I came to know of Leo on a lark, or by providence, depending on one’s view…
With dissertations in math, two happy things can happen: (1) an advisor proposes a problem and the student solves it, writes it up, and gets his degree; (2) the student comes up with a problem, solves it, and the advisor deems it worthy of a dissertation. Other things can happen, but they are less happy, such as the inability of solve a problem (whether given by advisor or self-inspired), or solving the problem and then finding out it’s been solved already.
From my vantage, it is a credit to Leo and the intellectual ferment in his research group that I was able to devise my own problem, solve it, and have both Leo Kadanoff and Patrick Billingsley deem it worthy of a dissertation (titled “Chaos, Uniform Probability, and Weak Convergence”).
I stayed in touch with Leo sporadically over the coming years. Occasionally, he would comment on intelligent design. He was never a convert, to be sure. But he was always respectful to me, even when we disagreed. Early in 2014 I sent him the manuscript for Being as Communion: A Metaphysics of Information. He wrote back the following:
I read the first bunch of pages of your book and found nothing with which I could disagree, except perhaps the conjunction of science and material [matter] or rather the disjunction between science and information. As you well know, information is the primary topic in 21st. Century science. More.
Dembski, founder of Uncommon Descent, last saw Kadanoff riding away from a dinner together on a bicycle.
See also: Mathematician Kadanoff says people should think about Dembski’s thesis—instead of running the guy out of town
Some sense of the risks Kadanoff ran can be gleaned from this Jerry Coyne gem.
From U Chicago website:
Leo P. Kadanoff is a theoretical physicist and applied mathematician who has contributed widely to research in the properties of matter, the development of urban areas, statistical models of physical systems, and the development of chaos in simple mechanical and fluid systems. His best-known contribution was in the development of the concepts of “scale invariance” and “universality” as they are applied to phase transitions. More recently, he has been involved in the understanding of singularities in fluid flow.
Requiescat in pacem lucis aeternitatis.
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