Friday, September 17, 2010

Is it pretentious to read xkvd even though you need wikipedia to get the math jokes? (Especially if you still don't get it after a quarter-hour reading & not understanding how Ackermann functions work?)

Oh, btw: another explanation I didn't get. (Having read through it three times now... nope, still not getting it.)


Bill Johnston said...

The Ackermann function is a triviality that is designed to grow as fast as possible. It does this by applying itself to itself at every iteration, so it quickly gets hard to write down or conceptualize. I don't think it's used for anything other than an example.

So the joke really boils down to "let's take a function that is huge, and give it a huge argument!" to generate a number too large for even mathematicians to comprehend. Fools. Trivially stacking large things together isn't going to impress anyone.

Mitch H. said...

Oh, I got the *gag* and the meaning - conclusions are trivial, I can generally get the gist of the *implications* of any given bit of math. It's following the *logic* that always defeats me. Any sufficiently complicated bit of math is indistinguishable from witchcraft as far as my understanding is concerned. It's related to why I have historically had difficulty learning new languages. I make intuitive leaps too easily, thus I don't really do well with the gaps in between.

And largeness always impresses - even if that impression is revulsion or contempt. Why else would there be such a thing as "Graham's Number"?