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Want to Take On An Open/Unsolved Problem? 276

Posted by Zonk
from the make-like-einstein dept.
CexpTretical writes "The accumulation and focusing of knowledge may be the noblest use or purpose of the internet. There are plenty of open or unsolved problems left for this generation. Why not spend some of your time in the dark of this winter working on one of the big problems facing humanity? Open problems exists in almost every field of study. Wikipedia maintains a small list of them and at least one international group called the Union of International Associations maintains a database of open problems." Which problem do you want to see cracked first? Are you already working on one of these big issues?
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Want to Take On An Open/Unsolved Problem?

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  • by antifoidulus (807088) on Sunday February 04, 2007 @08:29PM (#17884916) Homepage Journal
    What is the proper size and scope of government? Where can government intervention improve on the market? Does a market failure necessarily mean that government intervention is warranted? Can intervention make things worse? If the government intervenes in a market, how should it intervene? To what extent is public ownership of assets and businesses warranted?

    Yeah, good luck using the internet discussions to solve THAT problem.....
    • by macadamia_harold (947445) on Sunday February 04, 2007 @08:39PM (#17884978) Homepage
      "What is the proper size and scope of government?" Yeah, good luck using the internet discussions to solve THAT problem.....

      It does seem to be an out-of-control problem. According to wikipedia, the size and scope of the government has tripled in the last six months.
    • by UbuntuDupe (970646) * on Sunday February 04, 2007 @09:09PM (#17885150) Journal
      Very funny, but I actually consider that the most important question of all, because if you know the answer to that, you can generate the wealth necessary to trivially solve all of the others. Look at all the nations of the world and observe what a huge difference the choice of government makes!

      It's also the hardest because it's extremely difficult to perform a scientific experiment to test it. There are millions of variables to control, and uncontrollable, and you can't grab X governments at random and make them do something, dividing them neatly into control and test groups. (That's why it's hard for people to come to agreement about the matter.)

      Could MMORPG's and realistic computer models of human economic behavior change this? Maybe.
      • by KlaymenDK (713149)

        It's also the hardest because it's extremely difficult to perform a scientific experiment to test it. There are millions of variables to control, and uncontrollable, and you can't grab X governments at random and make them do something, dividing them neatly into control and test groups. (That's why it's hard for people to come to agreement about the matter.)

        Could MMORPG's and realistic computer models of human economic behavior change this? Maybe.

        Perhaps "Jennifer Government: NationStates"?

        http://www.nationstates.net/ [nationstates.net]

    • Easy (Score:5, Funny)

      by camperdave (969942) on Sunday February 04, 2007 @09:36PM (#17885322) Journal
      • What is the proper size and scope of government?
        No larger than necessary
      • Where can government intervention improve on the market?
        In places where unrestricted market forces are detrimental
      • Does a market failure necessarily mean that government intervention is warranted?
        No
      • Can intervention make things worse?
        Yes
      • If the government intervenes in a market, how should it intervene?
        In a way that maximizes overall social wellbeing
      • To what extent is public ownership of assets and businesses warranted?
        To the extent that it ceases to be harmful to the overall health of society
      • by ChameleonDave (1041178) on Sunday February 04, 2007 @10:01PM (#17885458) Homepage

        I can't believe that got modded "Informative" when the exact opposite is true. People, "Informative" does not mean "echoing my own beliefs".

        Let's just look at the first empty thing said:

        • What is the proper size and scope of government?
          No larger than necessary

        That's a pointless truism. In this context, proper=necessary. So, you have essentially said that the proper size is the proper size, giving zero information. Even a fascist believes that the state shouldn't be larger than necessary — they just believe that a totalitarian police state is necessary for order.

        Perhaps if someone asks you what size USB connector is the proper one to go in a certain digital camera you will answer "One no larger or smaller than necessary". What a way to avoid answering a question whilst convincing airheads that you have done so!

        • I was actually shooting for "funny". I was giving short, bland answers to what were supposed to be thought provoking, discussion generating questions. I guess it was one of those jokes that play better in your mind than in reality.
        • by JoshJ (1009085)

          can't believe that got modded "Informative" when the exact opposite is true. People, "Informative" does not mean "echoing my own beliefs".

          *snip*

          That's a pointless truism.


          Wait, so is it true or false?
        • by AlHunt (982887)

          I can't believe that got modded "Informative" when the exact opposite is true. People, "Informative" does not mean "echoing my own beliefs".

          Let's just look at the first empty thing said:

          * What is the proper size and scope of government?
          No larger than necessary

          That's a pointless truism.

          Actually, it's almost Zen like. Too bad there's no "+1 "Zen" modifier"

        • by alienmole (15522)

          That's a pointless truism.
          Congratulations, you were this close to actually getting the joke, which despite the OP's modesty in his response to you, was actually pretty good. Now read the other answers. What do you notice about them? Write an analysis, it'll help you reason about it.
        • by aug24 (38229)
          You're not quite right: he has permitted the case where the government is smaller than necessary. So he things the proper size is anything from nothing up to just enough to the job.

          Presumably he's a wavering anarchist.

          HTH.
          Justin the logician.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      What is the proper size and scope of government?

      That's easy. It's the government that maximizes the probability of human survival.
      If there is more than one maxima, it is the one that maximizes human achievement.
      If there are still multiple solutions, it is the one that maximizes human happiness.
      Finally, pick the smallest government that will accomplish this.

      Now you only have to solve for survival, achievement, and happiness.
    • I believe the most important, before figuring out the rest about the size of government is: "How do I mimimize my income tax and maximize my return?". If we can figure out the answer to that question, only then can we asnwer all other questions about government.
  • by LiquidCoooled (634315) on Sunday February 04, 2007 @08:30PM (#17884922) Homepage Journal
    I have a truly marvelous proof of this proposition however this comment is too narrow to contain.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I have a truly marvelous proof of this proposition however this comment is too narrow to contain.

      What we need here is for a troll to post one of those good old-fashioned page-widening posts.
  • by TinBromide (921574) on Sunday February 04, 2007 @08:36PM (#17884962)
    What questions I'd like to see answered? Where do socks go in the laundry? Why do people obsess about the incongruities in gilligan's island? Why do good things happen to people who aren't me? 42. (now find me the question)
    • by aborchers (471342) * on Sunday February 04, 2007 @08:42PM (#17884996) Homepage Journal
      "What questions I'd like to see answered? Where do socks go in the laundry? Why do people obsess about the incongruities in gilligan's island? Why do good things happen to people who aren't me? 42. (now find me the question)"

      To which I'd add, why do tornadoes only touch down in trailer parks?

      BTW, the socks one I can answer: They travel through wormholes and emerge in the back of the closet as spare hangers.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Alternatively socks just get droped outside of the drum and end up in the bottom of the washer, either by the person puting them in the washer (top laders) or by crawling out of the drum thanks to the escape force created by the circular motion (front loaders).
        I discovered that the day a repair guy came home to fix the washer as he found in the barrel of the washer several socks I had thought lost in the twilight zone forever.
        But these days people just trash their broken washer and buy a new one, so this se
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by danachap (623975)
      One unsolved problem that has perplexed me for years:

      Why can't I fill up the entire toilet with bubbles?
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Whiteox (919863)
      OK. The 'Sock Conundrum'
      I've given up on this and now, regularly buy socks weekly. I know the cost can be prohibitive, but if you wear them only once, you can get 5 pairs for under $5 if you look around.
      There's no need to worry about quality, 'cause you only wear them once. There is no frustration because you know exactly where your socks are at all times - either in a shopping bag with sales tags on them, or in the bin.
      There are other advantages that are too numerous to list here.
      The way I manage to budget
      • by KlaymenDK (713149)
        You buy socks to wear once only? Wow, what a wasteful habit.

        When I buy socks, I make sure to buy 10 or 20 pairs at a time, and if possible of a generic brand that will still be available when I need to buy socks again.

        Then I don't care about correct pairing at all (almost: there are my socks, and those of my wife). Any two of mine will make a pair. Any one sock that is worn out is tossed (the other is kept), and any one sock that is lost is just a replacement for a half-pair...
      • by dodobh (65811)
        Return your geek cred as you leave.

        Forty-two is the answer to "What is six multiplied by nine?"

        http://answers.google.com/answers/threadview?id=35 935 [google.com]
    • If you're talking about disapearing socks, I have a hypothesis about the socks problem. I think they might be going down the drain. I think this because when asking people what they thought was wrong with a clogged washer, more than one person suggested that there might be a sock clogging the drain, based on their own personal experience with washing machines. So at least you have a possible answer to one of your questions that isn't a joke.
    • by Blakey Rat (99501)
      Why do people obsess about the incongruities in gilligan's island?

      People are too busy obsessing over how Smurfs reproduce than to worry about Gilligan's Island.

      But, come to think of it... why DID so many space missions land there? And what was up with the WWII landing strip and abandoned bomber that they didn't notice until years had passed? How *do* you power a radio with coconuts?

      And robots playing the Harlem Globetrotters? That's ridiculous... everyone knows robots can't jump.

      Damn, well, there goes my da
  • really? (Score:5, Funny)

    by macadamia_harold (947445) on Sunday February 04, 2007 @08:36PM (#17884966) Homepage
    The accumulation and focusing of knowledge may be the noblest use or purpose of the internet.

    That's your opinion. Midget porn afficionados would beg to differ.
  • First date! (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 04, 2007 @08:37PM (#17884970)
    "Which problem do you want to see cracked first? "

    How to get a date?
    • by setirw (854029)
      Already been done [bbc.co.uk]. Ah, those game theorists!
      • by jpardey (569633)
        An engagement ring? That's all science can offer me? Maybe I should get into mathematics more and work on game theory applications to anonymous hookups... I could probably get a grant for that.
    • by The Bungi (221687)
      Whoa there, these are theoretically solvable problems we're dealing here. Let's not get all crazy. Let's concentrate on what we can accomplish as a species.
  • by kunakida (886654) on Sunday February 04, 2007 @08:38PM (#17884976)
    how to list the world's problems.

    Seriously. The database sucked.
    If I wanted to find a problem to tackle, just finding a good one is problem enough.

    How about getting the problems
    -listed by multiple tags
    -filterable by area of interest, and skillset required
    -prioritized by relevance to science, to humanity, to marketability
    -sorted by difficulty, number of extant participants

    If you can't communicate why something is a problem, then you have two problems.
    • by UbuntuDupe (970646) * on Sunday February 04, 2007 @09:00PM (#17885108) Journal
      Also, it should give the current "closest" solutions to the problems, i.e., "Person A found that you can solve B as long as you know how to do a C on D."

      Btw, I never knew there was a "Union of International Associations". Talk about bureaucracy! My friends and I used to joke about an imaginary, incompetent organication called the "Federal International Comission" (FIC), but man, did we miss the gold mine!
      • by Tragek (772040)
        "There's bureaucracy under that association"

        "And what's under that?"

        "Bureaucracy"

        "and under that?"

        "'Taint gonna fool me on this one... it's bureaucracy all the way down."
        (Credit to Brad Warner)
    • by jd (1658)
      I agree. I'd extend what you wrote just a little to make your last point stronger - finding the problem is not sufficient, if the problem is so badly phrased as to be a problem in understanding what the problem is.

      The "correct" way to list these problems is to have them easily searchable (as already said in parent post), but would then present a menu of different interpretations of what the problem actually is. Readers should be subject to exactly the amount of information they would find useful, neither

    • by constantnormal (512494) on Sunday February 04, 2007 @09:29PM (#17885282)
      "If you can't communicate why something is a problem, then you have two problems."

      If we knew enough about the problems to do all the categorizations you suggest, then we would be pretty well on the way to solving them. But you're right about the so-called "database" of problems maintained by the UIA. They seem to be missing a description of the problem in many cases. I guess they confuse a name with a description.

      The Wikipedia list of unsolved problems [wikipedia.org] is categorized by the discipline of science that they are (apparently) most pertinent to. In some cases, the same problem is listed multiple times. I find it to be a nice set of problems, but curiously brief. If these are all of the big unsolved problems, then we have a distinct lack of imagination.

      As to how one would go about ranking them as to difficulty, if you can do that even with problems that we know the answers to, you're a better man than I. In fact, I think that the question of how to rank problems by the difficulty they present is yet another unsolved problem. It very likely encompasses the framework of logic used to describe and solve the problem, with some problems that are quite simple in a sufficiently complex world-view being conundrums in a simpler world view.

    • by syousef (465911) on Sunday February 04, 2007 @09:30PM (#17885284) Journal
      This kind of work is not something you take on by looking it up on a general encyclopaedia like Wikipedia. If you're at a point where you can actually make an attempt on such a problem, you're probably already familiar with specialist literature and you more likely than not have heard of the problem long ago and not yet tackled it.

      This would be a better place to start:
      http://arxiv.org/ [arxiv.org]

      If you can't even understand the papers here in the field you've chosen, you've got a lot of work to do and it may even be easier to pursue it formally as part of a postgrad degree.

      The myth that you can just walk into a problem and solve it is rubbish. Einstein may have been a patent clerk when he had his breakthrough "miracle" year but he was looking at problems for many many years and got to know a lot of mathematical and scientific literature in a less than formal setting which is one reason he was able to see past all the old thinking and realise that things he was seeing (notably the Lorentz transformations/Michelson-Morley experiment) were literally true.
      • by radtea (464814) on Sunday February 04, 2007 @10:23PM (#17885586)
        Einstein may have been a patent clerk when he had his breakthrough "miracle" year but he was looking at problems for many many years and got to know a lot of mathematical and scientific literature in a less than formal setting

        Einstein had a doctorate in physics, which included all of the grounding he needed to understand the problems of Brownian motion (for which he won the Nobel prize and which is to this day his most-cited work) and the issues with electro-dynamics that led him to relativity. He started with an excellent, formal, disciplined grounding in his subject of interest. His position as a patent clerk was useful because it gave him the time to work undisturbed by actual job duties (patent office employment back then not being much different from in our own time.)

        While self-taught geniuses do exist (Ramanujan, for example) the vast majority of substantive contributions to any field are made by people with good formal grounding in that field. It doesn't matter how smart you are, nor how much of the literature you have read: formal education will help you learn the disciplines of mind and modes of thought that are the jumping-off point for new work. Nor does learning these things stifle creativity if you really understand them, as Einstein did.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by syousef (465911)
          Actually he obtained his doctorate the same year he published his Annus Mirabilis papers
          See:
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Einstein#Works_and_do ctorate [wikipedia.org]

          He certainly didn't wait until he had this formal education to think about relativity. He'd done most of the ground work years before. The setting was a much less formal one in which he started out with learning difficulties once fascinated by the mathematics largely taught himself and worked hard until he was outdoing his tutors.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E [wikipedia.org]
          • by gordo3000 (785698)
            does this somehow surprise you? Most nobel prizes and major work is done while people are still writing their thesis(or shortly thereafter). Just looked to the 19th century, lots of work was done at very young ages.

            now, with sepcial relativity, they are called the lorentz transforms because it had been found out long before 1905 that a different invariance is required for Maxwell's equations. Also, it was long known for Maxwell's equations that they predicted some universal speed for the propogations of
            • by syousef (465911)
              I think if you look at my first post on this topic you'll see that is exactly what I was saying - he was well educated and he simply saw what was there. You might want to actually read what I've written before launching an attack.
      • Reading the current literature can be helpful in scientific fields. At the least, it might help by process of elimination which ideas will not work. I get the feeling as I'm completing my degree that too many papers are a regurgitation of previous works. Current literature might stop creative or legitimate attempts at solving problems. WIth more books and journals published than ever, it can't be any easier to stay "current".
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Well, if someone can do something about the guy in the cubicle next to me...

    Adler likes to hum as he works, not too loudly, just enough to break thru the usual office background noise. That would be distracting enough, however, Adler insists on choosing his nasal-tunes by whatever the last audible ring tone was that blared thru our locality. The ring tone/tune sticks in his head, and he hums it over and over, out load, until the next tune gets stuck in his borderline consciousness...I mean tone...I mean...u
    • Kidnap Adler on a dark night. Leave him tied up in a tunnel at the It's A Small World ride at Disneyland. Soon, his head will explode. Problem solved.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 04, 2007 @08:42PM (#17884998)
    from link in story [wikipedia.org]: "... for which a solution is known to exist but which has not yet been solved". For many open problems, a solution is not known to exist. Indeed, many open problems turn out to have no solution. An example is if no solution can be derived from the axiomatic system in question, since the answer is "independent" of all the axioms, or other times the solution can be the proof that no solution can exist, e.g. for the halting problem [wikipedia.org]. It was an open problem, you were looking for an algorithm, and bam, some wise guy proves that you can't find it. In that case, certainly, a solution was not "known to exist".
    • Sort of true, but in the situation you describe, a proof that no such algorithm exists (e.g. finding integer zeroes of multivariate polynomials -- provably undecidable IIRC, which is a bit surprising) would commonly be considered to "resolve" the open question, even though it wasn't maybe the particular resolution we would have preferred.

      However, in most (nearly all?) cases, open problems are not nearly so poorly specified: often there is a definite answer even if (as you point out) there may theoreticall

    • by khallow (566160)

      Other problems (particular the nonmathematical ones) aren't problems in all axiom sets/belief systems. For example, somewhere prostitution is listed as an open problem. But if you legalize prostitution, then you can apply the whole of modern legal infrastructure (eg, worker protection, how to hire/fire someone, workplace safety, etc) to it. It becomes a job rather than a problem.

      A similar phenomena is that some problems are special cases of more general problems. Slavery should be (and usually is) illegal

    • by SamSim (630795)

      For many open problems, a solution is not known to exist.

      Semantics. In that situation, the problem is actually "Does a solution exist to this problem?" The Halting Problem wasn't "What Turing Machine will determine whether any another Turing Machine will halt or not?" The Halting Problem was "Does that Turing Machine exist? If so, what is it?" and the answer, the solution to the Halting Problem, is "No".

  • Try this at home (Score:5, Interesting)

    by shma (863063) on Sunday February 04, 2007 @08:50PM (#17885042)
    Here's one from mathematics that caught my eye. The goal is to find out whether 78,557 is the lowest Sierpinski* number [wikipedia.org]. All but 8 candidates have been eliminated and there's a project called 17 or bust [wikipedia.org] which is working on the last eight. As their name suggests, the project has personally eliminated 9 numbers already.

    * Some of you may recognize Sierpinski from the carpet [wikipedia.org] which bears his name.
  • by StikyPad (445176) on Sunday February 04, 2007 @09:06PM (#17885138) Homepage
    Which problem do you want to see cracked first?

    The factors for x^2 + 5x + 6 please, showing work.
  • by Excelcia (906188) <kfitzner@excelcia.ca> on Sunday February 04, 2007 @09:13PM (#17885172) Homepage Journal
    Sounds like an attempt at distributed computing... without the computing part.

    Log into web site, check out work unit, complete unit, check in results, rinse and repeat.

    There is an assumption in this sort of thing that there is a large enough untapped pool of relevant expertise to make this sort of job distribution effective. Is this actually just a study on whether or not that assumption is correct, or has someone really made that assumption and is expecting success?

    I have troubles believing that this is really an effective means for tackling some of the listed problems.
  • by straponego (521991) on Sunday February 04, 2007 @09:56PM (#17885424)
    I was going to do that this weekend, but, with one thing and another... Tell you what, remind me Friday.
  • by chrisgagne (605844) on Sunday February 04, 2007 @11:19PM (#17886026) Homepage Journal
    Take a look at open-source software. It's collaborative, usually high-quality, and responsive to people's wants and needs. Apache and Linux, for instance, are two prime examples of how people coming together can do quite a bit in the world, even if in a limited way. Other fields of pursuit have an opportunity to capitalize the lessons learned in the software industry. Applying some of these lessons to the nonprofit sector could result in a greater net impact for society. It is possible to apply ingenuity to hundreds of real-world problems if we have a collaborative organizational structure. We've seen a couple of examples. For instance, look at http://openprosthetics.org/ [openprosthetics.org]. This group has applied the open-source model to design better prosthetics, and a few of their prototypes are better than anything currently available on the market. I've been working on researching this topic for the last three years. Here's my story: In December of '03, I read an article in the New York Times about the World Bank Development Marketplace. A group of farmers in Zimbabwe struggled with a herd of elephants trampling their crops. With a $108,000 grant from the bank, they discovered that planting chili peppers around their crops deterred the elephants and provided a valuable cash crop. I asked a friend, Sandy, what she would do to prevent elephants from eating her crops. Pulling from her childhood experience, she suggested without coaching that the farmers plant marigolds around their crops. After all, marigolds kept the deer out of her vegetable patch! Perhaps marigolds would not deter an elephant. Suppose, then, that Sandy were a member of an online group hosted by Usenet newsgroups, Yahoo! Groups, or Google Groups, seeking a solution to the elephant problem. I am certain that she would have made a similar suggestion, and that the group probably would have recognized both its strengths and weaknesses. There is no guarantee, however, that this group would include the botanist, zoologist, or ecologist necessary to explore this seed of an idea. Let's then consider another recent innovation, the social network. One such network, Friendster, has a good search engine that permits finding people based on their interests. 210 people in my "network" have botany as an interest. 252 people enjoy elephants. 17 like Zimbabwe. Over 1,000 are interested in sustainable development. Might any of them be willing to spend five minutes to answer, "Are there any plants elephants don't like?" Over the last three years, I've developed a site called Cerbumi.org ("to brainstorm" in Esperanto) that combine these two tools. A carefully-designed mailing list system allows for rapid real-time discussion and brainstorming, while a flexible membership database allows project facilitators and other members to find expert advice. Built-in reputation-scoring and availability tools allow members to dictate clearly how willing they are to respond to certain kinds of inquires, and to whom. An executive summary is located at http://about.cerbumi.org/executiveSummary [cerbumi.org], and a Flash-based demonstration is located at http://cerbumi.org/flash/ [cerbumi.org]. What are your thoughts? Do you think this is a useful tool? Would you be willing to spend a few minutes of your time working on various projects?
  • by JFMulder (59706) on Sunday February 04, 2007 @11:55PM (#17886270)
    On the list of unsolved problems, there's N = NP . I'm browsing at +3 here, so I don't know if someone already made the joke and it has been modded down to oblivion because it has been told so many times before, but I'll always remember when the teacher asked in class "Is P = NP" and some guy who probably read the joke online said "Yes, P = NP if N = 1".
  • Why not spend some of your time in the dark of this winter working on one of the big problems facing humanity?

    This has to be one of the dumbest submissions to slashdot that I've seen in a while. Looking over the CS section of the problems (the only category I'm really qualified to review), I see 2 problems related to P=NP. Yes, this is a problem I'm going to solve in my spare time this winter. If the other fields problems look anything remotely like this one, good luck.

    In all honesty, I don't think

    • by mochan_s (536939)

      This has to be one of the dumbest submissions to slashdot that I've seen in a while. Looking over the CS section of the problems (the only category I'm really qualified to review), I see 2 problems related to P=NP. Yes, this is a problem I'm going to solve in my spare time this winter. If the other fields problems look anything remotely like this one, good luck.

      Actually if you look at almost every CS presentation in a seminar, it always ends with a page on unsolved problems and such. The problem with comp

  • by Loconut1389 (455297) * on Monday February 05, 2007 @12:16AM (#17886400)
    could also be worded as "Association of International Associations". Hm. The department of redundancy department anyone?
  • by 3seas (184403) on Monday February 05, 2007 @12:36AM (#17886540) Journal
    ... to be solved....

    How to make reliable electronic voting machines.
  • The Gettier problem (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mdsolar (1045926) on Monday February 05, 2007 @01:08AM (#17886764) Homepage Journal
    The Getties problem came up as an unsolved problem in epistemology, the theory of knowledge. It looks like a problem in unknown knowns to get my former boss backwards. It is listed at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unsolved_problems_in_ philosophy [wikipedia.org].

    [T]wo men, Smith and Jones, who are awaiting the results of their applications for the same job. Each man has ten coins in his pocket. Smith has excellent reasons to believe that Jones will get the job and, furthermore, knows that Jones has ten coins in his pocket (he recently counted them). From this Smith infers, "the man who will get the job has ten coins in his pocket." However, Smith is unaware that he has ten coins in his own pocket. Furthermore, Smith, not Jones, is going to get the job. While Smith has strong evidence to believe that Jones will get the job, he is wrong. Smith has a justified true belief that a man with ten coins in his pocket will get the job; however, according to Gettier, Smith does not know that a man with ten coins in his pocket will get the job, because Smith's belief is "...true in virtue of the number of coins in Smith's pocket, while Smith does not know how many coins are in Smith's pocket, and bases his belief...on a count of the coins in Jones's pocket, whom he falsely believes to be the man who will get the job."

    This seems to have something to do with the answer I sometimes give my son when he ask how to spell a word and I answer "With letters."

    The problem looks to me to be one of degenerate labeling when passing by reference. Basically, if Smith wants to believe something about people with coins in their pockets he is getting the answer to the question: some people have applied for a job, will one of them get it? If you redirect by the number of coins in a pocket, but you have not checked that this is a unique label, then the question ends up meaning something other than you think it means. The statement about the man with ten coins getting the job is true for the same reason that "A or not A" is true. Regardless of coins, there is no knowledge about the answer to the apparent question (who will be offered the job) until the decision has been made, and since neither Smith nor Jones make that decision, thay can't know its outcome till they are told.

    If anyone has worked on this I'd like to hear if this solution has already been discounted.
    --
    Power your bright ideas with solar: http://mdsolar.blogspot.com/2007/01/slashdot-users -selling-solar.html [blogspot.com]
  • "How many licks to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll Pop?"

    Obviously, the erroneously-reported answer of 'three' is in the public consciousness, but that was hardly determined by the scientific method.

    Anyone here got experience in filling out government research grants? I'm willing to put in the time necessary to do the research, as long as I can get the funding.
    • by gordo3000 (785698)
      you're wrong!!
      I've seen at least 500 separate tests of this hypothesis, all involving a wise old owl. adn the answer was always three. I mean, my god!!! sigma = 0.
      • by Tumbleweed (3706) *
        I'm pretty sure you've seen the one owl test of this over and over. And where's the control? Absolutely no scientific value in that test whatsoever. I say good day to you, sir!
  • What is Music? (Score:2, Interesting)

    What happens inside our minds when we listen to music? Why does enjoying music or being able to enjoy music make us have more grandchildren? What is the formula for calculating musicality?
  • "Want to Take On An Open/Unsolved Problem?"

    Sounds like every relationship I've ever been in. Sure, I'll give her a spin.

A method of solution is perfect if we can forsee from the start, and even prove, that following that method we shall attain our aim. -- Leibnitz

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