TITLE: Superior Ideas AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: November 17, 2018 4:00 PM DESC: ----- BODY: In February 1943, an American friend sent physicist Freeman Dyson a copy of Kurt Gödel's "The Consistency of the Continuum Hypothesis" while he was an undergrad at Cambridge. Dyson wrote home about it to his parents:
I have been reading the immortal work (it is only sixty pages long) alternately with The Magic Mountain and find it hard to say which one is better. Mann of course writes better English (or rather the translator does); on the other hand the superiority of the ideas in Gödel just about makes up for that.
Imagine that, only five years later, Dyson would be "drinking tea with Gödel at his home in Princeton". Of course, after having taken classes with the likes of Hardy and Dirac, Dyson was well-prepared. He seems to have found himself surrounded by superior ideas much of his life and, despite his modesty, added a few himself. I've never read The Magic Mountain, or any Mann, for that matter. I will correct that soon. However, Mann will have to wait until I finish Dyson's Maker of Patterns, in which I found this passage. It is a quite readable memoir that interleaves letters Dyson wrote to his family over the course of thirty-some years with explanatory text and historical asides. I'm glad I picked it up. -----