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Link: Gelfand Passes The mathematician Israel Gelfand died today. His obituary contrasts the direction of his work—fundamental and tool developing—with his advisor’s, which was more ambitious and difficult to follow. More and more, [...]
Forgetting and learning
One of the remarkable things about learning math is that steps forward in understanding require a kind of forgetting. Everything always looks simple in retrospect; it’s letting go of your biases that prevent you from learning that is [...]
Progress and Simplicity
I had a little progress on my thesis work, recently. Essentially, I was able to prove what form a composition of transformations would take in the most general case. I had a hunch (and a hope) that it would be the simplest thing I could [...]
Turtles all the Way Down
I’ve been terribly delinquent about posting here recently. I’ve just finished my second week of my summer course, Turtles All the Way Down, which I’ve been teaching through the Robinson Center at the University of Washington. I have [...]
One out of three
I recently posed one of my favorite questions of all time to a student I’m tutoring. He’s something of a natural, and got it remarkably quickly. I personally spent hours on it the first time I heard it, and then years to understand all [...]
Teachers struggle in math
Link: Teachers struggle in math This article hits on a disturbing (and common) thread: teachers of young children often have very little positive experience with math to pass on.
Math is the lie that makes us realize the truth.
Link: Math is the lie that makes us realize the truth. A great guest column in the NYTimes on the mathematics of scale. That such a simple idea is so applicable always strikes me as profound.
What faith is required in mathematics
Imagine I took a small handful of pennies and showed them to you clumped together, then spread the same collection out into a wider array; you know, without having to think about it, that the pennies are worth the same amount either way. [...]
The meaning of the search
Link: The meaning of the search This beautiful essay in the last edition of Wired magazine gave a really nice explanation of why science (and math) is worth doing, even if we don’t get the answers we’re looking for. Worth the read. On [...]
The moment, again
I got some requests to clarify what I meant when I said that this was a moment for mathematics in our culture. Let me explain. For the first time ever, math is starting to be hip. When I was in high school I couldn’t imagine math being [...]
Free time to work
I have the quarter off from teaching, which means it’s the perfect time to get some serious work done on my thesis. The fact that the work that it most important in my life is also the least urgent—I could do nothing for six months [...]
Beauty Through Mathematics
Link: Beauty Through Mathematics Here’s another group out to show the world a vision of beauty through mathematics: Imaginary. Computers have made wonderful things possible in the realm of visualization. It is so labor intensive to get [...]