Thursday, October 28, 2010


There are quite a few things that I feel I excel at more-so than many people, but one area that I have never been great with is people and relationships with people. Relationships, be they with acquaintances, friends, or significant others, have always posed a problem to me. I'm not sure why, though I suspect that it has something to do with, as my dad says, "how black and white [I am]." I really struggle to comprehend people, and I do my best to constantly learn about habits of people and typical protocols within relationships, but I just never seem to grasp it the way I do something math based. The complexity of the human mind and the emotional spectrum allow for such a large number of action-reaction type scenarios that I would almost claim that the possibilities can go to infinity (in fact, I could make a strong argument for this because these types of interactions are based on a spectrum or gradient-like type of inputs, in particular emotions, which are continuous and by definition infinite). Because I cannot, to my knowledge, model these inactions as a simple, elegant, and beautiful mathematical formula, it is hard for me to know with as high of a degree of certainty that I'd like what will happen. My only option is to continue to learn about these types of things by immersing myself in them, making my own mistakes and successes. I'll leave you with a comic from one of my favorite websites, xkcd, that (while for this particular comic is about love) model how I feel. It really makes me wonder how many others there are out there like me though (I suppose quite a few).

By the way, thanks for reading.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Chaotic Events

Today, my roommate, Andrew, and I were talking about something his dad had told him about his college years. The reader's digest version is that his dad dated a girl who, after completing certification for her pilot's license, flew him and her to a restaurant for her first unmonitored flight, and how terrified he was. I then posited the consequences of them crashing, just as a thought experiment. It was a ridiculous outcome. It was odd thinking about how something as simple and relatively common as an accident could alter the world so much. It got me thinking about how each, seemingly mundane, event can have a dramatic effect on the future. This chaotic system is all around us, constantly engulfing us in certain cause-effect scenarios that often do not take place for many years to come. It was amazing to me, and these kind of thoughts always get me thinking deep. I hope the same can be said for you all.


It occurred to me a couple of days ago when I was doing some Numerical Analysis homework how such a large part of mathematics, calculus in particular, depends on the assumption that a function is a smooth, continuous, differentiable function, and how a great deal of math breaks down at a cusp. A cusp, a theoretical point where a function makes a "sharp" turn, to my knowledge, only exists in pure mathematics. Nowhere in real life does a point (in the classical, pure mathematical definition) exist to our knowledge (i.e. we have not observed a point of zero area). Exceptions, such as the center of a black hole, break down known laws about the universe much in the same way that cusps break down many laws of mathematics. This thought came about when I was trying to fit polynomials of various degrees to a piecewise function that contained within the domain an absolute value term. I know it may not seem that incredible to many of you, but to me this is profound. Something as simple as a slight deviation from a smooth curve is impossible to differentiate. I don't have much to say about the subject, but this post was simply to give the reader something to think about.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

We're All Connected

There is a Youtube clip online of one of my favorite astrophysicists, Neil Degrasse Tyson, giving a interview about how the act of viewing space makes him feel. His statements are best summed up in this way: When I look at the universe, I feel gigantic because I know that the atoms that make up my body were created in the destruction of super massive stars.  While Ian and I were studying last night for a test, one of the tangents we went off on was about this very topic.

A quick aside for those of you who don’t know, when a star much larger than our own dies, it becomes a super nova. After a great deal of time and some interesting physical processes, new elements are formed. Once the star collapses, the elemental atoms are dispersed across space, and from these many simple molecules are formed. This is the basis for Tyson’s statements.

While we were discussing that, I had an enormous emotional upsurge. I can understand why Tyson feels the way he does, and after thinking about it more, I got the usual feelings that I get of wonderment and awe about the universe. With regards to the natural processes of the it, I can’t help but feel overwhelmed by the complexity and usefulness of the “laws” of nature there are, and how humans have come to understand them, especially if one takes into account how little humans fully grasp despite our gigantic leaps and bounds since the beginning of rational thought so long ago. Every century science closes old doors on unsolved mysteries only to open up even more, ushering in the new era of scientists and deep thinkers.  

Ian brought up a good point about how amazing it is to think that the atoms in galaxies far away are the same exact elements as those on Earth. I agree with this wholeheartedly. To think that in some way, shape, or form, we are connected with the entire universe amazes me. Below, I posted two videos. The first of the two is the Neil Degrasse Tyson interview. It is very interesting, and I highly recommend it. The latter of the two is a mix-up of lectures and miniseries episodes of some very highly regarded scientists (oh, and Bill Nye the science guy). Again, this is a well done video and, while being less popular than their video, “A Glorious Dawn,” it is still great.


Monday, October 4, 2010

Semantics, Shmamantics

This will be a quick post, because there isn't much to say, but more to get you to think. It occurred to me recently how important the meanings of words and the exactness which one uses said meanings are. I was in philosophy last week when, after I was giving my explanation for a certain topic, my professor stopped and said, "That was great up until you said, 'with all intents and purposes,' because after that.." and went on to explain how by uttering those five words my explanation became much weaker. It made me think of how precise and explicit my word choice needs to be as I get older. Yesterday, for that same class, while revising an essay, I found myself changing words that in vernacular speak sufficed, in essay form did nothing but to weaken my statement. I feel like I could continue and expand on how limited language really is (for example, words whose meaning is completely destroyed upon translation into other languages) in explaining concepts, but as I stated before, this post was more about a mental game for the reader.