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Word for the Wise June 19, 2007 Broadcast Topic: Blaise Pascal

Today we remember mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal, born on this date in 1623. (来源:英语麦当劳-英语杂志 http://www.EnglishCN.com)

If you know anything at all about Pascal, you probably know that the French mathematician is one of the founders of probability theory, and that he is famous for theorizing it makes mathematical sense to believe in God. Pascal argued that if we are right, we gain everything and lose nothing. If we are wrong, we lose nothing and gain nothing.

Believe it or not, Pascal's early computing work and his work in hydraulics earned him honors among those who followed in his footsteps: Pascal names both a structured computer programming language that processes both numerical and textual data and also a unit of pressure in the meter-kilogram-second system (equivalent to one Newton per square meter).

No pressure to come up with Pascal's theory of definition: that thinker divided definitions into two categories, the nominal and the real. The nominal, labels defined by the writer, were, he argued, the only definitions of value to scientists and scholars.

Scientists and scholars alike value conciseness, and Blaise Pascal had something to say about that too. He closed a note to a friend with these words: "I would have written a shorter letter but I did not have the time."

 
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