An Advance Critique of the Psammeticus Press Contrastive Grammars Series Series
Grandiloquent in its scope, unbounded in its ambition, not even quasi-mathematical in its vain hope of describing every language by setting out everything which is not that language, The Contrastive Grammar Series Series from Psammeticus Press has already become the most futile exercise in contrastive grammar, if not in all of human knowledge, ever undertaken. Place your bets now with Lloyds of London; come the year 2295, when the final volume is set to be released, you will be unable to retire to the French Riviera on the proceeds of your winning the wager that it can never be done; indeed, you may not even gain the price of a stick of gum. The delusional plans of these wildly—shall we just say speculative?—publishers, defy the logic of the fundamental mathematics of knowledge, that of exponential expansion. Effectively, these foolhardy venturers wish to publish a completed Wikipedia for the first, Japanese, series alone; the second series would be just a little smaller than that, since it could delete the contents of the first series; and so on. Even the final series of this meta-series would still be fairly large, excluding from its virtual Wikipedia only the contents of all the preceding series, which, with their exclusive focus on things linguistic (also known, for brevity, as thinguistics), won’t have very much to say but will take (nearly) forever to say it. A fundamental theorem of transfinite arithmetic assures us that restating all the finite, but potentially countably infinite) knowledge of humanity a mere countable infinity of times will still create only a countable infinity of statements. However, this is small comfort, since:
Together, these are known as Mandelbrot’s Laws of Information. A trivial corollary is that even the Wikipedia will never be completed by humans in their available time as a species on this planet; it follows that the Japanese Contrastive Grammar Series will remain incomplete despite the best efforts of addicted web surfers to complete the Wikipedia itself. What hope, then, for the final volume to arrive, as so foolishly prognosticated, in 2295?
- knowledge effectively grows at a rate proportional to the size of its boundary with ignorance;
- the boundary of knowledge is fractal, of dimension less than the reciprocal of the square root of 5; and
- on any measure, ignorance is uncountably (yet not unaccountably!) infinite (due largely to failure of researchers to obtain grant renewals);
Naturally, I wish the publishers the best of luck, the idiots; ah, perhaps I should have said, ‘intellectually disadvantaged persons’?
—An anonymous tipster and retired Professor of Statistical Thinguistics,
based in the Hong Kong Turf Club,