Thursday, June 9, 2016

Summer Math in Philly

I've been working as a scientest and working on this math phase I've been in, but I figured this would be the first place to show off what's going on in the summer in the Philly  Math Counts Meetup. I made a poster, and I'll post what CJ Fernley, organizer of Philly Math Counts, wrote:

"We are excited about our next several meetups. One will explore the culture of mathematics, one will explore the history of statistics, and several will get into the nitty gritty practice of doing real mathematics (number theory to be specific). All should be fun! But each will require some preparation on your part. So we wanted to let you know what's involved early so you can schedule time to read a paper and a book and work on some challenging problems.
Note we open RSVPs for our events three weeks ahead. So you cannot yet RSVP for most of these events. We prepare the event descriptions early so you can plan your time to prepare for the topics you are interested in.
I wanted to highlight three events in order of more to less preparatory work needed. Check our web page for a chronological listing of forthcoming topics.
First, we have a book topic for Saturday July 9th. The book is The Lady Tasting Tea: How Statistics Revolutionized Science in the Twentieth Century by David Salsburg. Is it a well written account of the history of modern statistics. But at 352 pages, it will take some time to get through. The book has no formulas, so it will be easy reading compared with most math books. Look for it at a library or bookstore now so you have time to finish reading it by July 9th. There is a lot of good mathematics in the book but it is told from a high-level point of view. Sam is planning to supplement it by exploring a few formulas and techniques in more depth to help satisfy our itch for mathematical details. The main thrust of the event will be a discussion of the history of modern statistics.
For the full event description on Statistics and The Lady Tasting Tea, please visit
Second, there will be a three part series on Chapter 4 "Induction in the Theory of Numbers" in George Pólya's 1954 book "Mathematics and Plausible Reasoning: Induction and Analogy in Mathematics". That book is free to read on-line. This short chapter (only 15 pages) is filled with formulas and variables and tables to explore its example problems. We have split the text and the 26 example problems into three events so that you will have some time to invest in really delving into each problem. The brilliance of this book is how Pólya helps us practice the doing of mathematics with challenging problems that though elementary (nothing more difficult than raising an integer to a power of two) are by no means easy. It is expected that even the sharpest participants will need to work for several hours on the problems over several days of concerted effort to fully solve all of them.
But you don't need to solve any of them to participate! All we ask is that you spend an hour or two on each. Then come join us and we'll crowdsource filling in the gaps and helping to make sure everyone understands the material. Collaborative mathematics: it's a great way to practice, learn, and discuss mathematics. It's what we do!
Here are the three event descriptions on Pólya & Number Theory:
Finally, our next event will discuss an exquisite and very readable 17 page paper by William P. Thurston: "On Proof and Progress in Mathematics". Thurston's famous "geometrization conjecture" (no, I don't know what that means either) led to the solving of the Poincaré conjecture, one of the $1,000,000 math problems. His paper provides a high class response to criticism of his geometrization conjecture wherein he examines the nature of the mathematical enterprise, explores the nature of mathematics itself, outlines some of the key tools and skills of mathematical thinking, looks at the motivation to do mathematics, and critiques the nature of proof and mathematical communication. The paper is extraordinary and I look forward to discussing it with you on June 25th.
See the full event description on Thurston's paper:"

Friday, February 12, 2016

Organization and thoughts on ADHD

I have some thoughts on how to organize life. I need something light hearted and friendly because recently it seems the only thing that motivates me to punch out a post is when I'm feeling politically motivated, and honestly that's how I feel now. This should keep my mind occupied and maybe give me some time to prep a well thought out post about radical education.

Organization. ADHD and organization is a constant struggle for me. First, organization was never a concept that came naturally to me and at 28 I'm still learning basic skills others learned during adolescence. Second, the existence of ADHD is still debated by non-physicians, so I've spent my life dealing with people who think I'm rude, lack discipline, and just never learned how to organize myself. Because in 28 years of life, they are first people to ever come to that conclusion about me. Oh, the memories.

I don't hate it, I just think of it as more of a misunderstood super power. Have a wide arrange of interests is one of my symptoms, I just lacked the control and organization to use this to my advantage. In the four years since my diagnosis, I've picked up tricks to handle it. The most basic of these is feeding your self and keeping yourself hydrated, problems that cause a lack of focus in people without ADHD. Meditation and the ability to turn the eye inward to solve problems is beautiful. I'm still bad at telling people what I'm thinking, but that's because I can't write to everyone. Writing is a wonderful medium because it forces me to stop and think about what I want to say. Even one of my poorly written texts or posts take some sort of thought and organization. At the end of a post, I can read and edit points that are unclear, something I can't do when verbally communicating with people. It's not my fault people choose inefficient means of communication.

What I want to talk about today is something that I feel most people struggle with. Lists and organization. Since becoming a researcher that also helps with a math group, I have found the beauty of keeping records. It's better than sex, really, because why else would mathematicians choose numbers over sex? Filling excel sheets with data is a daily task at work. When I first started, it wasn't my favorite job. My favorite job was analyzing the data. I discovered the connections between the two tasks pretty quickly.

To all the writers out there who spend their time reading regular books and not every book about statistics they can get their hands on, I'm going to let you in on a secret. Data tells stories. Let's take something simple, like a ledger for budget. That little book of numbers contains a journal written in a foreign language. Maybe it says "For 6 months I saved for the Bahamas. It must have been something, looking at all the purchases I made when I got there." There could be a story in their about a loved one's sickness. Or maybe it's just a reflection on the monotonous routine of everyday life.

It turns out storing data in other ways tells stories. I keep a calorie chart, but not as often as I should. Looking back on it however, I can tell time of depression or when I was low on funds because I stop eating good food from the grocery store and spend more money on take out and pizza. Today I went back through my journal to discover that last year around this time, everyone in my life was on edge due to cabin fever. Just like this year. It has confirmed my thoughts that February is in fact the worst month, and valentines day started as a reminder to not kill each other.

Which brings me to my point. I cannot tell you how many times I have started to-do lists over the years. I tried it in school, but it never caught on. I try it every three months or so at this job. It usually falls through. I've finally decided to stop using to-do lists and start using a time card setup instead.

As I mentioned earlier, I have a thousand interests, and I'm probably working on at least two of them at any given point in time (one in the real world and a second in my head.) Picking one task to do in a day is impossible, but keeping track of all my tasks is hard as hell and I usually end up feeling depressed because I'm not working on everything I could. The time Card set up just requires I write down what task I did, when I started and when I finished. At the end of the week I move all the info to a handy color coded table, then I can look at everything I accomplished and decide what and how to change over the next week. The beauty is I stop thinking about what I could be doing, and I focus on what I doing and what I have accomplished.

The system is large at this point, but I'm interested in hearing how others might organize their time.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

NSFW: A guide to social and political discorse

We live in a new era of great political and social unrest. The political discussion of today takes place with new technology and new techniques, ideas can be spread quickly through the use of memes and by passing articles around on social media that explain in simple, condescending terms how we as a society should think and act. The issue is, this environment may seem hostile to anyone just entering the world. What I'm offering is a simple guide to political and social discourse to help ease entry. Now to any of those thinking I lack qualifications due to me being a white male, let me assure you that I have attended many sociology classes, read many blogs, seen many memes and meditated quite hard on the lessons taught to me. Also please understand that I have no real dog in this fight, and that I would never result to controversial, simplified political matter in order to drive up views to my blog. I have always felt that knowledge is a tool and a powerful one that should be shared. So let me impart the wisdom of my meditation onto you.

It's unenlightened, dark age thinking to say "Those dumb rednecks don't understand that niggers, spics, and savages are less than us, and it is manifest density to pull them out of the squalor of their existence." "Some stupid republicans don't realize that African Americans and other minorities live an impoverished lifestyle because they lack white privilege" is how the new age modern man thinks and speaks.

Women are not "the lesser, fairer sex overcome by emotion, unable to think for themselves and unable to protect themselves." Society does however have to "pass laws to protect them from men who will harm them, as well as to protect themselves from the consequences of their actions they make in an altered state of mind." Confidence and assertiveness comes from body positivity and acceptance of self, not from knowing martial arts and how to defend oneself mentally and physically if ever confronted with physical violence. Society is as fault, not the individual. Except when the individual is at fault, but that's up to you to decide, or when I write an article attacking an individual. Whichever.

The right to higher schooling for everyone is more important than the right to good, available schooling. And it is more important than the right for good jobs to people with good skills.

Good schooling is needed for good jobs for good wages, while the affordable transportation for people to get to entry level jobs to learn skills needed for better jobs can wait. Good schooling is also needed for minorities, because better jobs and good opportunities come from college. College, by the way, is a place where anyone should be allowed to go to. This is because there are jobs that are hidden in every small town across America and on the back of every college diploma is map to show people where they are as well as a password to get in. Also, every college grad gets a car to drive themselves there.

Immigrants are not all criminals coming to steal work from hard working Americans. They are people coming from crime ridden, poor countries that don't have the same opportunities as the US, and are doing the work that lazy Americans won't do. They should be grateful that we are letting them come to the US and clean our houses for less than minimum wage. Lazy Americans don't understand that living in a house under the poverty line full of other family and people is a privilege that makes us greater than other nations. Sorry, not all Americans are lazy. Impoverished minorities without access to good jobs shouldn't do the work that immigrants do like house cleaning and farm work. They're not lazy like the white guys who won't do it, they dealt with years of slavery which exempts them from that work.

I'm sorry, I'm not being fair at all. Business owners are forced to hire people for less than minimum wage because unions are corrupt and have driven up production costs. Unions need to be a thing of the past because business owners that exploit workers are a relic of the Industrial revolution. Corruption in local and state governments is also a relic of hat bygone era, and money for failing schools and crumbling infrastructure need to come from higher taxes. How would you even begin to audit the state and local government?

There, a primer for anyone wishing to enter the political discussion of today. For anyone wishing to enter activism, please realize that voting is important, and more young people should be involved. Democracy is and always has been about voting. The big changes of the world came from large groups of people voting, not from large groups of people gathering to voice discontent with a system that may or may not marginalize or change their votes.  Any organizing group of people are violent, stupid, scared, and have yet to realize that the current system is perfect for showing discontent. You may organize, just remember that your group is either old fat white men, young entitled people who don't understand the world, thugs, or uneducated rednecks. Any organized group of today doesn't understand the struggles of the past or understand their privileges of today.

Frank Zappa, play me out.