[Haskell-cafe] [Off-topic] How unimportant it is whether submarines can swim (EWD1056)

Rustom Mody rustompmody at gmail.com
Sun Oct 28 05:29:41 CET 2012

On Sat, Oct 27, 2012 at 2:21 AM, Henk-Jan van Tuyl <hjgtuyl at chello.nl>wrote:

> L.S.,
> I thought you might be interested to know, that I have translated one of
> prof. Edsger W. Dijkstra's writings to English[0]. I will submit this
> translation to the E. W. Dijkstra Archive of the University of Texas[1].
> Some of the highlights:
>  - can submarines swim?
>  - redefining mathematics
>  - something unimaginably unimaginable
>  - a baby faster than fighter jets
> Regards,
> Henk-Jan van Tuyl

Thank you Henk-Jan for doing this -- It's always a treat reading Dijkstra!

I had some small corrections to make but it seems others have already
spotted them.  Only one general comment: Your use of courier font quite
threw me off  -- I thought I was reading 'an original EWD nnn' … until I
saw the last line -- Translated by Henk-Jan van Tuyl 2012-10-13!

Dijkstra's connection with functional programming is enigmatic and very
interesting.  On the one hand he seems to say that the only proper
languages are imperative, yet at the meta level, his semantics has a strong
kind of functional flavour -- he would argue that his semantics are more
functional than even denotational semantics!

In particular, there is one small notational point that he insisted on
towards the end of his career (and life) viz. where traditional
mathematicians write *f(x)  *and functional programmers write *f x*, he
would write *f.x* , ie he showed apply with a '.'

In trying to understand his intentions, I wrote the following
'thought-dialogue' [as in thought-experiment :-) ]

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