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mu

1. <networking> The country code for Mauritius.

2. <philosophy> /moo/ The correct answer to the classic trick question "Have you stopped beating your wife yet?". Assuming that you have no wife or you have never beaten your wife, the answer "yes" is wrong because it implies that you used to beat your wife and then stopped, but "no" is worse because it suggests that you have one and are still beating her. According to various Discordians and Douglas Hofstadter the correct answer is usually "mu", a Japanese word alleged to mean "Your question cannot be answered because it depends on incorrect assumptions".

Hackers tend to be sensitive to logical inadequacies in language, and many have adopted this suggestion with enthusiasm. The word "mu" is actually from Chinese, meaning "nothing"; it is used in mainstream Japanese in that sense, but native speakers do not recognise the Discordian question-denying use. It almost certainly derives from overgeneralisation of the answer in the following well-known Rinzei Zen teaching riddle:

A monk asked Joshu, "Does a dog have the Buddha nature?" Joshu retorted, "Mu!"

See also has the X nature, AI Koan.

[Douglas Hofstadter, "Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid"].

[Jargon File]

(2000-11-22)

Mu

<character> (Greek letter).

1. <unit> /micro/ prefix denoting division by 10^6, e.g. mu m (micrometre, a millionth part of a metre). Sometimes written as a 'u', the ASCII character nearest in appearance.

2. <mathematics> /myoo/ In the theory of functions, mu x . E denotes the least value of x for which E = x, i.e. the least fixed point of the function x . E. The recursive function mu f . H f satisfies (and is defined by) the equation

		mu f . H f = H (mu f . H f)


An alternative notation for the same function is

		fix H = H (fix H)


See fixed point combinator.

3. <database> multiple value.

[Jargon File]

(1995-10-30)


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