RE: Russell's Paradox on the Web

Lisa Dusseault (
Wed, 13 May 1998 10:18:42 -0700

My fiance Eric:

used to maintain a page of links called "List of Pages with Links to This
Page". A cool idea, and I immediately put up a page which linked to his
page of links to that page, but he didn't bother to get many more links and
dropped it eventually.

I've always been fascinated by the idea of self-reference, so I maintain a
page of self-referential (by self-modification) games:

I've also started collecting meta-jokes, but haven't got enough to bother
putting up a page of those yet. That was inspired by spending much time
with my pure math friends. At Waterloo, mathie humour seemed to consist of:
Null-set jokes
Self-referential humour

We were telling people this in a restaurant one night. Somebody gave Eric
the challenge: "Tell me one funny null-set joke".

Eric thought a bit, put down his spicy mint lemonade and said "Every
null-set joke I have told tonight has been funny." Of course, Eric had not
made any null-set jokes yet that night.

So is it funny? And if not, is it paradoxical? I'll leave it to you to

Others from my nascent collection:

"If it's funny once, it's funny every time." -- Eric Lippert

'If "if it's funny once it's funny every time" is funny once, it's funny
every time.' -- Eric Lippert & Craig Kaplan

"American Cheese is to real cheese what this analogy is to anything." -- Jon

"That's like the analogy I made the other day." -- Craig Kaplan

Recursion: See Recursion. -- unknown


-----Original Message-----
From: James K. Tauber []
Sent: Tuesday, May 12, 1998 10:41 AM
To: FoRK (E-mail)
Subject: Russell's Paradox on the Web

It occurred to me a couple of days ago that Russell's Paradox can be
described quite nicely in terms of web pages and links. It seems easier to
conceptualize than sets containing themselves as members.

It would go something like this:

Imagine a web page paradox.html that has a link to every web page that
doesn't link to itself. Does paradox.html link to itself? If not, then it
should be included on the page in which case it does link to itself. If it
does link to itself, then it shouldn't be on the page in which case it
doesn't link to itself.


James Tauber /
Perth, Western Australia
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