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Humankind's greatest intellectual achievement? watch

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    (Original post by Lusus Naturae)
    "Why?" Don't you see? The great intellectual achievement - a huge part of which was the achievement of one mind over eight years - is being able to prove that there are no integer solutions for x, y, z of that equation for n > 2 ! That is the awesome intellectual achievement which has very few equals.
    Yes but it means absolutely nothing to anyone who is not a mathematician. Theories like General Relativity and QM are esoteric, but at least even a lay description can lead to a different understanding of the world we live in. Fermat's last theorem is meaningless to anyone who wasn't involved directly in the proof.

    Knowing that x^n... has no integer solution greater than n>2 is as meaningful to the non-mathematician as knowing that 2+3=5.
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    (Original post by Wangers)
    Philosophy is not acceptable as a whole entity. It derives natrally from curiosity and the ability to think.
    I don't mean just random thinking; the development of a recognisable and rigorous philosophical method.
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    (Original post by KwungSun)
    Yes but it means absolutely nothing to anyone who is not a mathematician. Theories like General Relativity and QM are esoteric, but at least even a lay description can lead to a different understanding of the world we live in. Fermat's last theorem is meaningless to anyone who wasn't involved directly in the proof.

    Knowing that x^n... has no integer solution greater than n>2 is as meaningful to the non-mathematician as knowing that 2+3=5.
    I think the underlying assumption is that the opinions of non-mathematicians - or at the very least, non-scientists - are irrelevant. As I've said before, Arrogant Scientist Syndrome often seems to be epidemic.
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    (Original post by KwungSun)
    Yes but it means absolutely nothing to anyone who is not a mathematician.
    I read the question as it is written. We are looking at intellectual achievement: that achieved by an intellect or group of intellects. I narrowed my expression down to that of an intellect working on an achievement. We are looking for an achievement that proved immensely difficult and required a powerful intellect to single-mindedly focus on the goal for many years in order to solve the problem. Fermat's Last Theorem proved a great intellectual challenge, and it required an awesome intellect to reach the achievement of a proof after eight years working towards it. There was no slight-of-hand of trickery; a Mathematically rigorous, logical proof was finally produced. The immense difficulty of what is, at its core, a logical problem produced one of the greatest single intellectual achievements of "humankind".

    Your objection is irrelevant to the question.
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    (Original post by KwungSun)
    Well with General Relativity it really was more or less the case that Einstein locked himself away for 10 years and then popped out with a scientific revolution. I think this is partly why Worzo sees it as the greatest intellectual achievement.
    Not prefigured by Minkowsi or Poincaré in any way at all, then? OK :p:

    Besides, I thought he was talking about Darwin; in which case the "I'd like to thank" list includes William Paley, Erasmus Darwin (Charles' grandfather), Nicholas Lawson and John Gould.


    Also, it might be possible to argue an achievement that was contributed to by many different people is greater than one that came simply from an inexplicable burst of deus ex machina-esque inspiration.
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    (Original post by Lusus Naturae)
    I read the question as it is written. We are looking at intellectual achievement: that achieved by an intellect or group of intellects. I narrowed my expression down to that of an intellect working on an achievement. We are looking for an achievement that proved immensely difficult and required a powerful intellect to single-mindedly focus on the goal for many years in order to solve the problem. Fermat's Last Theorem proved a great intellectual challenge, and it required an awesome intellect to reach the achievement of a proof after eight years working towards it. There was no slight-of-hand of trickery; a Mathematically rigorous, logical proof was finally produced. The immense difficulty of what is, at its core, a logical problem produced one of the greatest single intellectual achievements of "humankind".

    Your objection is irrelevant to the question.
    Then I disagree with your idea of an intellectual achievement. I think it needs to advance our understanding of something or provide some kind of revolutionary approach to the way people think. Fermat posited that x^n+y^n=z^n didn't solve, anybody who knows pythagoras theorem sooner or later arrives at that question. All that Wiles did was confirm it beyond a doubt. The idea has been around since Fermat.
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    coco pops
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    (Original post by KwungSun)
    Then I disagree with your idea of an intellectual achievement. I think it needs to advance our understanding of something or provide some kind of revolutionary approach to the way people think. Fermat posited that x^n+y^n=z^n didn't solve, anybody who knows pythagoras theorem sooner or later arrives at that question. All that Wiles did was confirm it beyond a doubt. The idea has been around since Fermat.
    The amount of maths developed in the exploration of that problem is vast. Put simply, you probably wouldn't be on the internet if it wasn't for that.
    I will take the point that the proof alone, while an amazing piece of work, isn't that useful itself (I think most mathematicians would agree). The ideas generated in the exploration might rank high in this discussion though.
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    (Original post by KwungSun)
    The enlightenment? Industrial Revolution? Theory of Evolution? Nuclear Fission? What is the single greatest intellectual achievement of humanity and why?
    Surely it's Goldenballs on ITV weekday teatimes. Incredibly complex, it fills me with child-like awe.
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    (Original post by phawkins1988)
    Bwahahaha!
    (Original post by Worzo)
    1) Yes, this might rival Einstein's General Theory.
    2) Wtf? Explain yourself!
    3) Wasn't really an intellectual achievement, I don't think. Just a mission to do: it was more like making a map of a very complicated landscape. Sure, it took discipline and hard work by lots of clever people, but there was no great intellectual leap involved.
    1. Principia is a far greater achievement in scope and impact. Perhaps in centuries to come we might look back at the General Theory and put it in a similar place, but at the moment Newton's work is still untouchable.

    2. The first national constitution, enshrining the rights of American citizens, limiting the power of government and guaranteeing a free and fare legal process back when Britain was carting people to Australia. We still don't have a constitution in Britain, with no limits on the power of the state AT ALL.

    The fact that people including George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson had the foresight to draft a document that was so far reaching in its scope that George Bush has 40% of the electorate clamouring for his impeachment, based on his violation of that same document. Personally I think that shows great intellect and insight into human nature and the nature of democracy and power.
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    (Original post by KwungSun)
    How can it not be considered an achievement? It was world's first democratic constitution...
    When you consider that it was flawed from its conception (by the fact that it's signatories flouted it reguarly*), then it appears as quite paltry at best. Undeniably it was an important political document, yet I would hesitate to consider it as one of the greatest.

    *Did Washington grant emancipation to the black slaves who had fought in the army as promised...hmm, I believe not.
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    I don't think we've done it yet. Now quantum mechanics is responsible for the transistor and thus every bit of technology which has integrated chips. It's also responsible for the atomic age: good and bad there. On the other hand it's responsible for nanotechnology, which could provide medical, electronic, biological engineering, materials advances and well the list is endless.

    Could provide an answer to the problem of chip size (over heating, quantum electron tunnelling) Quantum computers which uses photons which do not interfere with each other very readily and do not have the problems electric circuits have, and could lead to nano computers. Quantum transistors are a reality, but their are still very significant problems to overcome. A bit is 1 and 0 a quantum bit is 1 and 0 and a superposition of both, which makes it hugely more powerful. I'd show the maths but lets just say if you could get it to work the processing power would be almost unimaginable compared to what we have now.

    Fusion could provide practically inexhaustible power, we're not that far off, conservative estimates say 50 years, less conservative ones 20. Of course fusion drives are being developed now by NASA, so that may provide a means for space travel although still limited by certain things.

    Yeah ATM quantum mechanics being so diverse looks like a good one. I haven't touched on all it's implications by any stretch, but I think, if we perfect it or heaven forbid replace it then we're in for a real revolution. I know it's a broad field but that's why it's special, it has had the greatest minds of the twentieth century or indeed any century puzzling over it and not just in physics but in maths, in chemistry, in biology in engineering; I think it's fair to say they're standing on the shoulders of giants and that's why it has such a huge impact, but even so just wow, the technological revolution, the internet just mmmm impressive stuff.
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    (Original post by SsEe)
    The amount of maths developed in the exploration of that problem is vast. Put simply, you probably wouldn't be on the internet if it wasn't for that.
    Howcome?
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    The first national constitution, enshrining the rights of American citizens, limiting the power of government and guaranteeing a free and fare legal process back when Britain was carting people to Australia. We still don't have a constitution in Britain, with no limits on the power of the state AT ALL.
    Yes we do, its just not codified. The govenment is limited by convention, all it means is the legisilative barriers are not enshirned. In any case the composition of such a constitution is hardly an intellectual achievement.
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    (Original post by KwungSun)
    I think the US constitution is not as ridiculous a proposition as it is made to appear on this thread. It was the first effort by any individual or group of people to codify a set of values and laws based on the human and democracy rather than some divine power or arbitrary monarchy. The document itself might be somewhat dated in its precise content, but the entire exercise of drafting it and setting up the United States as a democratic country was a huge intellectual achievement (please no "slavery" posts). The Greeks had some form of very exclusive democracy, but a Greek city state often had fewer people in it than a reasonably sized university.
    Some would argue the French got there first with the first liberal democracy, after all the US didn't abolish slavery until nearly a hundred years later, now that's hardly liberal. No slavery posts because of what? They make the point that liberal means freedom of expression regardless of race? Na sorry, you can't ask that not to be taken into consideration, it's very apposite.

    They also based all their laws on ideas that were already around, so it's perhaps the first written constitution on liberal democracy but it by no means was some sort of code of laws that came from the ether. Think the French liberals et al had also done much of the groundwork although it didn't last long in the case of France, that's not to say it wasn't very important.

    Wiki liberal democracy.

    Liberal democracy is a form of government. It is a representative democracy in which the ability of the elected representatives to exercise decision-making power is subject to the rule of law, and usually moderated by a constitution that emphasizes the protection of the rights and freedoms of individuals, and which places constraints on the leaders and on the extent to which the will of the majority can be exercised against the rights of minorities (see civil liberties).
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    (Original post by Gilliwoo)
    Same things that led Darwin to that conclusion, I suppose. And I did say if I sat down and thought about it long enough.
    I think this post shows just how great Darwin's achievement really was! That people can sit back and say evolution is so simple they could have worked it out themselves is testament to how well Darwin articulated the fact of evolution.

    If it wasn't for Darwin, I feel the world today would be a very different place- and I don't see how anyone could disagree.
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    Gilliwoo says that but had he lived in the same century as Darwin he wouldn't have, he's talking from hindsight.

    Darwin was methodical, so methodical that he spent most of his life categorising and making statistical analysis, so long that he took years to come to a conclusion and didn't publish it because of religious considerations.

    He's making a conclusion based on the 20th century, and to be frank with what I know now I could easily make the same conclusion, and as you said that is the genius of his work, that it was so methodical so well researched that it has stood the test of time and leads us to easy conclusions; Darwin spent a lifetime gathering evidence, he didn't publish on a whim, he travelled the world and thought very deeply about the impact philosophically of his work.

    There's no way given what he knew then could be compared in any iota of a dream with our own knowledge, he was a perhaps a model of science, 1% inspiration 99% perspiration as Edison said.

    Gilliwoo is right only in one thing, when you're right you're right and it seems simple, but as said to make it simple requires a lifetime of dedication to science.

    Impressive.
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    (Original post by Beekeeper)
    I think this post shows just how great Darwin's achievement really was! That people can sit back and say evolution is so simple they could have worked it out themselves is testament to how well Darwin articulated the fact of evolution.

    If it wasn't for Darwin, I feel the world today would be a very different place- and I don't see how anyone could disagree.
    It's an intellectual achievement, but the reason I am reserved about my praise for it is not for the literal reason that I could come up with some great breakthrough in scientific thought in my spare time, but because it was not unique at the time or before even though it reached its most articulate and coherent exposition in The Origins; and because I prefer to give greater precedence to some of the acts of reasoning and the theories that were more absract in nature, and less, if you will, "obvious". In other words, Darwin reached his conclusions by observing fairly solid evidence, and buoyed by the work of others, rather than looking in the proverbial dark and accurately describing the landscape in it. Moreover, evolution theories are fine things to place man's significance in the scheme of things, but it is one of those theories which, revolutionary though it was, is not necessarily indespensable to the progress of man. I could live my entire life and do great things without giving it a second thought, dandy thought I think it is.
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    (Original post by Sidhe)
    Gilliwoo says that but had he lived in the same century as Darwin he wouldn't have, he's talking from hindsight.

    Darwin was methodical, so methodical that he spent most of his life categorising and making statistical analysis, so long that he took years to come to a conclusion and didn't publish it because of religious considerations.

    He's making a conclusion based on the 20th century, and to be frank with what I know now I could easily make the same conclusion, and as you said that is the genius of his work, that it was so methodical so well researched that it has stood the test of time and leads us to easy conclusions; Darwin spent a lifetime gathering evidence, he didn't publish on a whim, he travelled the world and thought very deeply about the impact philosophically of his work.

    There's no way given what he knew then could be compared in any iota of a dream with our own knowledge, he was a perhaps a model of science, 1% inspiration 99% perspiration as Edison said.

    Gilliwoo is right only in one thing, when you're right you're right and it seems simple, but as said to make it simple requires a lifetime of dedication to science.

    Impressive.
    Read above: I wasn't being literal in my first posts. I was discerning a differnce between methodical precision and the great things we may find from it, and what some people simply call "genius".
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    The wheel. It's pure genius. It seems so obvious to us now, but how did anyone ever think of it? It's certainly the most influential invention in history.
 
 
 
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