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Curved drive with line of trees along one side.


All of science is based on making use of patterns to simplify the process of comprehension. If we had to have [an idea] of every single atom to understand what was going on, we would never get anywhere. But if we can build up a pattern of what atoms in general are like, and apply that pattern across the board, we can make progress.

Brian Clegg (2016)


Maybe the trees in the photograph are spaced along a parabola? Simpler patterns are needed in arithmetic, for example to see the commonality in five washing machine, five sheep and five pages. But such a core ability is not limited to mathematics. It also lies near the heart of natural language. While repeatedly pairing a sound or an action to a specific concrete entity is something many creatures can learn, few writers Large words on rocks reflected in river. Adam Smith, an early writer on the origins of language, did speculate thus.

today would consider this to be evidence of language. A key characteristic of natural language, it is held, is that isolated ‘names’ are used together in regular patterns, and these patterns themselves convey information - this we call grammar. A simple grammar Couple sitting overlooking a lake. A simple grammar structure very different from that familiar to westerners.

needs us to see that with ‘man walking’, ‘dog barking’, and ‘woman old’ the order matters; that the topic comes before its attribute. Pattern recognition is not sufficient, Performance of an intricate dance at Mai Chau in northern Vietnam. On another key necessity for our species to have produced language. but it is certainly necessary for language. So Clegg’s claim is overly modest, it is not just maths and science, but almost any human conceptualization Mist forming up the valley among the trees of Ae forest. The relation between language and thought requires constant vigilance. that needs pattern recognition.

Clegg’s book Are Numbers Real? was published by Robinson in the UK in 2017 in which edition the quote is found on page 29. Original publisher St Martin’s Press, New York, in 2016.

The photograph of the drive to Renaldsburn was taken near Eskdalemuir in southern Scotland.

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Saturday 9th December 2023

Murphy on duty to this site