Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

Archive for May 4th, 2013

Kurt Gödel applies for citizenship

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Kurt Gödel and Albert Einstein

[W]hen Gödel decided to become a U.S. citizen in 1947…he took his preparation for the exam very seriously, studied the Constitution carefully, and (as might be expected by the formulator of the incompleteness theory) found what he believed was a logical flaw. There was an internal inconsistency, he insisted, that could allow the entire government to degenerate into tyranny.

Concerned, Einstein decided to accompany—or chaperone—Gödel on his visit to Trenton to take the citizenship test, which was to be administered by the same judge who had done so for Einstein. On the drive, he and a third friend tried to distract Gödel and dissuade him from mentioning this perceived flaw, but to no avail. When the judge asked him about the Constitution, Gödel launched into his proof that its internal inconsistency made a dictatorship possible. Fortunately, the judge, who by now cherished his connection to Einstein, cut Gödel off. “You needn’t go into all that,” he said, and Gödel’s citizenship was saved.

Walter Isaacson, Einstein

Written by nevalalee

May 4, 2013 at 9:50 am

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