Douglas Bruce finds himself one day riding the subway in New York without knowing where he is going. In fact, he doesn’t know where he is, he doesn’t recognize any of the buildings. Panic sets in once he realizes he doesn’t know where he took the train, or even his own name. Doug suffers total amnesia, a rare condition in which one forgets everything about one’s life. Well, this is not exactly true: He knows how to talk, and when in the hospital someone asks him to sign, he remembers his signature. This strange and fascinating condition is explored in this documentary that uses footage shot by Doug himself and directed by his (former) friend Rupert Murray.

I found the documentary quite interesting, but I also found it wanting in several respects. Part of it may be due to the simple fact that we still know very little about how memory works, so surprisingly little time is devoted to hard data, to what may be happening—as for why it is happening, nobody knows. Some hypotheses are mentioned, and as the story progresses we get some clues. But part of the problem with the story I think is due to what I perceive as a shortcoming of the director: There are questions that do not get asked, some that beg to be asked, and why they are not seems to be because everybody is so fascinated by what is happening that they assume that filming it is enough. Part of it I think is due to the friendship between Doug and Mr. Murray. Mr. Murray seems to go out of his way to make Doug feel comfortable, while obviously the subject matter may make him uncomfortable. So, at the end of the day, I find the final product a bit awkward. There are a few extras in the DVD that leave me feeling the same (at least there is consistency); I missed (being in Vienna) the controversy on the veracity of the story, so the short section addressing it didn’t mean much to me. There is a long section explaining how a sequence was shot. I found it very curious that the director put so much thought into the visual look of the final product instead of trying to add a bit more substance to it.

I like explorations of memory, and mental problems intrigue me to no end. So this was a good movie overall. It complements well other documentaries in similar subjects, like anterograde amnesia, the disease that Memento popularized. I had the fortune of watching in 2004 an excellent documentary by Koreeda Hirokazu about one such case in Japan, Without memory.

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A classical reference is Hypothèse du Continu by Waclaw Sierpiński (1934), available through the Virtual Library of Science as part of the series Mathematical Monographs of the Institute of Mathematics of the Polish Academy of Sciences. Sierpiński discusses equivalences and consequences. The statements covered include examples from set theory, combinatorics, […]

There is a new journal of the European Mathematical Society that seems perfect for these articles: EMS Surveys in Mathematical Sciences. The description at the link reads: The EMS Surveys in Mathematical Sciences is dedicated to publishing authoritative surveys and high-level expositions in all areas of mathematical sciences. It is a peer-reviewed periodical […]

The answer is no, the statement that for every set $X$ we have $$X\not\to(\omega)^\omega_2$$ does not imply the axiom of choice. This was shown by Kleinberg and Seiferas in 1973, see MR0340025 (49 #4782) Kleinberg, E. M.; Seiferas, J. I. Infinite exponent partition relations and well-ordered choice. J. Symbolic Logic 38 (1973), 299–308. https://doi.org/10.23 […]

For positive integers $a_1,\dots,a_n$, recall that the multicolor Ramsey number $R(a_1,\dots,a_n)$ is the smallest integer $N$ such that if the edges of the complete graph $K_N$ are colored with the $n$ colors $1,\dots,n$, then there is some $i\le n$ and a set of $a_i$ vertices, all of whose edges received color $i$. A maximal Ramsey$(a_1,\dots,a_n)$-colorin […]

Georgii: Let me start with some brief remarks. In a series of three papers: a. Wacław Sierpiński, "Contribution à la théorie des séries divergentes", Comp. Rend. Soc. Sci. Varsovie 3 (1910) 89–93 (in Polish). b. Wacław Sierpiński, "Remarque sur la théorème de Riemann relatif aux séries semi-convergentes", Prac. Mat. Fiz. XXI (1910) 17–20 […]

Yes, this is a nice idea, and the approach is used in practice. I list four examples below, but there are many others. Any arithmetic statement, or any first order statement about $(\mathbb R,\mathbb N,+,\times,

Not necessarily. Consider the graph $G$ in ${\mathbb R}^2$ of the points $(x,y)$ such that $$ y^5+16y-32x^3+32x=0. $$ This example comes from the nice book "The implicit function theorem" by Krantz and Parks. Note that this is the graph of a function: Fix $x$, and let $F(y)=y^5+16y-32x^3+32x$. Then $F'(y)=5y^4+16>0$ so $F$ is strictly incre […]

Following Tomas's suggestion, I am posting this as an answer: I encountered this problem while directing a Master's thesis two years ago, and again (in a different setting) with another thesis last year. I seem to recall that I somehow got to this while reading slides of a talk by Paul Pollack. Anyway, I like to deduce the results asked in the prob […]

One way we formalize this "limitation" idea is via interpretative power. John Steel describes this approach carefully in several places, so you may want to read what he says, in particular at Solomon Feferman, Harvey M. Friedman, Penelope Maddy, and John R. Steel. Does mathematics need new axioms?, The Bulletin of Symbolic Logic, 6 (4), (2000), 401 […]

This is a transcendental number, in fact one of the best known ones, it is $6+$ Champernowne's number. Kurt Mahler was first to show that the number is transcendental, a proof can be found on his "Lectures on Diophantine approximations", available through Project Euclid. The argument (as typical in this area) consists in analyzing the rate at […]