What do the Friedmann equations have to do with the student protests in China?

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Lexical note

的, by far the highest frequency glyph in written Sinitic, one out of 20 in large corpora.  In this context may be construed as an attributive marker; pronounced "de", or you can think of it as just "d".  Full description in Wiktionary.


News reports




Selected readings



  1. Mark Liberman said,

    November 28, 2022 @ 6:45 pm

    It's surely relevant that the Friedmann equations describe the expansion of the universe…

  2. Victor Mair said,

    November 28, 2022 @ 9:53 pm

    From Sam Young:

    It’s awesome to see foundational equations describing our expanding Universe be used out in the wild in such a creative way by the geniuses at Tsinghua.

  3. Victor Mair said,

    November 29, 2022 @ 9:34 pm

    From a PRC graduate student:

    The meaning of the English word “Friedman” has nothing to do with the student protests. But the pronunciation of this word is interesting . It sounds like “free de man”, free=自由, de=的, man=人. This is an extremely interesting and typical student protest behavior, using enough knowledge to resist the government to express their desire for freedom while protecting themselves, after all, they did not directly write some words of resistance. They didn‘t even use another language directly, it uses a homophone of an English word.

    In addition, China has introduced a new censorship policy for online comments: people who give a like for "bad information" on the internet will be held accountable. That means it's not just Posting "bad information" that's banned. Comments and likes are banned.

  4. julie lee said,

    November 30, 2022 @ 12:27 am

    The Nov. 29 Chinese edition of the New York Times only reports
    that the Friedmann equations are used in the Chinese protests because Friedmann is pronounced like "free man".

    "弗里德曼的中文发音与'自由人' (free man)相近。

    The Times doesn't report the wit of "free 的 man" (Frie-d-mann)
    in Chinese.

  5. M. Paul Shore said,

    December 1, 2022 @ 2:10 pm

    Given that “Friedmann” is not of English origin and does not mean “free man” (rather, it means “man of peace”), it’s a shame that some equation by one of the nearly four dozen professional mathematicians with the family name “Freeman” listed in the Mathematics Genealogy Project website couldn’t’ve been used.

    On a related note, if the PRC ever returns to and exceeds its socially freewheeling ways of the recent past, to the point where Chinese women protest in favor of “topfreedom” on the nation’s beaches, perhaps one or more equations by the brilliant Belgian-born French mathematician Jacques Tits (1930-2021), creator of such mathematical concepts as the Tits alternative, the Tits building, the Tits cone, the Tits group, the Tits index, the Tits metric, and Tits systems, and co-creator of the Bruhat-Tits fixed point theorem, the Freudenthal-Tits magic square, the Kantor-Koecher-Tits construction, and the Kneser-Tits conjecture, could be used.

  6. Rebecca said,

    December 4, 2022 @ 12:20 am

    I heard in an NPR interview (of whom I don’t recall) that most students were holding up blank white paper, because anything they wrote could potentially be used against them. Of course, the blankness of the paper speaks volumes itself. I hope the vagueness of using an equation offers similar protection for these students.

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