Thursday, February 9, 2017

Raymond Smullyan, A Knight Among Men... +ADDENDA

"Recently, someone asked me if I believed in astrology. He seemed somewhat puzzled when I explained that the reason I don't is that I'm a Gemini." -- R. Smullyan

At a time when we need his likes more than ever, brilliant polymath Raymond Smullyan has died at the age of 97. One of the undersung thinkers of our times — with a name far less well-known to the public than several other mathematicians.
As word gets out, I’m sure there will be many wonderful tributes to follow, but for now, I’ll just leave here a few of the Tweets I quickly found popping up:
from @shanewag1 :
Very sad to say goodbye to one of the world's great polymaths. Rest In Peace, Smullyan. There was something a little wrong with dualism. 

from @mathematicus :
I don't really do heroes but if I did Smullyan would be one of mine

from @J_Lanier :
The brilliant and playful Raymond Smullyan has passed away. I am grateful for the many happy hours I've spent reading and sharing his books.

from @bphopkins :
RIP the great Raymond Smullyan, many of whose books I shall someday gleefully subject my children to. So goes the Dao.

from @BradleyPallen :
The two sentences in this tweet are false.
Raymond Smullyan will never die.

I'll mention again that Jason Rosenhouse edited a nice tribute volume, "Four Lives," to Smullyan some years back:

Smullyan is best known for his logic works (both recreational and academic), but he also wrote several volumes on "spirituality." The best known was probably "The Tao Is Silent," but my own favorite is perhaps "A Spiritual Journey."

And lastly, I'll end with one more quote from Raymond:
"A joke is told that Epimenides got interested in eastern philosophy and made a pilgrimage to meet Buddha. He said to Buddha: 'I have come to ask you what is the best question that can be asked and what is the best answer that can be given.' Buddha replied: 'The best question that can be asked is the question you are asking and the best answer that can be given is the answer I am giving.'"

==> [It’s now 2:30pm EST and I had expected by now to see some more official notice or more-detailed obituary for Dr. Smullyan than the Facebook posting that started the news. I've seen at least a couple of people pass the news along who I don’t believe would have done so if they were not certain of its validity, but once some more official press links are available I will add them here.]

==> Apologies, that I may have multiple updates to this post as warranted…
For those who haven’t seen it, the initial news on Raymond was broken by a Facebook post from a personal friend HERE
I only just now noticed the post’s date is Feb. 7, saying Dr. Smullyan died “yesterday” (so, I assume Feb. 6), making it even more surprising that there are by now (3 days later) no formal press releases (though the poster does say she expects the NY Times to have a “big tribute” to him soon. Who knows what clever final instructions the iconoclastic Smullyan may have left for any announcements of his death… or alternatively, perhaps his lesser name recognition (compared to say his dear friend Martin Gardner) is causing a delay in more details getting out.

In any event, stay tuned… Raymond straddled a world between mathematicians, logicians, philosophers, recreationalists, cognitive scientists, academics, and layfolk… and musicians and magicians… and punsters ;) and he deserves the highest recognition.

==> 2/10/17  Perhaps Raymond has left us, as he lived, giving us one more puzzle to ponder. I awoke at 5 this morning and immediately searched Web for official news of his demise, and still it awaits. People have repeatedly tried to edit his Wikipedia page only to be rebuffed by editors who are also waiting for official confirmation. Maybe Feb. 11, being a prime number, will be the day of notification (…and I’m only half-joking). 
For those repeatedly asking, no, I think it clear this is not any sort of hoax or prank, but for whatever reason, and despite his worldwide fan base, official news just hasn’t come yet. I did glean from all my searching that Dr. Smullyan apparently died “peacefully in his sleep” from “complications of a stroke,” I believe the evening of Feb.6.
And I have to admit there is something almost delicious, that even in death, Dr. Smullyan continues to puzzle us from the great beyond.

For any readers who don’t know much about Smullyan or wonder why I'm spending this much time on him, until longer tributes appear, you can get a feel for him and his impact from the messages flowing in on this Facebook page:

==> Wikipedia page finally updated based in part on this account:

Probably much more to follow in next 24 hrs.

2/11/17 : The NY Times has weighed in with their obituary:

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