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Happy! - Nov 26 (Norbert Wiener)

Abby Sale 26 Nov 05 - 11:21 AM
JohnInKansas 26 Nov 05 - 01:45 PM
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Subject: Happy! - Nov 26 (Norbert Wiener)
From: Abby Sale
Date: 26 Nov 05 - 11:21 AM

Happy Birthday!

US mathematician & inventor of cybernetics,

Norbert Wiener

born 11/26/1894

        An M.I.T. computer man got drunk one fateful night.
        He opened up the console and smashed everything in sight.
        When they finally subdued him, the judge he stood before,
        Said, "Lock him up for 20 years, he's rotten to the core!"

                "MIT Drinking Song," DigTrad filename[ MITDRNK

I always thought the expression originated relative to the guy drummed out of the US Marines, because he was found to be "Rotten to the Corps." [Baumbaum]

I'd always heard it as 1/2 of a 'your sister...' class of barroom brawl provoking insults. i.e. 'Your sister was rotten to the corps... but very generous with the infantry' [Greg Bullough]

Copyright © 2005, Abby Sale - all rights reserved
What are Happy's all about? See Clicky

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Subject: RE: Happy! - Nov 26 (Norbert Wiener)
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 26 Nov 05 - 01:45 PM

Norbert was a true "child prodigy" who continued to demonstrate real genius to the end of his life. In his later years as a teacher, he was urged to publish his knowledge but generally ignored the requests. Several large bodies of his theories are documented only because selected students in his advanced classes photographed everything he wrote on the chalkboards, recorded what was said in class, wrote and explained the theory, and received (and deserved) PhD thesis credit for their work.

One such student included in his raw notes, submitted with the thesis-in-progress to a thesis advisor, numerous sections in which the notes were concluded with the notation "P.B.E." in a manner similar to the customary usage of "Q.E.D." When asked to explain, he said it was one of Norbert's favorite methods of proving something: "Proof By Erasure." (He was noted for moving swiftly through the subject matter.) A student hoping to use a "Norbert" thesis topic would anticipate taking the same class several times, but many students did anyway.

It is reported that Norbert was very concerned about the potential for use of his theories on artificial intelligence for "antisocial purposes," and for this reason he declined to accept military funding, and to large extent any government funding, for his research, and was thereby "isolated" by others who were doing such work. I can't say for sure, but I suspect that it was more the narrow field in which he worked, somewhat typical for advanced mathematicians, that isolated him from peers who weren't specifically interested in what he was doing - and knowledgeable enough to figure out what he was doing.

Norbert was not noted for his "social graces," and represented himself as the "typical absent-minded professor." A widely circulated story, that several people claimed to have heard him tell about himself went:

"We moved the other day, and of course my wife took care of the details. I forgot all about it until I got home and found the house locked up and deserted. When I thought about it a bit, I remembered my wife saying she'd written our new address on a piece of paper that she'd placed in my pocket, so I searched everywhere; but apparently I must have used the paper for some notes and discarded it or left it at the office.

"I was beginning to be very concerned since I had no idea where our new house was, when I saw a little girl playing nearby. I approached her and said 'My name is Norbert Wiener. I used to live here, but we've moved. Do you know where my new house is?' to which the little girls said 'It's alright Daddy. Mommy sent me to get you.'"

Numerous similar "Wienerisms" were widely circulated, and like banjo jokes most of them were probably true.


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Mudcat time: 26 October 9:24 PM EDT

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