Sunday, October 18, 2009

Difficulties in Mathematics

"Do not worry about your difficulties in mathematics. I can assure you mine are still greater." --Albert Einstein

Ever since I learned about undiscovered Mersenne Primes in seventh grade, I've had this idea in my head that I would eventually do something great and useful in mathematics. In one summer off, I forgot nearly everything I ever learned about calculus, so that seems a bit doubtful. Yet, I keep coming back to it, to million-dollar math problems and unsolved ciphers and whether P=NP, these problems of numbers or computer science to which no one on this earth knows the answer. I want to find these answers, decode the Voynich manuscript, solve the Collatz conjecture, find the next Mersenne prime. I don't, however, expect any of these to happen if I don't spend the time and effort on so much as my math homework.

I am currently taking an honors seminar class, called "Mathematical Modeling with Scientific Computing," that requires the ability to use calculus--at least the basics of integration. As I stated, I don't remember much of calculus these days, and problems that already have clear answers don't much interest me. Unfortunately, it is impossible to run a marathon if you haven't any legs, so I'm going to re-learn calculus by some means, as training for bigger things.

The final project for the class should be interesting. We are to mathematically model something that hasn't been done, or to expand on something that has been done--to strive to do something publishable. My partner (who is, mercifully, a math major) and I will be working in the realm of digital audio, attempting to create an algorithm that can automate sidechaining with a compressor (see the related Wikipedia if that meant nothing to you). My audio professor says that would be quite the useful plugin, to take out the guesswork by using frequency and amplitude and math. I am a bit excited about the possibility that this will be something useful in math done in part by me, and it almost makes me want to pay proper attention to calculus again.

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