Tom Santero on Leslie Lamport's Buridan’s Principle

New York - November 19, 2015

Tom Santero on Leslie Lamport's Buridan’s Principle


In 1984 Leslie Lamport began to observe the glitch problem [0] occurs in everyday life. Realizing this phenomenon had not been discussed by psychologists of the day, he set out to describe his observations using the classical formalization of Buridan's ass. Lamport initially failed to have this paper published in various scientific journals, being rejected on grounds of superficiality. It wasn't until 2011, when a reader suggested he resubmit to Foundations of Physics, that the paper was eventually published.

Those familiar with the works of Lamport know him as a logician, his life's work has pushed forward the state of the art in areas of mutual exclusion and distributed systems probably more than any other, and so reading Buridan's Principle might strike us as a bit odd, or even obscure. We're in unfamiliar territory with Lamport. Nonetheless, in this paper, Lamport's casual observations lead him to bridge the gap between the humanities and the sciences, providing us readers with what appears to be a universal law of nature: Buridan's Principle.



Tom Santero (@tsantero) is a Software Engineer at Helium Systems, writing Haskell and Erlang to connect things to the internet. Previously, Tom worked at the New York Times on Search infrastructure, and before that he ran evangelism at Basho Technologies. A native New Yorker, Tom recently defected to Fort Collins, CO, where he lives with his two cats nearby an obnoxiously loud freight train.

TwoSigma The New York Chapter would like to thank TwoSigma for helping to make this meetup possible.