How I read Dan Hofstadter's book by accident
Here's a post to a mailing list I made in 1998 (the "Join the crew" virus hoax was circulating at the time) ...
To: email@example.com Subject: JOIN THE CREW!! Content-type: text/plain; charset=ISO-8859-1 Content-transfer-encoding: 8BIT Date: Tue, 10 Feb 1998 20:57:15 See! The timid have already deleted this message, and missed the opportunity of a lifetime!! Have you ever thought how useful an extra $10, $100, $1000, or in fact $10^n for any integral value of n would be? Now you can sieze [sic] the chance of some easy money, by joining me as joint ghostwriter of my next project, a torrid sex-romp, entitled "The Big Bang", which will go out under my new nom-de-plume, Steven J. Dawkins. Haven't finalized the publisher yet, but with this title and author, we can't lose. No previous experience (of writing) required, and in fact an ability to stick to elementary grammatical forms would probably be an advantage. For your screen test, contact Gloria Candlewick at Rentamattress (1) 123-555-6969 without delay. oo \\_.-._.-._.-._.-._.-._.-._/ Oh, what brought this on? Well, I've got this book in my reading-pending pile, "Goldberg's Angel". The Daedalus catalog said "Now Dan Hofstadter has written a novel" so given that I thought this was an author who's written some interesting stuff, ("Goldberg" sort of rang a bell too) and it was cheap of course, I bought it. When it arrived, I wondered slightly why I would be reading about the antiquities trade, then thought no more about it. With an ever-so-slightly sickening feeling the other day it finally dawned on me that I had conflated Dan Dennett and Douglas Hofstadter. I'm not sure whether the "Goldberg" connection really was the variations, or a dim confusion with Goldbach and Godel. FWIW Goldbach's conjecture is one of the many results in number theory which are immensely easy to state and understand, and on which almost no progress at all has been made towards a proof. Here it is: Every even number greater than 2 is the sum of two primes. Remember "prime" excludes 1, so the demonstration of plausibility starts: 4=2+2, 6=3+3, 8=3+5, 10=3+7, 12=5+7, 14=7+7, 16=3+13, ... Urp.
A while later, after reading the book, I made some reference to it in passing, and responded when someone asked me...
> What's ["Goldberg's Angel"]? A book. About a lady Peg Goldberg from er somewhere in America who went to Amsterdam, and largely on a whim purchased some mosaics from a group of rip-off artists for 1 million dollars she'd borrowed from the bank to buy a fake Modigliani. Rather predictable story, I thought (the Cyprus government reclaimed them as they were stolen), but the author seemed surprised that the world of shady art dealing was a murky one.
Indeed, both Goldberg the victim and Hofstadter the writer appeared to me to be extraordinarily naive about such things, not to mention the bank in Indiana somewhere which had actually agreed to lend her $3 million. Even after reading it, I couldn't be sure whether this was supposed to be fact or fiction (or was Daedalus' "novel" just a joke?), but it was certainly a readable yarn.
Dan Hofstadter: "Goldberg's Angel, an adventure in the antiquities trade" More details
Douglas R. Hofstadter: "Gödel, Escher, Bach: an eternal golden braid" (The Conversation at the end of Chapter 12 is itself a conflation of Bach's Goldberg Variations and the Goldbach conjecture) More details
Douglas Hofstader & Daniel Dennett: "The Mind's I, Fantasies and reflections on self and soul" More details
The other authors of course are: Stephen Jay Gould, Richard Dawkins, and Stephen Hawking.
This little episode should at least warn you of the dangers of keyword searching.