1. I am always in awe of your wonderful vocabulary skills, Geo. I am still wondering about Plasmoid flux and if I may also have some and never noticed.

    I did like your poem and find hope in Hilbert Space's reply.

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    1. Kind Arleen, I am sometimes troubled by Plasmoid Flux and find a mild Antacid helpful.

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  2. Why do you always leave me with more questions than the universe can provide answers for?

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    1. It's how enigmas are. Solve one and they all come over and want to be solved.

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    2. I join Delores with the question? !

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    3. It's all part of the inquiry into existence, which has been conducted by so many better minds than mine. I'm just really glad so many of them took notes and published where I could find them.

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  3. So when I was born my future was filled with infinite possibilities. What my life would be depended on the choices I would make and from the infinite possibilities that would result from each choice. That is probably a selfish view but I believe i have cracked your code.

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    1. Emma, I think that's how we navigate reality. And I'm glad you've cracked my code --I sure haven't yet.

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  4. Esteemed Geo., I like the funny. Girl is big on funny. But that poem was too sacred for Hilbert Space's cavalier response--even if he does doff a capacious hat. :)

    (Once again, identified and speech-annihilating tears.)

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    1. Kind Suze: Nothing I write is sacred, but tomorrows, the promise of tomorrows --that's gotta come close.

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    2. It is fine for a writer not to think of his words as sacred and equally fine for a reader to disagree.

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  5. Of course he answered that....he was an unfailing optimist. "We must know! We will know!" I wish he could have lived a few more years, to see the world was not as dark as it must have seemed to him when he died, and indeed there was a basis for hope.

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    1. I like to believe Hilbert always had hope, Mike --even when education was suffering the purges of misrule. He never stopped refining his work or abandoned efforts to axiomatize mathematical physics.

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  6. I had to look it all up, Geo. I'm still not sure I get it, but I'm getting flashes of Cupid and the stork, and possibly the batmobile, so something is happening, stretching, and I like the feeling. I like your poem, too.

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    1. Thanks, Chicken. One of the commonest errors physicists make is leaving the batmobile out of their calculations.

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  7. I like both gadget and poem. The blue duck is cute, too.

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    1. Thanks, Squid. Duck was a gift from a dear relative --It was Norma who painted blue and put a stick up it.

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    2. Norma's a wise lady. Duck on a stick... sounds yummy!

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    3. She's almost frighteningly wise, Squid.

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  8. My favorite part of this gathering is the card in the back: an adult robot holding hands with a child robot. I mentally grant them both tenderness and love.

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    1. Your grant has been honored. It is a Fathers' Day card sent me by my daughter in Chicago. She wrote, "Thank you for not raising me to be a robot!"

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  9. Oh, I hope he is right. The promise of tomorrow is something to sleep on.

    I marvel at your collection of components.

    And a very happy tomorrow to you and yours.

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    1. Hilbert Space is geometrically beyond error, Tom. Our best wishes to you as well!

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  10. Great, very creative and I love your insights (all stuffed inside his hat, ha!) Happy Thanksgiving, Geo!

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    1. Thanks, Sage. Best wishes to you too.

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  11. Beautiful poem, beautiful hat. And ducks hold a personal symbology of dream following, good character and a persevering sort of indestructibility. It bodes beautifully too :-) x

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    1. Thanks Lisa, I have a special fondness for that duck.

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  12. Dear Geo.,
    how many people (and ideas) I meet on your blog I'd never have thought of before. Though a lot of my relatives lives in Göttingen, it is the first time I heard of Mr. Hilbert - I looked him up on Wiki (and saw a photo without a hat that clearly showed that he needed a hat of this size - a thinker). I thought it interesting that he promoted women's careers at the university - when a faculty was against a woman as a professor he said: "...but a department in the university isn't a bath-house".

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    1. Dear Brigitta, There is indeed much to admire about David Hilbert. And I agree, when a fellow wears a hat of such proportions it is logical to assume he has something to fill it with. Hilbert's contribution to mathematics and quantum mechanics supports that assumption.

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  13. I like that poem!! p.s. hope you and yours had a lovely thanksgiving day.

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    1. Glad you like my poem, Lorna. And I reciprocate your good wishes,

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  14. don’t understand the science but I like the poem. I can understand that.
    And Hilbert’s answer is perfect, but a bit mean. I should leave him be if I were you.

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    1. Thanks, Friko. I usually do leave Hilbert alone. He's a cranky old continuum.

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  15. That is a really big hat. Or else he had a tiny noggin.

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  16. Dude, I am thoroughly convinced nobody churns out thought-provoking posts better than you do. Your mind is a delightful maze, and I thank you for taking us along on guided tours. (You SURE you're a retired gardener??? I'm thinking maybe you were a covert philosopher/ physicist.)

    Oops... and poet, too. Loved it!

    Happy weekend. Hope you're feeling better soon.

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    1. Thanks, Susan. Still feel crummy but dudes are supposed to be tough so I'll try hard.

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  17. You often write posts that leave me speechless – this is one. I have never heard of this gentleman or his philosophy – your poem I like though – I would understand it better if it were in French, maybe.

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    1. Thank you, Vagabonde. Je souhaite que mon français était assez bon pour traduire le poème mais je suis encore à apprendre. Le poème se agit d'un modèle mathématique de la universe-- peut-il me assurer qu'il y aura des lendemains. A very important question!

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