Best Computer Science School in Utah

Levi Pearson levi at cold.org
Wed Sep 26 16:13:10 MDT 2007


Brandon Stout <bms at mscis.org> writes:
> History is full of examples when people accomplish what others deemed
> impossible.  Certainly there are absolutes.  I, for one, believe nobody
> will ever be able to make something out of nothing.  However, new
> technology only comes about when someone tries to do something others
> thought were impossible.  I'm sure many a cave man thought a light bulb
> would be impossible.  Many thought we could not pass the speed of
> sound.  I bet many in the 20s, even the 50s would have thought writing a
> spreadsheet on a home computer with spell checking, and watching a movie
> at the same time all on the same device would be impossible.  Science
> Fiction often becomes reality.  The CD, the cell phone, and many other
> devices were dreamed up and shown on Star Trek long before they were
> real.  All that quote means is that one who says something is impossible
> will never achieve what others might.

I agree with the sentiment here, which is that few things are truly
impossible.  Many times when people say something is impossible, they
have no more reason to believe the impossibility of it other than they
can't think of any way to do it, or that it seems counterintuitive.
That's not enough to make something impossible, just intractable.

However, I stand by the statement that perpetual motion machines and
halting oracles are impossible.  I'm not going to achieve any less
because of this, because given the laws of thermodynamics and
computability, they're provably true.  Both thermodynamics and
computability are well-understood enough that they're not under
serious question.

Once you start questioning basic assumptions like these, you've left
the realm of the daring inventor and entered the cesspool of the
deranged crank, e.g. http://www.timecube.com/

                --Levi



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