Friday, April 28, 2017

I Love Clarkesworld

True lies. At Clarkesworld.

Feeling Less Stupid-Ish

I've actually made it through most of linear algebra. I only have the final exam left and it looks like a decent grade overall is possible. Conceptually, it's been the hardest class for me. So I'm proud of myself for making it this far.

I get the impression that it can literally take me a few hours to get through and understand the same number of problems that would take my most of classmates 15 or 20 minutes. Which is OK, so long as I'm not holding back other students while in class. And it seems that by test time I catch  up enough to do OK on exams (well, sometimes anyway).

Still, being able to do the problems is one thing. It's not grasping the concepts quickly that makes me relatively slower. I think after the class is done I'm going to go over the text on my own until I really get the material down pact. I want to get a sense for this intuitively.

I might eventually even try a proof or two.

More to See

I came upon this article by way of 3QuarksDaily. One paragraph caught my eye:

I had written some short stories but they were not any good. I didn’t know how to go on with writing. The trouble with the stories was their lack of shape and their earnestness. I read stories in The New Yorker and Esquire and tried to imitate them. This imitation was a discouraging thing. My stories seemed like theirs, but somehow they could be distinguished from the genuine, or so I was convinced. Of course, in some cases they were just imitations of imitations, and no one is looking for that.

Good and bad I suppose. If you happen to be near a library that holds archived issues, you should find that good writing at the New Yorker and Esquire go way back (some of my favorite pieces, all the way back to the 1960's, from the old New Yorkers were from Talk of The Town, because they gave so much shape to the world around you as you passed through it).

Bad in that, if New Yorker and Esquire are the only two publications (or only two sorts of publications) you are trying to imitate to become a better writer (granted the author did not actually say "only"), it might suggest that that's kind of what you limit yourself to seeing as the two sole examples of exemplary writing.

There's an easy fix to this sort of thing, I think: diversity of content. If you are reading a bunch of different things you consider great writing from a bunch of different sources you consider great publications, you are constantly exposing yourself to all forms and styles and approaches in great writing. Also, there's less of a need to imitate any particular style because you are not necessarily wedded to one particular type as acceptable enough. This kind of intimate detachment may also give a young wordsmith a stronger sense of ownership in regards to what they write.

In this way, I guess there's an advantage of having grown up a minority and enthusiastic reader. My reading interest started with the Hardy Boys mostly. But as a pre-teen and early teen looking for things that reflected me really had its limits. The magazine rack had Black Men's magazine, which was more like one extended photo shoot, not exactly a bastion of great writing. And, at the big chain book stores, even the African-American fiction and non-fiction sections at the time seemed more catered to women's interests (in the fiction section), formulaic genre (fiction), and academic treatments (non-fiction). But I did find my combination of diversity of thought/experience and reflection of men that looked like me in biographies. This brought on the habit of not ever being wedded to any particular publisher or magazine or writer, because I was so accustomed to having to work to find what I wanted. Exploration was required from the get go.

And I think that habit carried on as I got into reading a wider variety of publications. I will binge on the New Yorker for months at a time at any point (I actually didn't even really start reading the publication until my mid twenties). But I generally have a tendency to rotate the publications that I read. This is how I found The Sun, Callaloo, The Literary Review (the US publication, ), Raritan, Gettysburg Review (mostly fairly well known as far as lit mags go), and a multitude of other lesser-known literary publications, along with the multitude of glossies that seemed to last for a few years before disappearing from the stands for good. It's why I love those small specialty stores in Manhattan who solely carry hundreds of magazines titles from all over the world, (I haven't seen stores like this in any other cities in the U.S. myself, but I can think of at least three that are walking distance from Penn Station, and more outside of that area), as well as the local bookstores or community centers with titles I'm less familiar with. It's in experiencing all of them, more or less at once, that I came to think of all of them as equally valid.

I honestly get bored with too much of the same. Diversity is part of the joy of reading for me. Of any art or experience really.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Second Thoughts

An open mind. At The Sun.

Number Theory

Asking why:
Douge Clarke - (1:20): "What are you doing? Why are you doing it? How is it helping?"
Carene Umubyeyi - (0:10): "One of the most important things to do as a critical thinker is to question everything." (0:34): "The process of using what you know to be generally true in order to make an inference about something specific." (1:10): "First, you note down your givens, your observations, things you can see from the problem. Second, you reason using deductive reasoning, using general statements to infer specifics. And thirdly, you reach your evidence based conclusion." (3:52): "It is crucial to ask why. Ask the reasoning behind the concept."

Alan Dove - (2:43): "The point is that science and only science lets us find facts that are true for everybody, everywhere." (3:20): "It doesn't matter what country you're in, what language you speak, or what religion you are. You can reproduce the result. In fact (and this is a really important point), it will work even if you don't believe it will. You can deny Newton's laws until you are blue in the face. Gravity will still apply to you. Science gives us facts. Statements about the world that are true for everyone."
Steven Strogatz - (22:23): "If you are pure [mathematician], you are mathematician as poet. That is, you love your own subject and you're looking inward. You want to understand the structure of math itself with no reference to the outside world." (29:02): "All these people were simultaneously scientists and mathematicians and engineers. And it's a 20th century conceit - well, maybe because of the age of specialization - that we're only one at a time. But, to me, I'm a mathematician who's really interested in science, as well as the arts, honestly, and humanities. So I don't really like those distinctions." (29:47): "She doesn't really care what medium she's in. It could be painting, it could be sculpture, it could be charcoal. But she's interested in solving a problem. That is, she has some artistic thing in her head she wants to express. And then she thinks about what medium will help her best express it." (50:33): "Math is a language. But it's much more than a language. And it's because we don't have a word for what it is." (51:46): "So it is a language. But it's a language with an incredibly powerful machine built inside of it." (52:13): "It's not just a language. It's a language that let's you predict the future." (52:37): "It's more like math is the operating system of the universe."

Sustainability, adaptability, modern learning, and application:
Adam Bly - (1:55): "Science is butressed by it's instability. It's in fact the ability for science to be overturned and constantly proved wrong and for theories to only last as good as they are, until someone comes along and overturns them, that gives it one of its greatest sources of stability."'
Conrad Wolfram -  (4:05): "The first step is posing the right question. If you ask the wrong question about a situation, you're almost always going to get the wrong answer." (7:47): "Well one of the things they say is 'You need to get the basics first.' I think what they mean by this is you have to work stuff out on paper before you do it on a computer. But you really got to ask 'basics of what exactly?'  Are the basics of learning how to drive a car learning how to service it, or engineer it for that matter? Are the basics of photography today loading a film into your camera or coating a plate with chemicals? I don't think so. I think those are the machinery of the moment."  (9:08): "Just because paper was invented before computers, it doesn't mean it gets you closer to the basics of the subject." (9:40): "What we should be doing is problem-centric mathematics... They should be problems that the kids involved, or the adults for that matter, are keen to solve at that point, that they find interesting." (10:40): "So you can actually use the computer to experience some of the things that you're interested in." (11:28): "If you use computers correctly to do the calculation you can do much harder problems, you can go further, you can get people more experience. That's the crucial thing." (13:23): "Programming allows you to write down your understanding of the subject. And of course the great advantage is that you can then run the program and actually do things with it. So programming is a crucial part of early maths education. It should be part of primary maths education, just as a way to express oneself." (13:40): "I'm arguing for a mathematics that is both more practical and more conceptual. The thing that is exciting at the moment is that we don't have to choose. The mathematics of the real world is far more intellectual and conceptual than the mathematics we're teaching right now. By mimicking the real world, we will improve both practical use and conceptual understanding." (20:19): "There's also the ability to use real data. Actually pull in real examples from the world. Don't do statistics with five data points. Do it with 10,000 real data points that came in yesterday from the financial markets. That's the kind of thing we can do with modern computing environment."

And of Course Neil deGrasse Tyson, modern day science's PR man, came up multiple times in the search:

Neil deGrasse Tyson - (0:22): "We look up and say, I wonder what that is. Let me go find out. Let me poke it. Let me turn it around.
Neil deGrasse Tyson - (1:44): "At some point, you have to step away from the exam and say 'I have a new thought that no one has had before. And it's not a thought that you told me to regurgitate on this exam that you just wrote.' "  (3:03): "The success of those people is not measured by how they performed on the exam that you wrote as a professor. Because they are thinking in ways that you have yet to think. Because they're inventing tomorrow." (4:02): "The system of education rewards high GPA. But the system of life rewards tenacity. Rewards your urge to tackle something you've never seen before. And even if you don't succeed, in that tenacity, to have the energy to go back and try it again. Knowing how to fail."
Neil deGrasse Tyson - (3:33): "If you're an employer and two candidates come up looking for a job. And you're interviewing the two candidates. And you say 'For part of this interview I just want to ask you what's the height of the spire on this building that we're in? ' And the candidate says 'Oh, I was an architect. I majored in architecture for a while and I memorized the heights of all the buildings on campus. I know the height of that spire is 150 feet. In fact, 155 feet tall.' Turns out that's the right answer. And the person came up with it in seconds. That person goes away. The next candidate walks in. 'Do you know the height of the spire?' The candidate says 'No, but I'll be right back.' Person runs outside. Measures the length of the shadow of that spire on the ground. Measures the length of his or her own shadow. Ratios the height to the shadows. Comes up with a number. Runs back inside. 'It's about 150 feet.' Who are you gonna hire? I'm hiring the person who figured it out. Even though it took that person longer. Even though the person's answer is not as precise. I'm hiring that person. Cuz that person knows how to use the mind in a way not previously engaged. You realize when you know how to think, it empowers you far beyond those who know only what to think.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Health Exchange

Life and money. At FiveThirtyEight.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Birds

Cloud surfing. At Asymptote.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017


This lady. We just had the worse financial crises in modern U.S. history because companies were pushing mortgages that people couldn't pay. What happens when you start attaching large fines to students who haven't even started their careers, or young adults who are starting out and already owe six figures to start with?

I don't know how someone who cares more about allowing companies to gouge customers who require degrees to meet unnecessary company-mandated checklist job requirements (I still believe excessive job requirements / hiring practices - you don't need a bachelor's degree to be able to type on a computer - are probably a significant contributor to this student debt issue) gets hired to represent the needs and advancements of public education.

This lady has no clue.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Behind the Everyday

Randomly searched YouTube for videos that covered math concepts in a relatable way. Came up with the following below. The "Googling" videos actually seem to touch on a number of things being covered in the linear algebra and discrete math classes I'm taking. The equation in the "Maths Behind Music" video and the Lorenz curve in the "Mathematics and Social Justice" video appeared in my calculus class homework assignments.



Visual Arts

Space and Time



Internet At Large

Politics, Crime, Society

Friday, April 14, 2017

Monday, April 10, 2017

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Feynman: Mathematicians versus Physicists


Saving it. At Dirtbag Diaries.

Again. At Pacific Standard.

Joining it. at The Nonfiction Podcast.

Alone in it, feeling it. At The Urbanist.

Knowing it. At Outside.

Staying with it. At Katy Says.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

For The Better

Clarity and focus. At Stanford Social Innovation Review.