Please join us Tuesday, October 23 for a lecturette by Daniel Erwin.

Location: 6th fl. Nathan Room

In 1931, an Austrian mathematician named Kurt Godel proved that logical systems based on arithmetic are always incomplete or inconsistent. Just a few years earlier Werner Heisenberg, along with Neils Bohr and others, developed a formulation of quantumÂ mechanics which suggests that - at small scales - matter is unpredictable and can only be measured with limited precision. Then, in the 1950s, French philosopher Jacques Derrida showed that any given text can have multiple meanings depending on the reader’s assumptions.

Along with a few others during the 20th century, these three men attacked our culture’s belief in perfect knowledge. Every mathematician since Euclid had assumed that there was already - or at worst that there would one day be - an absolute, incontrovertible basis for proofs. Every physicist since Newton had assumed that any future event could be predicted with certainty given sufficiently precise measurements. And every philosopher since Plato had assumed that it was possible to accurately represent reality with words.

Our culture is still reeling from the revelation that all these goals are impossible. In this lecturette Daniel will discuss the basis for these assertions and try to show how the destruction of certainty might be useful for designers.