Hard Tweets Explained: Nature Boy

This is one of a series of tweets I did experimenting with pseudocode poetry. That is, poetry written in the language we use to define computer programs. You’ve probably heard of programs referred to as “code.” Pseudocode is the same idea, except we aren’t writing in any particular computer language.

When you think about it, pseudocode is a really weird idea. It would be like writing the first draft of your essay in a made-up language, and then translating it to English to polish it up. It isn’t like that, actually. It is exactly that. Computer Scientists are a weird lot.

So anyway, I was thinking it might be fun to try to write poems in pseudocode. I thought the freedom from syntax and language might be liberating. To work through the experiment, I picked a poem that had already been written. It is the lyric to a song called Nature Boy.

The greatest thing
You’ll ever learn
Is just to love
And be loved In return.

I’m not sure that’s actually true. I think the greatest thing you’ll ever learn is probably the exact location of, and optimal stimulation for, all of your partner’s erogenous zones. But this love thing is probably a close second.

nature_boy ::= this funny equals sign is a pretty common pseudocode way of saying “is defined to be.” So we are defining nature_boy, which you recall was the name of the song.

learn > x ∀ x That upside-down A is the formal logic symbol for “for all values of.” So the right side of this inequality says “x for all values of x.” Which is a silly way to say “everything.” So learn greater than everything. That must make learn very large indeed. Perhaps the greatest learn there is.

→ ∃ love The arrow is the formal logic symbol for implies. The backward E is the formal logic symbol for “there exists.” So this says implies there exists love. Which is a peculiar way of saying “is just to love.”

∩ return(love) The upside-down U is the logic symbol for intersection. Intersection in Boolean logic is also the “and” operation. Finally, we have the return statement of the function. This is what the algorithm should emit to the caller, and of course, what we want to emit is love. So this is my way of expressing “and get loved returned.”

Homework: Go visit delict.us/alfageeek and search for pseudocode. See if you agree that this pseudocode poetry idea was a really bad one. Hey, if all our experiments succeeded, we wouldn’t be doing science, would we?

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4 thoughts on “Hard Tweets Explained: Nature Boy

  1. Ok, ok. So…. who decided that an upside down A means for all values of? and who decided what these other things mean? I mean, how does one arrive at such a conclusion and how does he, or we, know he is right? Same with love. How do we know the value of love? How do we know what love is? Did I mention I hate mathematical logic? Did I mention I hate love today? I digress…

    • 1. Gerhard Gentzen, 2. Giuseppe Peano, David Hilbert, and others, 3. Eden Ahbez wrote Nature boy, and I think we just have to trust him on that, 4. et. al., That is what poetry is for.

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