Philip Ball – Critical Mass

THE FORMULA

Fyodor Dostoevsky’s alter ego in Letters from the Underworld rages against the determinism that statistics threatened:

As a matter of fact, if ever there shall be discovered a formula which shall exactly express our wills and whims; if there ever shall be discovered a formula which shall make it absolutely clear what those wills depend upon, and what laws they are governed by, and what means of diffusion they possess, and what tendencies they follow under given circumstances; if ever there shall be discovered a formula which shall be mathematical in its precision, well, gentlemen, whenever such a formula shall be found, man will have ceased to have a will of his own – he will have ceased even to exist.

© Philip Ball – Critical Mass (excerto) – Arrow Books

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