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The Three Body Problem > TTBP: The Actual Three Body Problem and Anxiety/Horror/Despair (Spoilers all)

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message 1: by Rob Secundus (last edited Feb 01, 2017 05:07AM) (new)

Rob Secundus (quintessential_defenestration) | 1035 comments This is now the third S&L book to really nicely, novelly, and in-depthily get at one of my chief anxieties-- the whole problem-of-induction thing (which I know isn't the same thing as the actual Three Body Problem, but is related closely enough especially in this novel that I feel ok about conflating them!) (the previous two being VanderMeer's Anihilation and a few stories in Chiang's Stories of Your Life and Others).

Is anyone else on a purely psychological level just deeply troubled/horrified at our inability to ever, with accuracy, know? At the limitations of science? At the shooter, the farmer, the idea that things beyond our comprehension could be screwing with our progress, or the idea that all of our physics is nothing more than just screwing on extra epicycles upon epicycles, or that maybe, most terrifyingly of all, we're just experiencing a pocket of time in which the laws of physics seem to be stable in the universe when at any moment that may no longer be the case?

For whatever reason, reading books like this helps with the day-to-day anxiety too. Seeing characters struggle with these fears helps me feel a little less crazy.


message 2: by Tobias (last edited Feb 01, 2017 10:35AM) (new)

Tobias Langhoff (tobiasvl) | 136 comments I had similar existential thoughts when I learned about Gödel's incompleteness theorems in college. A bit more fundamental research than physics, but still.

A speculative short story that touched upon similar issues in mathematics is "Division by Zero" by Ted Chiang.

"As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain, and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality." - Albert Einstein


message 3: by Rob Secundus (last edited Feb 01, 2017 06:38PM) (new)

Rob Secundus (quintessential_defenestration) | 1035 comments Tobias wrote: "I had similar existential thoughts when I learned about Gödel's incompleteness theorems in college. A bit more fundamental research than physics, but still.

A speculative short story that touched ..."


I don't understand Gödel myself (or most math at that level) but I did love that story for just that reason. "Hell is the Absence of God" was another one that approached these same sorts of anxieties from another angle/discipline-- just as in Math and Science there are these Great Uncertainties, so too in theology. Tomists and Calvinists can look at the same set of data and come up with radically different Gods-- one of which must interact with humanity in a certain way, and one of which we cannot predict.

Also, just want to add a footnote-- it's easy to read my original comment with an "Oh, look at me, I'm so deep" tone, which isn't my intent at all. I don't think worries like these are deep, and I realize these are unhealthy anxieties. I was just wondering if anyone else had similar troubles and if anyone else found weird solace in these kinds of stories.


message 4: by Serendi (new)

Serendi | 828 comments Reminds me of a conversation some years back.

Mom: The idea of infinity is terrifying!
Me: I actually love it.
Our Minister, who studied at the Jung Institute, to me: That's because you and I are intuitive.

Which makes me wonder if one's reaction actually does relate to one's Jungian/Myers-Briggs type. (I've not actually explored this.)


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