I’ve seen math described as a universal language, a prerequisite to philosophy, and the common sense equivalent of Iron Man’s suit. Most people, however, wouldn’t dream of trying to crack open a calculus textbook in their free time. This is understandable for a field so fraught with technical lingo high up and obvious concepts down low. Nevertheless, math has spawned some more popular, commonplace, entry-level literature, which at times even allows for some of the sweeping, beautiful visions from upper-level math. Like that of any other field from art history to English literature, mathematics’ reading material is divided between the technical and the popular. It is true that math is underrepresented in the latter; I said to a friend the other day, “I’m learning how much good mathematical literature is out there.” He replied, “That’s like saying that there’s some Argon in the atmosphere.” I thought, subsequently, that compiling a list for people’s convenience would be a fitting service. Continue reading
Once upon a time, a man left his village and traveled in the wilderness for many, many years. When his wanderings were done and he finally deemed it time to return home, he found that things were not quite as he recalled them. Where once the village folk had gathered around fires in the evening and hearkened to the voice of the storyteller, who remembered every line of the epics passed down to him through the generations; where once those stories and many more were written on parchment, and later printed on paper; where once children played games and ‘make-believe’ outside with sticks and stone forts…well, the man found that they still played these games, and read these stories, and heard these tales. But they did other things as well, like scrying far-off or even imaginary events in little speaking boxes and in glowing windows. And the man found these novel additions quite curious. Continue reading
I read a short news article in the Economist in which the author described an experiment linking life under communism to a lack of certain ethical concerns. Continue reading
I recently began to pursue graduate education at a large and famous law school, an environment far removed from the close-knit community of my undergraduate college. Differences of all sorts abound between the two schools. Song, poetry, and competitive board games are far less common here, while the chance of meeting a classmate who speaks English as a second (or fourth) language has skyrocketed. In one interesting and important way, the schools are quite alike: The vast majority of students enjoy talking about ideas. Both schools purport to teach their students principles vital to the proper ordering of human lives, and such principles call for probing discussion. Despite this common desire to discuss ideas, the two schools foster dramatically different conversations amongst their students. As this semester passes, I have become increasingly convinced that this can be traced to the different vocabularies in common use at each school. The differences in word choice are so great as to constitute two different languages. Continue reading
Discretion shall preserve thee, understanding shall keep thee –Proverbs 2:11
The other night, I met a family member’s fiancé, although I didn’t know it at the time. She’s a few years younger than me, in her early 20s, and this was her first boyfriend. I was very interested in getting to know him, because years ago, I had her pegged as a prime candidate for an abusive relationship. She fit the profile: youngest child, lousy father, compliant personality who tended to give the answer she thought people wanted, even if the question at hand was incredibly trivial.
I was pleasantly relieved to talk to this guy, then, and have a really great conversation.