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Carl Sagan's Cosmos and Bertrand Russell

  1. Jun 18, 2014 #1

    Watching this show for the first time. Just saw episode ten, The Persistence of Memory. When walking through his library of the mind, Carl opens a book that looks like Russell and Whitehead's Principia Mathematica at around 32:45, when talking about hidden logical machinery behind "The simplest thought, like the concept of the number 'one'."

    Please can anyone confirm?

    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 25, 2014
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 18, 2014 #2


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    From your link, I get:

    This video is not available in your country.
  4. Jun 18, 2014 #3

    George Jones

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    Interesting. From a previous post, it seems that 3.141592 is in the UK. I can watch the video in Canada.

    It is quite plausible that the page is from Principia Mathematica, but I don't know for sure.

    Interesting also that Sagan put the book back on the shelf. G.H. Hardy, in A Mathematician's Apology, wrote
  5. Jun 18, 2014 #4
    Thankyou both from replying. I'm sorry the link doesn't work for you both. (Yes, I am from the UK.)

    Attached is a screen grab if anyone is interested. I just thought the topic Sagan was speaking of at that moment and the language he was using ('The brain has its own language of logical analysis for checking the consistency of the world', 'Logical machinery behind a seemingly-simple idea like the number 1' etc.) as well as the notation on the page, all reminded me of PM very much.

    I only ask of curiousity: after Russell, Sagan is probably my biggest hero so I would be thrilled if Bertie got a nod in Cosmos :)

    Attached Files:

  6. Jun 18, 2014 #5
    Yes, it is the principia mathematica. No other math book uses these kind of totally unreadable notations.

    Here is their proof that 1+1=2 by the way:

  7. Jun 18, 2014 #6
    Thankyou Micromass. I understand no one uses this notation anymore and even the Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy states that modern students of logic will likely find the notation difficult. That, in part, is why it jumped out at me. It sure looked like PM!

    Well, Sagan whipping out a Russell book in a mock-up of a human brain has just about made my day, so I think I'm going to log off and go to bed before anything ruins it.

    'Night All! :approve:
  8. Jun 18, 2014 #7
    Also, to George Jones: I have never come across this story about Russell before. Thanks for sharing!
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