Archive for category: math

My interactions with math, academic and non-academic.

Reflections on the college experience thus far

It’s pretty different, to say the least.  Living on my own poses some definite challenges.  I have a nasty cold, and there is no one to bring me soup or tea.  And I realized that I didn’t know where the Health Services building was.  That’s no good.  I had to go out and buy myself a thermometer and cough syrup.  I mean, in normal life, these are just things that I expect to be there.  But I guess someone had to buy them at some point.  Which is an interesting thing to think about.  At what point in your life, living on your own or with someone else, do you buy household things?  Plates, Advil, soap, etc.?  I guess I’m more self-sufficient now.

I’m swamped with work.  And that’s even after I switched out of the basic freshmen Chem class down to an introductory one that is more appropriate to my level.  I’m in a math class that’s intended more for math majors, so it’s very theoretical and proof-based.  I like it, but it’s definitely my most difficult class.

I also don’t really like having huge lecture classes.  There are so many people in them who have so many interesting things to say, but I don’t get to here most of them.  It’s a bummer.  It’s also demoralizing, and a hard thing to pay attention to first thing in the morning because of how impersonal it is.

I’m adjusting to the whole experience in some ways, but in others I think my Western-MA, small-homey-school mentality that I’ve been operating within my whole life is pretty deeply embedded in me.  And I’m okay with that.  I find myself feeling lost in such a huge place as this.  Not to say that I don’t have friends or feel comfortable around people.  I just don’t like not knowing everyone.  It’s weird that I see people I don’t recognize every day.  In my dorm, even.  I feel like if you live in the same building as people, you should know them.  It’s weird.

I’m definitely learning a lot.  I do have one class that’s a small seminar, on Talmud, which is great.  I mean, all of my classes are, but this one’s just very personal, and the other people in it are really smart and talkative.  We’re going to cover various aspects of the Talmud, including historical background and context, legality, morality, ethics, and others.

Also, I am swing dancing weekly.

It’s going to be a good four years.  Tiring, but good.


My academic load is finally starting to lighten up, for a variety of reasons.  This morning, I turned in my joint honors paper for Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, under the title “British Finance and the Development of the Gold Standard”.  Having that off our backs leaves us with having to plan the simulation we are going to run with the class to demonstrate some of the principles we studied.  Students in the class will take on the role of merchants, buying and selling goods and currency, and attempting to make profit as regulatory and financial systems change.  The simulation is pretty complicated, and we are turning in the plans for it on Wednesday.

I have, after much thought, decided not to do the AP Physics C exams.  There is too much work remaining, and I have not done enough this year.  I’m still going to try to finish my independent math study, but since that doesn’t have an AP exam attached to it, it should be significantly easier.  I will need to kick it into gear, though, because I graduate in less than a month (AAAAAAAAAHHHHH!!!!!!).  As of Friday, I will be done with Spanish, when I will have my presentation/evaluation with the head of the World Languages department and a Spanish teacher who will be assessing my independent work.  I am expecting that to go well.

Up until now, I’ve been assigned to write a one-act play as a normal part of my Playwriting class, an another one-act for Honors in that class, as a collaboration between the Theater and History departments.  That one-act would be used as a curriculum piece in the Holocaust Studies class in the Holocaust Rescue unit.  However, after consulting with the teachers of those classes (who are the department heads), we’ve decided to make those two one-acts the same.  In other words, the normal one-act I do for Playwriting will be the collaboration.  The Playwriting teacher has also said that if it works well, he will not have a problem giving me Honors Credit, because of the collaboration and research aspects which would not be required in the normal one-act assignment.  Once I get a good plot locked down, it should be pretty easy to write.

We have a Frisbee game tomorrow against Four Rivers.  They are an excellent team.  So are we.  It is going to be an epic game.


I have registered for the NHC Summer Institute!  I am taking Jonathan Rubenstein’s baking class and Ben Dreyfus’ shemitah class.  This is going to be a fabulous Institute.


It rained really hard on the way home today, and as the defroster in my dad’s car is broken, we were mopping the windshield with a sweater every few minutes.  It was awful driving weather.

The actual day at Brown was really nice.  I met some really interesting faculty, and learned a lot of really cool stuff.  Since the program was designed for admitted students, not just those who are already comitted to the school, as I am, there was a fair amount of courting, which was annoying, but expected.  Also, now that the students have been admitted, and the school is essentially trying to woo them into giving the school their money, the control shifts to the parents, who start asking all sorts of ridiculous and non-productive questions.  At a certain point, it seems as though they don’t even really care about the educational component, they are just looking to put people on the defensive, because that is fun.  It can be easy to fall into the trap of wanting to hear yourself talk when you are interested in something.

Anyway, I had a really good time despite all of that.  Not only did I have some excellent conversations with various faculty members (chiefly in the Geology department), but I was fortunate enough to start a conversation with a senior who then offered to show me his thesis work, which was on historic wind and temperature changes in East Africa.  It had all sorts of cool charts and studies involved, and he had a lot of interesting stuff to say about the department and the way science in general works at Brown.  The main thing I gained today, from him and others, was a really good sense of how to navigate the departments and resources once I get there.  I am really looking forward to begininning in the fall.

The conversation I began to have with some of the Geology faculty and continued somewhat with that student was about public policy.  One thing they pointed out, that I agree with, is that Geology is very much a study of how humans can interact with natural cycles.  In this way, it is extremely applicable to public policy.  Or rather, public policy is extremley applicable to it.  There is an abiding notion in politics that the best way to become, for instance, a statesperson and work in international relations is to study political science, and government, and stuff.  I would agree that it’s important to understand how governments work, but if you’re going to go work for one, as, say, a broker of international environmental policy, you had better understand how nitrogen cycles work.  Scientists are in a unique position to set and influence public policy, based on their formidable understanding of the way things work.  Policy needs to be set based on scientific truths, not the other way around.  If you decide what your policies will be and then look for science to back them, that is bad.  It is data mining, and it is just general quackery.  Science necessitates conclusions, and sometimes painful ones.  Governments need to respond to that by setting policies that are based on scientific truths.

More and more, I am getting interested in some kind of intellectual property law, or something of that sort.  For that reason, I am considering doing some kind of engineering major (perhaps Computer Engineering, which seems to be a strong division at Brown), and then going to law school, perhaps earning a Master’s degree in Engineering as well.  Having a Bachelor’s degree in Engineering makes it easier to find work, which could potentially help me pay for law school and graduate school.  I also really want to teach high school math, so I am definitely considering some kind of math major as well, perhaps dual.

Also, if I work hard on my investment plans for this summer, I could enjoy a lot more financial flexibility in the future in terms of education and career.

Things are starting to come together.


Egg salad (made with fresh eggs) and Tabasco on matza.

Apparently there is a scientific measurement of how spicy something is.  I wonder where my sandwich would rank on it.


I dug three holes, each three feet wide, and one-and-a-half feet deep.  Two and half hours of work for a total of thirty dollars gives me twelve dollars an hour (not bad).  But I wanted to calculate how much I was paid per volume of dirt (disregarding the rather substantial rocks I had to dig out and move).


Three holes, with a radius of one-and-a-half feet, and a depth of three feet.

πr2h = π(1.5)21.5

3π/2 ft.3 dirt per hole.

Thirty dollars for three holes is ten dollars per hole.

10/(3π/2)=20/(3π) $/ft.3 dirt ≅ 2.122065907891938 $/ft.3 dirt.

I bought David Byrne’s new album, Everything That Happens Will Happen Today online.  So far, it is pretty awesome.  I wish I had noticed the option to buy it in FLAC as well as MP3, seemingly for no extra charge, but I didn’t.  Oh well.  I did buy the vinyl package, so in a few days I will receive the album on vinyl, which is going to be great.

Chinese food approaches.  As does bimetallism.


We got home earlier than expected, at about four or so.  I have been doing some yardwork, and am heading up to see Will at the farm.  I will stay there tonight, and we will catch up on our math and physics work, on which we are extremely behind.  I may also bring the LC(A) to show off.  Will has told people about it, but I don’t think they’ve ever actually seen it in the flesh (plastic?).

Our first Frisbee game is on Thursday.

Happy Pi Day!

Need I say more?


Now we have a week long vacation. This seems like rather poor planning to me; we have had one week of second semester.  It was a good week, but it is weird to come back and then leave again immediately.

That aside, I think this is going to be a fabulous semester.  I have awesome classes.

  • Rise and Fall of the Great Powers
  • Playwriting
  • Chemistry
  • Statistics
  • Mock Trial

Besides these, I have three independent studies in Spanish, multi-variable Calculus, and Physics E&M (electricity and magnetism).  I have not done much work on these for the past few months, so I will be doing a lot of catch-up this vacation.  My hope is to burn through the Calc assignment I’ve had sitting around for about three months, get a few more from my teacher by email, and finish all of the Physics work I should have had done by the end of first semester.  The Physics study is a bit harder than Calc.  First of all, Will and I are preparing to take both of the AP Physics C tests in May, so we have an actual rubric to measure ourselves against.  Secondly, my advisor gives me assignments for Calc, but my advisor for Physics was too busy to do this.  So while he’s still my advisor on paper, and is very helpful when I have questions about the material, Will and I are making up our own assignments as we go.  We’ve created some shared Google Documents to keep track of our work on these two independent studies, but have really fallen behind since then.  No more.

It is good to reach the end of the week.  I will be working both days this weekend, three days next week, and potentially next weekend as well.  Also, the Mock Trial team is meeting four times over vacation.  One of them is to go bowling.


The glassware at my house is almost as diverse as the silverware in origin and purpose.  Interestingly, as the capacity increases, they tend to become less and less impact-resistant.  Because of the rather high frequency with which we break glasses, we have about six or seven different sets.  One of the inherent challenges this poses is storage compatibility; certain sets can be stacked in certain ways, some can be cross-stacked, but some cannot.  For instance, there are a few sets that are completely incompatible with each other; if stacked they will break or become completely stuck, necessitating the use of hot and cold water as an agent of thermal expansion and contraction.

Another complication is that some of the glasses fit in the dishwasher in certain ways and others do not.  For example, the top rack of the dishwasher has on the left side a sort of plastic ledge that folds down.  If you stack only mugs or small glasses under it, you can fold it down and stack another layer of short items on top, provided they aren’t tall enough to hit the top of the dishwasher.

The smallest set of glasses currently operation has perhaps two surviving members.  We have been using this one for almost a decade.  Only a few are left, but they are incredibly strong.  This is why it’s lasted so long.  We have a concrete countertop, and I have dropped these glasses onto it from a distance of close to five feet, and they have been fine.  They are practically indestructible.  They are also very well designed in that they are constructed of safety glass, so when they break, they don’t break into many long sharp fragments, they break into many small and rounded ones.  They are a pain to clean up, because they go everywhere, but you can sweep them up with your hands, and we don’t have to worry about missing them and having to watch out for them for weeks to come.  Excellent industrial design.  All glass-manufacturers should do the same.

I wonder if there is some sort of coalition or alliance of international glassware-makers.