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Saturday, December 31, 2005


the record industry claiming that p2p downloading of their songs hurts them is like pinching someone with a numb arm and them saying that if they did have feeling then it would hurt- so stop it!
ok, not really.

the internet

the internet has gotten a bad reputation for me recently.
"i'm on it too much" i tell myself.
but it means such a variety of things: i read physics papers. i find out who the people are at places that i may get a post-doc. i read the thoughts of friends and strangers. i read the news. i read people's digestions of the news. i turn on instant messenger and see who might be on. i search for my name on google and see whether i'm becoming famous or not, see what kind of reputation i'm acquiring. (none) i try to find something humourous. i find a map to the place i'm about to go to. i check and see what has been said about a book i'm reading. this blog. email. email. email. more.

even though many of these things are uniquely internet related, they also overlap with other social and work aspects of my life. i find something vaguely sinister in the idea that part of my life is going online: that i am extending my self, that my personality is reaching out into this world. i'm not comfortable with this yet. i seem to be drawn to movies like the matrix and the lain series which explore the blurrings of identity between physical life and a computer based life. i'm feeling like i need a framework for how to think about this. i feel like i am drowning in the possibilities. that there is no structure to this world i am entering; like a creature trying to develop and learn in an environment with no rules. if there are no rules then one can not learn. maximum order and disorder both have zero information. i find it frightening.

maybe i just started with it slightly too late. like trying to learn a new language later in life, one may never be entirely fluent. i have this core resistance that won't give. well. maybe i am misdiagnosing the problem.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Long Island

Supposing I do get some kind of offer, the real question is whether or not I want to have names like "Ronkonkoma",
"Patchogue" and "Hauppauge" added to my vocabulary. (Too late I guess...)
I knew I was getting some real local flavour when I heard a bluegrass band play the song "My neighbor from East Patchogue".

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

thinking physically

What does it mean to "think physically?". When in the midst of a physics discussion, you may well be urged to think physically about the equations in front of you. This will usually mean that you are to form pictures in your mind in which the symbols have properties they may have in some physical situation. For example you may think of E, energy, as a bubbling effervescent mass, or think of it as a ball rolling down a hill trying to reach a minimum, or as a fluid which can flow to different parts of a container but who's volume must stay fixed.

I was reminded of this question which I have pondered occasionally when I read the following post by Jaques Distler. I know very little about the subject which is highly mathematical. After a list of three math heavy constructions, he says:

You might be forgiven if, at first, you don’t see the pattern in this list. But, if you think physically, the answer becomes clear. These topologically-twisted theories...

My point is not that this has nothing to do with the real world. It might. But it might not. So what does it mean to physically interpret some equations that might not have anything to do with the real world? It is to pretend that it does. I think that this activates some clever thinking skills in us. This is how I do math and I remember something Richard Feynman said about how he proved or disproved theorems... each time a new postulate was added he simply added that on to the picture of the object in his head until he could see that this object did or did not have such and such a property. He was "thinking physically" about the theorem.

So people say that string theory has been highly succesful as stimulating new mathematical discoveries. Is it the gut feeling that one's objects of discussion may be "real" in some deep sense that encourages coherent mental pictures to be formed stimulating solid intuition about promising directions? Can one use this lesson to trick oneself into becoming a better mathematician?

Friday, December 02, 2005

any tips...

on how to get a song out of your head?

"Mix and mingle to the jingle bell..."
"that's the jingle bell..."
"that's the jingle bell, rock!!!"
"It's a swell time, to.. rock... the... night... away..."
"its a swell, time, jingle bell time, to go dancing in a one horse sleigh!"

This is really not a helpful song for me at this moment in my life.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

good + good not necessarilly = better

Combining two good things doesn't always produce something better.
apricots (good)
heffewiezen beer (good)
apricot heffeweizen (not so good)