Chaitin, Gregory J. 1947 (G.J. Chaitin)
Chaitin, Gregory J. 1947 (G.J. Chaitin)
PERSONAL:
Born June 25, 1947.
ADDRESSES:
Home—NY. Office—IBM Research, P.O. Box 218, Yorktown Heights, NY 10598.
CAREER:
Writer, mathematician, and researcher. IBM Watson Research Center, Yorktown Heights, NY, mathematician. Visiting professor, University of Buenos Aires, Argentina, and at the University of Auckland, New Zealand.
MEMBER:
International Academy of the Philosophy of Science, Scientific Committee of the Institute of Complex Systems (Valparaiso, Chile; honorary president).
WRITINGS:
Computational Complexity and Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem, Centro Técnico Cientifico (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), 1970.
Information, Randomness & Incompleteness: Papers on Algorithmic Information Theory, World Scientific (Teaneck, NJ), 1987, 2nd edition, 1990.
Algorithmic Information Theory, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1987.
InformationTheoretic Incompleteness, World Scientific (River Edge, NJ), 1992.
The Limits of Mathematics: A Course on Information Theory and Limits of Formal Reasoning, Springer (New York, NY), 1998.
The Unknowable, Springer (New York, NY), 1999.
Exploring Randomness, Springer (New York, NY), 2001.
Conversations with a Mathematician: Math, Art, Science, and the Limits of Reason: A Collection of His Most WideRanging and Nontechnical Lectures and Interviews, Springer (New York, NY), 2002.
Meta Math! The Quest for Omega, Pantheon Books (New York, NY), 2005.
Thinking about Gödel and Turing: Essays on Complexity 19702007, World Scientific (Singapore), 2007.
SIDELIGHTS:
Gregory J. Chaitin "is the most optimistic bearer of bad news in the history of science," according to Jaron Lanier, writing in the American Scientist. A mathematician who, as a teenager, created algorithmic information theory, Chaitin went one better with his discovery in the 1970s of what he terms the Omega number. Chaitin built on the work of mathematician Kurt Gödel's incompleteness theorem and on what computer science pioneer Alan Turing called the halting problem. As Time contributor Michael D. Lemonick noted, the Omega number theory leads to the rather "distressing reality that much of higher math may be riddled with unprovable truths." Marcus Chown, writing in the New Scientist, expounded further on Chaitin's theories, observing that the mathematician "has found that the core of mathematics is riddled with holes." Chown went on to comment: "Chaitin has shown that there are an infinite number of mathematical facts but, for the most part, they are unrelated to each other and impossible to tie together with unifying theorems. If mathematicians find any connections between these facts, they do so by luck." Chaitin has expounded on his theories in numerous books, including Algorithmic Information Theory, The Limits of Mathematics: A Course on Information Theory and Limits of Formal Reasoning, The Unknowable, Exploring Randomness, and Meta Math! The Quest for Omega.
Reviewing both The Unknowable and Exploring Randomness on the American Mathematical Society Web site, Panu Raatikainen felt that "these books aim to popularize [the] work" that Chaitin had done on algorithmic information theory. Raatikainen further noted, "In The Unknowable the emphasis is on the incompleteness phenomena related to programsize complexity. Exploring Randomness aims to explain the programsize complexity approach to randomness."
In Meta Math! Chaitin attempts to explain, in a popular account, the nature of his Omega number. Lanier noted that the book "is fresh in that it is aimed at general readers and achieves what can only be described as an unprecedented level of gushy enthusiasm for numbers." The same reviewer went on to observe, "If there were a prize for books with real live math equations that can hold the attention of readers who lack technical training, I'd nominate this one." Similarly, Marion Cohen, writing on the Mathematical Association of America Web site, noted, "Reading him is everything that I wanted reading [Austrian philosopher Ludwig] Wittgenstein's lectures on math to be!" Cohen went on to explain: "By that I mean, in part, that I relate to Chaitin's questions as a mathematician. They make sense to me, and include many of the things that I always, at various ages and stages, wondered about." Marianne Freiberger, reviewing Meta Math! for Plus Magazine, also praised the work. "If I had to describe this book using just one word, then this word would be ‘passionate’," she wrote. Freiberger further observed: "Chaitin doesn't just describe his mathematical ideas to you, he also tells you where he was when he had them, how it felt having them, and about the mysterious creative processes that are involved."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
PERIODICALS
American Mathematical Monthly, AugustSeptember, 2003, Marion D. Cohen, review of Conversations with a Mathematician: Math, Art, Science, and the Limits of Reason: A Collection of His Most WideRanging and Nontechnical Lectures and Interviews, p. 650.
American Scientist, NovemberDecember, 1989, Joseph Ford, review of Algorithmic Information Theory, p. 601.
Dr. Dobb's Journal, August, 2004, "The Omega Man," p. 73.
Mathematics Magazine, December, 1997, Paul J. Campbell, review of The Limits of Mathematics: A Course on Information Theory and Limits of Formal Reasoning, p. 390.
SciTech Book News, May, 1988, review of Algorithmic Information Theory, p. 5.
Time, September 12, 2005, Michael D. Lemonick, "It Doesn't Figure: The Omega Man," p. 88.
Times Higher Education Supplement, March 15, 2002, "Learning to Love Uncertainty," p. 26.
ONLINE
American Mathematical Society Web site,http://www.ams.org/ (February 24, 2008), Panu Raatikainen, reviews of Exploring Randomness and The Unknowable.
American Scientist,http://www.americanscientist.org/ (February 24, 2008), "Gregory Chaitin"; Jaron Lanier, review of Meta Math! The Quest for Omega.
G.J. Chaitin Home Page,http://www.cs.auckland.ac.nz/CDMTCS/chaitin (February 24, 2008).
Mathematical Association of America Web site,http://www.maa.org/ (January 6, 2003), Mark Johnson, review of Conversations with a Mathematician; (December 3, 2004), Marion Cohen, review of Meta Math!
New Scientist,http://www2.dc.uba.ar/ (March 10, 2001), Marcus Chown, "He Shattered Mathematics with a Single Number."
Plus Magazine,http://www.plus.maths.org/ (December, 2005), "Gregory Chaitin"; Marianne Freiberger, review of Meta Math!; Gregory Chaitin, "Omega and Why Maths Has No TOEs."
University of Maine, Department of Computer Science Web site,http://www.cs.umaine.edu/ (February 24, 2008), "Gregory J. Chaitin."
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