John van Neumann (3) vs. Albert Brooks; Paul Erdos advances

We had some good arguments on both sides yesterday.

For Erdos, from Diana Senechal:

From an environmental perspective, Erdos is the better choice; his surname is an adjectival form of the Hungarian erdő, “forest,” whereas “Carson” clearly means “son of a car.” Granted, the son of a car, being rebellious and all, might prove especially attentive to the quality of the air, but we have no evidence of this.

On the other side Stephen Oliver had an excellent practical point:

Johnny Carson, because if Erdos gave a talk it would be overrun by mathematicians trying to get a paper with him.

But I had to call it for Erdos after this innovative argument from Ethan Bolker, who said, “I have a good argument for Erdos but will save it for a later round. If he loses this one you’ll never know . . .” I think you can only use that ploy once ever—but he used it!

Our next bout features two people who changed their own names. In one corner, one of the most brilliant mathematicians of all time, but a bit of a snob who enjoyed hobnobbing with government officials and apparently added “von” to his name to make himself sound more upper-class. In the other corner, a very funny man who goes by “Brooks” because he didn’t feel like going through life with the name Albert Einstein.

From what I’ve read about von Neumann, I find him irritating and a bit of a braggart. But, if we want to go negative, we can get on Brooks’s case for not fulfilling his early comedic promise. So maybe we should be looking for positive things to say about these two guys.

Again, the full bracket is here, and here are the rules:

We’re trying to pick the ultimate seminar speaker. I’m not asking for the most popular speaker, or the most relevant, or the best speaker, or the deepest, or even the coolest, but rather some combination of the above.

I’ll decide each day’s winner not based on a popular vote but based on the strength and amusingness of the arguments given by advocates on both sides. So give it your best!