When Rudy Rucker met Kurt Gödel

Science fiction writer and mathematician Rudy Rucker -- surely one of the world's all-time happiest mutants -- met with Kurt Gödel on three occasions, which he documented in an essay from his book Infinity and the Mind. Now Rucker has reprinted the essay on his blog, along with some of his fine photographs. It raised goosebumps on my arms.

When I saw him he was dressed as in all his pictures, with a suit over a warm vest and necktie. He is known to have worried a great deal about his health and was always careful to keep himself well bundled-up. Indeed, in the winter, one would sometimes see him leaving the Institute with a scarf wrapped around his head.

He encouraged me to ask questions, and, feeling like Aladdin in the treasure cave, I asked him as many as I could think of. His mind was unbelievably fast and experienced. It seemed that, over the years, he had already thought every possible philosophical problem through to the very end.

Despite his vast knowledge, he still could discuss ideas with the zest and openness of a young man. If I happened to say something particularly stupid or naive, his response was not mockery, but rather an amused astonishment that anyone could think such a thing. It was as if during his years of isolated thought he had forgotten that the rest of the human race was not advancing along with him.

Memories of Kurt Gödel


  1. Holy crap. If it’s possible for a 1500 word article to solve the Universe, I think that one may have done it. Most awesome.

  2. The first biography I ever bought was Hao Wang’s Reflections on Kurt Gödel.  I came across it after reading GEB.

    I used to use his Incompleteness Theorem to explain to my customers why there will always be a need for human operators.  ‘Used to’…until I was told to stop doing it.

  3. If I met Rudy Rucker, I would ask him about the book The Hollow Earth he wrote.  Made an impact on me when I was young. Among a hundred or more other questions..

  4. I read this essay while listening to my wife playing a Renaissance piece on the recorder in the next room. Then I switched on the TV where “Keeping up with the Kardashians” was showing. And I thought how wondrous it is to be witness to such a large spectrum of humanity in such a short period of time.

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