March 29, 2009

Pi Day and more

Accoring to Wiktionary, this is the definition of a blog:

Noun

blog (plural blogs)

  1. personal or corporate website in the form of an online journal, with new entries appearing in sequence as they are written, especially as dealing with reflections or opinion, and typically incorporating links to other articles.
  2. An entry in a blog.



And according to UrbanDictionary:

1. blog 2345 up444 down love ithate it
n. 
Short for weblog. 
A meandering, blatantly uninteresting online diary that gives the author the illusion that people are interested in their stupid, pathetic life. Consists of such riveting entries as "homework sucks" and "I slept until noon today." 


Both definition seem to suggest that the entries in a blog should look like journal or diary entries. Hence, I apologise for the lack of details on personal events in my life. To make up for it, I'll write a small blog on what's been going on recently. It's not that I particularly enjoy writing such posts - indeed I'd much rather write something on the book behind Slumdog Millionaire, or an Anosmia FAQ - but I feel that posts like these ought to appear from time to time on a blog. Here goes.


Saturday 14th of March: start of Easter Break. And more importantly, International Pi Day! Given that the 14th of March would be written as 3.14 in American, this day has been chosen as an annual holiday in celebration of the mathematical constant pi. I had a Programming project due the following Monday, but I still managed to find the time to buy ingerdients and bake a pie (as any self-respecting mathematician would on Pi Day). I then proceeded to offer a slice to anyone still lurking around in Knightcote, and was very disappointed by how few people knew about this day. Some even thought it was something I'd made up myself. I must've loo ked like a lunatic. Anyway, here's the pie:

Pi Pie

Other Pi Day activities include learning digits of Pi, and doing the Pi Dance. One year, hopefully, I'll manage to gather enough other mathematician (or pseudo-mathematicians, like physicists, computer scientists or, God forbid, statisticians), so that we may have a true Pi Day Celebration.

Thursday 19th March: Going home. That is, back to Brussels, Belgium (is that still home? I honestly don't know any longer). The inexistant stalker who's been attentively reading every post of this blog, may wonder why my home is not somewhere in Denmark. Well, having Danish parents makes me Danish, but I was born and raised in Brussels. Danish is still my mother tongue. And no, I don't speak "belgianese". I speak French, but not Flemish.
So anyway, going back to Brussels means getting a bus to Coventry (20min), getting a train from Coventry to London (1h30min), walking from Euston to St-Pancras (5-10 min), waiting an hour or more in St Pancras because you're too early, getting your train from London to Brussels (2h30min), and then lose one hour because of time zone differences. But I'm not complaining, I actually quite enjoy riding trains.
This time, though, there was a problem at St-Pancras. I'd taken the wrong tickets with me. Don't ask. I'll spare you the details, but I managed to get a duplicate of my ticket got on the train just in time. Even though I'd walking around idly for more than an hour, doing nothing. Oh yes, I spent some time looking for a god-damned bin, in the entire St-Pancras train station, and concluded that there wasn't one. Minutes later I noticed that people were actually hired to walk around with wheeled bins. For anti-terrorism purposes, I presume.

Thursday 26th March: Finished watching Neon Genesis Evangelion. Fortunately, I was prepared for the rather quizzical and open ending. And you know what? To me, the ending was just as I wanted it! I have my own interpretation of what happened after the attack of Tabris, the meaning and goals of Seele, the goal of Gendo Ikari, and why the Angels attack. What I especially like about the ending is precisely how open it is: it is up to the viewer to come up with a coherent and consistent explanation to various events and statements in the series; while in the same time, hints are scattered through the anime as to what the "true" explanation is. All that being said, I shall probably watch The End of Evangelion one day, and see how that ending fits with my ideas.

29th March: Finished reading The Discomfort Zone by Jonathan Franzen. It's an autobiography, and it's the first biography I've ever read that I actually enjoyed. Alright, I've only read two or three, but that's because biographies usually don't appeal to me, I need some fiction. But this one was a delight to read! Chances are that the reason I liked it is because I can relate to what he says, so I guess reading a biography is a very personal experience. Still, the book in itself is quite nicely written, it's both reflective and funny.

Next book on the list: The Long Walk by Stephen King (under his pen name Richard Bachman). Maybe I should use this blog to write book reviews...


- 4 comments by 1 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. Sue

    As a mathematician I wonder what you think of the idea that scientists have come up with which determines whether your marriage is likely to survive by way of a mathematical model. I first read about it in the Daily Mail on Thursday amongst the claptrap about why Fern Britton felt overshadowed by Phil? and why Tony Hadley had grown a pot belly in the years since he’d been in Depeche Mode? Apparently it was developed by a team of British and American mathematicians and it’s been tried and tested. A husband or wife would get positive points if they used a warm tone of voice, told a joke or used affectionate body language. They would get negative points for displays of anger, coldness, eye rolling or mockery. The scores were plotted on a graph and the results put into a mathematical model which highlights underlying character traits that predict a marriage’s success. Professor James Murray of Oxford university helped devise the formula.If both partners are what we call validators – that is they are calm in discussions, have shared experiences and have shared attitudes – their marriage is stable,” he said” And if both partners avoid conflict and confrontation then that is also stable” Problems occur if one partner avoids conflict, or is highly passionate, when the other tries to resolve it amicably. “There is also a group where both people are volatile – they are both passionate. That can be stable or unstable.,” he added. He then goes on to say “What astonished me was that a discussion, sometimes highly charged and emotional, could so easily and usefully be encapsulated in what is actually a simple mathematical model of a couple’s interaction. “Another surprising result was that marriages can be classified into only five general types, some of which are stable and others not. “In fact some couples might as well get divorced right away.”

    The reason the test is only 94% accurate is that some couples who the researchers thought would stay married – despite having an unstable marriage – also became divorced.

    I don’t usually buy the daily Mail but there was no choice as I was on holiday so imagine my surprise when I saw this story was also in The Sunday Times today.

    On a lighter note, apparently, a man’s body symmetry is more important to a woman than his facial symmetry, which is why champion boxers can still attract beautiful women.

    29 Mar 2009, 23:19

  2. “As a mathematician I wonder what you think of the idea…”

    This implies that you yourself are a mathematician. Please review your grammar when writing comments. Write: “I wonder what you, as a mathematician, think of the idea…”

    I have trouble seeing how you would conduct this kind of experiment. Keep the subjects under 24h surveillance? Take their word for how many points they’ve earned? Still, I believe that most phenomena, including marriage, can be modelled mathematically, up to a certain degree of precision. Thanks to Amazon, I had a quick look at the first few pages of Pr Murray’s book, “The Mathematics of Marriage: Dynamic Nonlinear Models”, and his theory seems to be very structured and takes into account various details. So yes, using this one could conceivably get a very good idea of how successful a marriage is. Still, I don’t believe a mathematician can predict with certainty the outcome, since the real world is always more complex than a simple model (although arguably this model isn’t that “simple”). And most mathematicians would also be aware of the limitations of their model. But I think I’d trust it.

    Still, that definitely shouldn’t prevent people from getting married if they want to.

    But yeah, very interesting comment. And good to hear that the general public is now reading about some new maths that has appeared!

    30 Mar 2009, 20:57

  3. -

    That’s just unfair. Plainly so. Not telling me about finally having watched Evangelion to the end. Hmpfh.
    But I’m happy you enjoyed the book I gave you.

    Mitsuketa!

    04 Jul 2009, 22:41

  4. And I’m happy that you’ve started reading my blog. But yeah, I should’ve told you, sorry :p

    05 Jul 2009, 14:07


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