Kurt Gödel starved to death because of fear of dying poisoned.
In bad times, intelligence by itself is probably not enough to save us of our emotions.
Just to add that Feynman's last words are reported to be "I'd hate to die twice — it's so boring".
i am curious of the logistics of this. if they were there, outside of his room, to simply safeguard against the visit of unauthorized visitors during his weak moments, this seems like it could work in a way that doesn't interrupt his last moments with friends and family.
if they were literally at his bed safeguarding information, that seems quite intrusive for someone who did monumental tasks for the government. and it isn't even clear what their gameplan would be in this case. do they instruct a potentially non-coherent person to shut-up or the nurses to put him out?
hopefully it was the first of these.
The British state forcibly sterilized Turing who was instrumental in the allied war effort in a greater or equal capacity to von Neumann. "Quite intrusive" is a monumental understatement of what governments will do to protect their perceived interests.
For the Department of Defense, you could get a list from DTIC: https://discover.dtic.mil/email-form-dtic-foia
I doubt much if anything interesting by von Neumann is still classified or limited. If something is still classified it's probably because no one wanted to declassify it, not that it's sensitive.
If anyone does file FOIA requests for these lists, contact me, as I'm interested but not interested enough to file the requests. See my HN profile for a link to my personal website with a contact form.
He also designed The Critical Component that's kept classified by most governments. These lenses are what compress plutonium to trigger the reaction in a fission device and they're also used in other manners for fusion weapons.
von Neumann did so much and knew so much that we might never know the extent of his true contributions to applied science.
I highly recommend the Nuclear Secrecy blog if you'd like to learn more! It's totally like being in a teenage clique that's playing a game of chinese whispers, with the added side bonus of nuclear weapons and global annihilation. Come for the clique, stay for the nuclear winter.
Oh man this is utterly terrifying for me as I always hoped that the fear of death would diminish with age. It's horribly terrifying to me that he was horribly terrified of death at an advanced age.
A lot of people (especially atheists, like me) have an oversimplified concept of dying. One can be perfectly atheist and realize that apart from the waking horrors of a decaying body, the experience of death itself can still be enormously horrible in certain ways of dying.
I highly recommend the movie "A Pure Formality", if you like to trivialize death! It's the worst horror movie I have seen, and there is absolutely zero blood, slashing, nor sudden scare moments... and yet I assure you it is the biggest horror, it is pure psychological horror.
I am very happy that I have seen this movie, somehow knowing how horrible something can be sort of mentally prepares you for it...
Given that, I do have some existential dread about death. And that's distinct from the process of dying, the hassle and pain involved, and so on.
So I do fear murderers, because they'll kill me. But I fear torturers more, because they cause pain. And more. They do irrevocable stuff, injuries that can never heal. So it's like they can kill you, over and over, little bits at a time. And in a way, those realizations of irrevocable loss are worse than the actual pain.
To compare it to an example much closer to me, my mother died of pancreatic cancer at 69, about 3 months after diagnosis. The whole family was in shock, but she seemed surprisingly at peace with it. She'd always been worried about her health, but after this diagnosis, she was calmer than I'd ever known her.
(I miss her badly, though. I want my youngest son to know her, but he never will.)
At 97, most people have probably long accepted that they're well past their peak, they've accomplished everything they're going to accomplish and even if they continue to live for another 10 years, they're unlikely to add anything dramatic to it. Their life is pretty much complete. Von Neumann at 53, despite the many things he had accomplished already, probably had tons more he wanted to do. His life was not remotely complete.
Bone cancer, actually.
If I could meet some historical person for an interview, von Neumann is at the top of the list.
> "If we are ever to make a machine that will speak, understand or translate human language, solve mathematical problems with imagination, practice a profession or direct an organization, either we must reduce these activities to a science so exact that we can tell a machine precisely how to go about doing them or we must develop a machine that can do things without being told precisely how,"
Otherwise it reads like "hey, hope you get better, now do you think P == NP?"
That was my read of it and I found it heartening.
Having had a near-fatal illness myself I was bummed at the time by all the moaning about it. People were really talking about their issues, not mine (OK, kid freaking out about becoming an orphan was something for me to address).
My own head was still full of stuff I wanted to do in the future (and what to do about my own therapeutic plan) and I would have been delighted to talk to someone who would think that way too. The great thing about the net is I could (textually) talk to friends far away who had no idea I was sick.
“Gödel announced his first incompleteness theorem at a roundtable discussion session on the third day of the conference. The announcement drew little attention apart from that of von Neumann, who pulled Gödel aside for conversation. Later that year, working independently with knowledge of the first incompleteness theorem, von Neumann obtained a proof of the second incompleteness theorem, which he announced to Gödel in a letter dated November 20, 1930 (Dawson 1996, p. 70).”
To that letter, Gödel politely replied that he had already submitted the result for publication.
His son (i.e. my cousin) told me some funny stories about Erdős staying at their house when he was growing up. I think they are just an eccentric bunch.
Don't forget that both were refugees from the war, and von Neumann was a Hungarian Jew. Neither would be any stranger to personal loss.
not definitive but an interesting read from his daughter, quite an accomplished person in her own right.
He apparently was an advisor to the president and there was a reference to his game theory on: How I learned to enjoy the atomic bomb (movie). Game theory where by mutual distraction both parties don't start the war.
He was also close friend with Turing, he was very charismatic and the main person behind the Manhattan problem. He was humble to advice others that lead to development in many field.
Arguably, this was first predicted in 1863 by Samuel Butler in "Darwin among the Machines", where he wrote about a coming time that machines evolve to replace humans.
 - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samuel_Butler_%28novelist%29
 - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darwin_among_the_Machines
Von Neumann liked to eat and drink; his wife, Klara, said that he could count everything except calories. He enjoyed Yiddish and "off-color" humor (especially limericks). He was a non-smoker. In Princeton, he received complaints for regularly playing extremely loud German march music on his gramophone, which distracted those in neighboring offices, including Albert Einstein, from their work. Von Neumann did some of his best work in noisy, chaotic environments, and once admonished his wife for preparing a quiet study for him to work in. He never used it, preferring the couple's living room with its television playing loudly. Despite being a notoriously bad driver, he nonetheless enjoyed driving—frequently while reading a book—occasioning numerous arrests as well as accidents.
in terms of basically being a human computer though, i think he's pretty far up there. although, i do think there's a lot more to being smart than just being a technical person. for example, i would rate noam chomsky to be pretty far up there in terms of smart people. when you hear him speak, he seems to have a photographic memory for damn near everything he has read, which is a ton.
Basically nobody saw at the beginning that actual computer programming could be very difficult task. You just design algorithms in abstract and some clerk inputs them into the computer in machine language.
"As soon as we started programming, we found to our surprise that it wasn't as easy to get programs right as we had thought. Debugging had to be discovered. I can remember the exact instant when I realized that a large part of my life from then on was going to be spent in finding mistakes in my own programs." – Maurice Wilkes, designer of EDSAC, on programming, 1949
ps. & edit:
Similar thing happened with AI. Dartmouth Workshop in 1956 was the beginning of systematic AI research. Tt was thought that there could be significant progress in in few months and at least during the next year in things like natural language understanding. McCarthy, Minsky, Shannon, etc. had to first discover how hard problems really were.
Herman Goldstine wrote "One of his remarkable abilities was his power of absolute recall. As far as I could tell, von Neumann was able on once reading a book or article to quote it back verbatim; moreover, he could do it years later without hesitation. He could also translate it at no diminution in speed from its original language into English. On one occasion I tested his ability by asking him to tell me how A Tale of Two Cities started. Whereupon, without any pause, he immediately began to recite the first chapter and continued until asked to stop after about ten or fifteen minutes."
"Von Neumann was reportedly able to memorize the pages of telephone directories. He entertained friends by asking them to randomly call out page numbers; he then recited the names, addresses and numbers therein."
From the waterfall model to agile to test-driven programming and design to worse is better, programming has evolved away from the view that programming was just coming up with an unchanging, almost Platonic, ideal program and merely implementing it, to a much more iterative, exploratory process where code evolves in response to feedback from stakeholders and input from how it's working and meeting needs in the real world.
Quoting Eugene Wigner:
> "I have known a great many intelligent people in my life. I knew Planck, von Laue and Heisenberg. Paul Dirac was my brother in law; Leo Szilard and Edward Teller have been among my closest friends; and Albert Einstein was a good friend, too. But none of them had a mind as quick and acute as Jansci [John] von Neumann. I have often remarked this in the presence of those men and no one ever disputed.
> But Einstein's understanding was deeper even than von Neumann's. His mind was both more penetrating and more original than von Neumann's. And that is a very remarkable statement. Einstein took an extraordinary pleasure in invention. Two of his greatest inventions are the Special and General Theories of Relativity; and for all of Jansci's brilliance, he never produced anything as original."
> The following problem can be solved the easy way or the hard way:
> "Two trains 200 miles apart are moving toward each other; each one is going at a speed of 50 miles per hour. A fly starting on the front of one of the trains flies back and forth between them at a rate of 75 miles per hour. It does this until the trains collide and crush the fly to death. What is the total distance the fly has flown?"
> In a strict mathematical sense the fly actually hits each train an infinite number of times before it gets crushed, and one could solve the problem the hard way with pencil and paper by summing an infinite series of distances. This is the way that most trained mathematicians will solve the problem. Conversely a mathematical novice will most likely solve the problem the easy way - since the trains are 200 miles apart and each train is going 50 miles an hour, it takes 2 hours for the trains to collide, therefore the fly was flying for two hours, at a rate of 75 miles per hour, and so the fly must have flown 150 miles. Easy.
> When this problem was posed to John von Neumann, he immediately replied, "150 miles."
> "Ah, I see you've heard this one before, Professor von Neumann. Nearly everyone tries to sum the infinite series."
"What do you mean?" asked von Neumann. "That's how I did it!"
 - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_P%C3%B3lya
 - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/How_to_Solve_It
First order logic was famously proved incomputable by Godel himself, so here he's asking whether we can bound the number of steps given the size of the proof, not the size of the input (formula length), which is the way complexity is usually defined.
In practice, he's saying that tractable theorems must have reasonably sized proofs (to be understood by a human), and there might be an algorithm that is efficient enough in finding short proofs.
It would be trivially true if Godel was talking about propositional logic (proof size is polinomially bounded by definition of NP).
I don't know if that's true for first order logic (it's not as obvious to me as the author seems to imply) but even in that case it would be a non-trivial connection, so I believe it's a stretch to say that this was about P and NP.
Edit: I double-checked my biography of von Neumann and in fact, as the poster below indicated, his responses (if he was able to make any) aren't available. This letter of Goedel has identified an NP problem, and he's asking if it can be solved in polynomial time, so we can't credit von Neumann for identifiying the problem with certainty.
I always wondered if it shouldn't be phrased as "John von Neumann is the father of all things."
John von Neumann and Henri Poincaré certainly deserve credit for a shocking amount of modern advancement in math and science.
Do you have a source for this? I'd love to read von Neumann's reply. All I found from a search is this stackexchange answer stating that there is no known reply. https://cstheory.stackexchange.com/questions/41209/did-von-n...