Y combinator

By Carl Zimmer | February 17, 2008 8:28 am

y combinator“I don’t quite have a science tattoo, but I have a math tattoo. That’s close enough, right?”Now, for the explanation. This is a formula called the Y Combinator. It is a fixed-point combinator in the lambda calculus and was discovered by Haskell Curry, a rather prolific mathematician and logician whose work helped start Computer Science.

“What this formula does is calculates the fixed point of a function, which in turn allows for recursion by calling on that fixed point; recursion is perhaps the single most important concept in Computer Science. Being a computer scientist and a mathematician, this formula is very important to me and represents the innate beauty of computer science and mathematical logic.” –Mark

[Note from Carl: Math is most welcome at the Emporium]

Click here to go to the full Science Tattoo Emporium.

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Comments (1)

  1. Being a student of CS and the Maths, I value this tattoo- excellent choice. Your thoughts on recursion has brought me to another chapter in my science tattoo quest as it indeed is so very important… There’s a tat flying around here of the Fibonacci Sequence in Scheme, which I thought was also cool since we know that it also represents recursion.



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The Loom

A blog about life, past and future. Written by DISCOVER contributing editor and columnist Carl Zimmer.

About Carl Zimmer

Carl Zimmer writes about science regularly for The New York Times and magazines such as DISCOVER, which also hosts his blog, The LoomHe is the author of 12 books, the most recent of which is Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed.


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