Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Great Regulars: Several times in the Letters, we hear

[Italo] Calvino dissuading people from trying to interview him or write his biography, on the grounds that--as Barthes was saying around the same time--the very idea of an "author" was dead, or should be: "To be able to study a writer, he must be dead, that is--if he is alive--he must be killed . . . Furthermore, already the existence of the work is a sign that the author is dead, happily dead if the work is worthwhile; the work is the negation of the writer as empirical living being."

from Adam Kirsch: The Barnes and Noble Review: Italo Calvino: Letters, 1941--1985


The answer this time depends on what looks very much like a logical sleight of hand. If the owner of each house comes to a rabbi separately and asks if he must search his house again, the rabbi can tell each of them "No." That is because, individually, each one has only a 1-in-2 chance of being contaminated, even though logically, one of the two must have been. But if both men come together to ask for advice, the rabbi can't avoid the conclusion that at least one of the houses was contaminated, and so he must tell both men to search again.

This example reminded me very much of the problem in modern physics known as "Schrodinger's Cat."

from Adam Kirsch: Tablet: Math Lessons and Quantum Physics in Studies of Rabbinic Stringency and Leniency


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