Exit the Loop, but When?


There is a problem-solving strategy in computer science called recursion. It amounts to programming sets of instructions that are defined in terms of themselves (self-referential, meta).

Douglas Hofstadter’s academic pursuits centre on the connection between recursion and consciousness. Hofstadter maintains that our brains are recursive in nature, our consciousness born amongst the strange loops of our thoughts about thinking.

A recursive definition of recursion: “If you already know what recursion is, just remember the answer. Otherwise, find someone who is standing closer to Douglas Hofstadter than you are; then ask him or her what recursion is.”

Linguist Noam Chomsky has theorized that there is no limit to the expressive nature of English (and other similarly structured languages) due to the recursive device of embedding sentences in sentences.

This is the man all tattered and torn,
That kissed the maiden all forlorn,
That milked the cow with the crumpled horn,
That tossed the dog,
That worried the cat,
That killed the rat,
That ate the malt
That lay in the house that Jack built.

This post was inspired by a blog on beauty in computer science. My favourite recursively defined fractal is the SierpiƄski triangle. I enjoy writing recursive algorithms.

Previously on Stung Eye: Recursion through definition.

2008-09-19 20:05:00


BodyWorld a webcomic. I heard the author/artist interviewed on umfm earlier today.