Friday, January 29, 2010

The Collatz Conjecture - A Poem

The Collatz conjecture is pretty cool
And number theory is entertaining
Though I won't be famous like George Boole
The conjecture does need explaining.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

On Putting In The Work

"If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them." --Henry David Thoreau

I have come up with so many exciting plans and ideas over the years, and my list of goals and resolutions for the New Year is as ambitious as ever--publish a math paper, stop procrastinating, get straight As, etc. Unfortunately, it's easy to dream, and to imagine how great it'll feel at the end of everything, and it's not easy to actually do what it takes to get there. I have built many castles in the sky, and almost all lack foundations. In the end, putting in the work to get what you want doesn't involve a brief montage featuring "Gonna Fly Now" in the background; it involves actually sitting down for hours, days, doing things that are difficult and tedious and all-around discouraging. There isn't any glamour in skipping an outing with friends to debug a program written for a class in a programming language that you barely know. It isn't supposed to be glamorous. It's supposed to be difficult. The people who put in the work are the ones who rise above the rest--it would not be so, if it were truly easy.

So, it's time for me to suck it up, put in the work, and bring a castle or two down to Earth.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A Question on the Appeal of Passion

Last night, I watched The Notebook. The Notebook, as you may well know, is an extremely popular and highly-favored film among romantic young women. The basic plot is that a seventeen-year-old girl named Allie falls for a guy, Noah, who is below her social sphere; they break up because of associated tensions (parents, plans for the future); a few years later she falls for a guy named Lon who is essentially perfect in both personality and social standing; they become engaged; Allie finds Noah again shortly before her wedding and they have a brief and passionate affair; Allie ends up dumping poor, perfect Lon in favor of the sweetheart of her youth, whom she probably should not have gone to see in the first place, knowing that it could not accomplish anything good, and that if she hoped for it to accomplish something major, she should not be marrying Lon.

I also recently bought Taylor Swift's Fearless album (the deluxe version, which includes six extra songs and a DVD), and she has a song on there called "The Way I Loved You," which is about a similar romance. She is dating a guy who is perfect in every way, which women constantly profess to want, but she misses her old boyfriend, and "screaming and fighting and kissing in the rain," this insane whirlwind of passion and arguments. She says, "I never knew I could feel that much, and that's the way I loved you."

What I want to know is why so many people seem to adore the idea of a passionate romance, a flurry of emotions, with a lot of fights and a lot of physical affection and a lot of feelings, and in fact seem to think it higher than a calm, quiet, decisive love. I want to know why people define "love" as this sort of flurry of emotions. Why do people think that, for example, Romeo and Juliet were in love? Romeo thought he loved Rosaline at the beginning of the play, and in fact only met Juliet as he was chasing a glimpse of Rosaline. Yet, he saw Juliet's face, and forgot his "love" for Rosaline, falling instead for Juliet. They then lived a short time of absolute passion, and ended up dying unnecessarily. People believe this is love. Passion may exist within love, but passion does not define love. So why do people think it does? Why do people believe that following your "heart," consequences be damned, is somehow higher than a pure love that is based on caring for another person? The Notebook also shows Allie and Noah in their old age, and it is visible that Noah actually, truly loves Allie. But when they are young, if they are supposed to be in real love, it is not well-portrayed. Instead, it is nothing more than a deluge of emotion, and there is no reason to expect it to grow into a mature and worthwhile love. It works out for Allie and Noah, in their fictional world, but should that be any basis for what people want and expect in this world?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Sticking With Collatz

It looks like I'll be sticking with something related to the Collatz conjecture for my math research project after all. When reading about something about which I know little, which is unfortunately quite often with mathematics, I usually have to keep looking up terms within whatever I am reading, and through the term "Mersenne hailstone" on one page, I ended up on a page about Mersenne numbers, and thus, Mersenne primes. As learning about Mersenne primes in seventh grade is what initially made me think I could ever make a contribution to mathematics, I find this simultaneously amusing and inspiring. My math background is embarrassingly minimal, and I don't even know how I'll find the time this semester to pull off a publishable project, but I have a sense of adventure--it is worth trying.

And so what if number theory rarely proves useful? It is fun. It is a puzzle. And my goal, I suppose, is just to try to publish something, and to have some fun doing it. Excelsior!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Quick Ubuntu Update - Scrolling

Yesterday I discovered that my Aspire One's bizarre touch-scrolling technique (start in the upper right corner and make a clockwise circle to scroll down, counter-clockwise to scroll up) doesn't appear to work in Ubuntu Netbook Remix.

Instead, the rightmost part of the trackpad seems to work as a (much more sensible) straightforward scrollbar--go up to scroll up, go down to scroll down. Win.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

My Ubuntu Chronicles Thus Far

For Christmas, I got an Acer Aspire One (D250) netbook, and took over most of the hard drive with Ubuntu Netbook Remix (UNR), leaving just 25 gb to Windows XP in case of Windows-only software or catastrophic Linux failure. This is my first time using Linux, so I was hoping for an easy time of it. I have experienced a few highly annoying problems, yet despite that, I find I prefer it to Windows by a wide margin. Not that it takes much, as I've been primarily a Mac girl since 2007. Unix and I just get along (serious props to Bill Joy).

So. Problems:
  • -When I was first attempting to install UNR via Live USB (as this netbook has no optical drive), it absolutely would not work. "Help" and "default" gave me command lines into which I could not type, and no error messages, even when I tried re-downloading the ISO in case it was corrupted. I finally tried hitting tab for more options, since that was about all I hadn't tried, and it brought up a command line into which I could type. The H in "Help" looked highlighted, so I thought I'd try typing that into the command line. Suddenly, it went into boot mode and I was able to install Linux. This should not have worked and makes no sense to me. God smiled upon my computer that day.
  • -Then I couldn't get my wireless to work. It worked in XP, so I knew my hardware wasn't broken. I tried different drivers, this and that, using Synaptic Package Manager to update everything imaginable, until eventually, in Hardware Drivers, a new driver mysteriously showed up, which I tried, and it worked. Go figure.
  • -Now, UNR works flawlessly, except that it doesn't always feel like booting. If it doesn't boot right away, I get a little blinking hyphen and I can't type anything, so I just reboot or shut down/start again with the power button, and eventually I can get it to boot. I don't have this problem with XP, so it must be Linux-specific. It may be related to whether it's hot or cold. I have no idea. I am willing to take suggestions, by the way--this is UNR Karmic Koala. Judging by the solutions to my last two problems, this one probably will be solved by a ridiculous stroke of random.
  • -Ubuntu Software Center has just put the entire world at my fingertips and most, if not all, of the available programs appear to be free. I haven't installed any yet but I am in love with the possibilities. I can do anything. Thank you, Linux community.
  • -The version of Firefox it came with seems to have a European spell-checker. It gets sad when I use "honor" instead of "honour" or "center" instead of "centre." OpenOffice and gedit, however, recognize the American versions and not the British versions. Fascinating.
  • -The interface is extremely intuitive. I haven't gotten hopelessly lost yet.
  • -I wasn't expecting it to come with as many games as it does. Fantastic time-wasters, those. Fortunately, I think I will be able to avoid them quite well. I am looking forward to trying out the chess program, to see if I like it as much as the Mac one. I'm no chess guru (I'm actually painfully bad at it), but I go through occasional spells where I think I want to get good at it, and those chess programs are great for practicing with something that can't think poorly of me.
  • -The battery life on this seems to be absolutely insane. I can't help but wonder if the meter is inaccurate. I haven't yet tried to use it for seven to eight hours straight, you see; that will likely occur during the coming semester, and I will know if it is lying to me.
  • -Did I mention Ubuntu Software Center?
That essentially sums up my Ubuntu experience so far. Mercifully, it has been positive, despite many warnings that suggested it would be painful. Here's hoping for all the best, as I continue to use this thing!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Math Project Beginnings

So, having joined a completely optional, extra-curricular math research seminar at my University, with the intention of doing a major research project in the coming Spring semester, I have to come up with a topic. Originally, I was looking at something related to the Collatz conjecture, but I've since decided that if I'm going to spend valuable time on something like this, it should be more worthwhile than number theory. I realize that George Boole's number theory work eventually became fundamentally important to computers, but not everyone is that fortunate.

So, I'm looking for something in one of the following areas:
  • -space/space technology (since it could potentially be helpful to my science fiction writings)
  • -audio/sound (since I find it absurdly interesting)
  • -hoverboards/efficiently powered gravity-defiance (since hello, it's hoverboards)
I have asked the guy who more or less teaches the seminar to help direct me to something interesting. If I remember (and I hope I do), I'll continue to report back here once I've got something going on. Not too many details, though--I don't need Internetters stealing my project!

I have a couple of blog topics floating about in my head, so expect more of my long, thought-out-ahead-of-time writings before the end of the month.