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Book Review: Everything and More – A Compact History of Infinity by David Foster Wallace

Everything and More specifically tackles the esoteric topic of the mathematical, historical, and metaphysical concept of infinity. 

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American novelist and essayist David Foster Wallace’s  book Everything and More: A Compact History of Infinity, a self-proclaimed exercise in “pop technical writing” – technical writing for layman, or, individuals without advanced degrees in mathematics. 

Everything and More specifically tackles the esoteric topic of the mathematical, historical, and metaphysical concept of infinity, as well as a narration of “infinite set-theory”, i.e., the foundational equations positing infinity in a style of prose, that as Wallace claims, attempts to make “the math beautiful” or at least presents it in a way “to get the reader to see how someone might find it so.”  

Wallace’s conquest of translating infinity into natural language has been criticized by some mathematicians; most critics highlight what they consider oversimplifications of some aspects of the hard math in Wallace’s narrative.  

However, these criticisms are unfounded and ignore the chief purpose and scope of Wallace’s pop technical manual.  

W. W. Norton publishing hired Wallace to write Everything and More as an installment of the series “Great Discoveries” and indented on contracting great literary minds with working knowledge of topics in technical fields to write technical manuals on the most complex, but popular ideas floating in our collective consciousness, in a way that retains literary and artistic value.

This technique is embodied in the famous analogy Wallace uses to illustrate the sketchy nature of the faith we put into abstract mathematical reasoning as it corresponds to the concrete world through the paradox of the “inductive principle.”  

In Wallace’s analogy the brightest chicken in a coop becomes convinced through induction that at a certain time (T) every morning when the farmer (F) appears at the coop with a burlap sack (S) in hand that means feeding time (Feed).  So when the chicken hears the farmers footsteps he starts pecking at the ground in anticipation.  This chicken has discovered the inductive principle as: T (F+S) = Feed.  One morning the chicken hears the footsteps of the farmer and starts pecking at the ground but when the farmer arrives outside he grabs the chicken and swiftly rings his neck.

Wallace’s analogy illustrates not only the arbitrary relationship between abstract form and real world dynamics, but also begs the question what can we really Know to be True about reality through math?  There is Wallace asserts, “Something about the fact that Mr. Chicken not only didn’t suspect a thing but appears to have been wholly justified in not suspecting a thing… [which is] creepy and upsetting” and where this level of uncertainty exists in the very ordinary case of the chicken what does that tell us about what we can know about the extraordinary concept of infinity?

Still, Wallace’s ability to make concrete and philosophically disconcerting formal math, to portray the kind of abstract thinking and faith in logic which allows a conception of infinity and the infinitesimal is the chief strength of Everything and More, one of many reasons to give the challenging pop technical manual a chance.

– Matthew Ramirez

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Star Wars™ Pinball: Star Wars Rebels™

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Zen Studios has concocted a ruse of amusement, it’s a trap—of fun. Star Wars™ Pinball: Star Wars Rebels™, established by the critically acclaimed animated TV show on Disney XD, Star Wars Rebels™, releases endorphins chock full of nostalgia and bliss. With all of the Star Wars talk going on as of late, it’s nice to get in your daily need of pew pew! Stormtroopers assemble and try to take down the hero of Lothal, the whole mission thing is a bit nuts. This pinball table goes to a galaxy far far away by delving into an age that has yet to be traversed by the films. Zen studios gets the balance of the force just right, do not try to get this table, do it.

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Pinball FX-2 Avengers: Age of Ultron

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Zen Studios does it again with Pinball FX2 – Marvel Avenger’s: Age of Ultron. This table is available on PC, Xbox One, and Playstation 4. Avengers Assemble! Age of Ultron quenches a thirst for adventure you didn’t know you had. Players assist Iron Man in finishing his most aspiring venture to date. The profound and climactic soundtrack will rip you out of the comfort of your chair and into the Age of Ultron. Enjoy this audacious addition to the Avenger’s universe, Thor’s might is on your side. The Incredible Hulk, Hawkeye, and Black Widow make a gargantuan attempt at arresting the nefarious Ultron. Pull yourself together and check out this game, you can’t afford more mistakes. The god of thunder favors you.

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Shaking the Habitual, The Knife | Album Review

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By The Knife

Shaking the Habitual is something every person needs more of in life. Stepping outside of boundaries and entering a new experience can have a confounding effect on the senses. Rhythm and movement resonate from the deepest depths of the soul and project outward in an array of vibrancy. 

What starts off like a indigenous ceremony quickly changes to a post apocalyptic nuclear wasteland by the third track, “A Cherry on Top.” Then, finding semblance in a 19 minute interlude, “Old Dreams Waiting to Be Realized,” the brother-and-sister duo reemerge in ritualistic fashion with the deep bass line of “Raging Lung”. Ending with an unsettling aptitude, Fracking Fluid Injection precedes the final track, Ready to Lose; providing insight to a larger contextual effect this album has in a world seeming “Full of Fire.” 

Although difficult to fully embody the composition of electronic and aboriginal noise heard in The Knife’s new album, Shaking the Habitual, any movement to the music is sure to conjure emotion. At times, the May release represents a more archetypal sound in the art of music. 

Tying together components of old and new, the Swedish duo creates a spellbinding effect with the first track, A Tooth For an Eye. Amalgamating dominant instrumentations, subtle synth lines and underlying vocals, A Tooth For and Eye entices the listener with something seldom projected over the airwaves. 

Coming off a seven year hiatus, the duo can predominate with an electronic influence, but, ultimately the seamless transition across a spectrum of sound grasps the ear. Delivered in its entirety, the lasting impression might leave one feeling like a participant of a seance.

— Rob Donovan

 

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