Friday, July 20, 2012

mildly relevant: a mathematician reads the (actual) newspaper.

in light of some new developments, i'm currently embedded in the job of re-writing this preprint. as a result, i haven't had much time for idle thoughts about the mathematician's life.

to be fair, though: i did take a break today to go and watch the dark knight rises, which came out today [1].

it did the trick:
i was completely distracted me from maths for .. 2 hours, 40+ minutes [2].

so until i can put two sentences together about mathematics again, here are some sentences of others that i've stumbled upon recently ..

from "why johnny can't add without a calculator" @ slate:
Maybe one day software will be smart enough to be useful, but that day won’t be any time soon, for two reasons. The first is that education, especially of children, is as much an emotional process as an imparting of knowledge—there is no technological substitute for a teacher who cares. The second is that education is poorly structured. Technology is bad at dealing with poorly structured concepts [1]. One question leads to another leads to another, and the rigid structure of computer software has no way of dealing with this. Software is especially bad for smart kids, who are held back by its inflexibility.
despite my acceptance of listening and giving beamer-style talks at seminars and conferences, this is exactly why i'm not especially fond of them ..

from "the psychology of discounting: something doesn't add up" @ the economist:
A team of researchers, led by Akshay Rao of the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management, looked at consumers' attitudes to discounting. Shoppers, they found, much prefer getting something extra free to getting something cheaper. The main reason is that most people are useless at fractions..

Consumers often struggle to realise, for example, that a 50% increase in quantity is the same as a 33% discount in price. They overwhelmingly assume the former is better value.
admittedly, i don't think that hard while shopping. most of the time, i'm just glad that something that i would actually buy would be on sale.

from "scientific publishing: brought to book" @ the economist (again):
There is a widespread feeling that the journal publishers who have mediated this exchange for the past century or more are becoming an impediment to it. One of the latest converts is the British government. On July 16th it announced that, from 2013, the results of taxpayer-financed research would be available, free and online, for anyone to read and redistribute.

Britain’s government is not alone. On July 17th the European Union followed suit. It proposes making research paid for by its next scientific-spending round—which runs from 2014 to 2020, and will hand out about €80 billion, or $100 billion, in grants—similarly easy to get hold of. In America, the National Institutes of Health (NIH, the single-biggest source of civil research funds in the world) has required open-access publishing since 2008.
nice! i didn't realise that the movement is spreading that widely .. or, for that matter, that such a practice has been in the works for a while.

again, it's the sort of thing that gives me hope, in this world.

from "the trouble with online education" @ the new york times:
But can online education ever be education of the very best sort?

It’s here that the notion of students teaching teachers is illuminating. As a friend and fellow professor said to me: “You don’t just teach students, you have to learn ’em too.” It took a minute — it sounded like he was channeling Huck Finn — but I figured it out.

With every class we teach, we need to learn who the people in front of us are. We need to know where they are intellectually, who they are as people and what we can do to help them grow. Teaching, even when you have a group of a hundred students on hand, is a matter of dialogue..
reading this, i'm tempted to gainsay what i wrote in (the second part of) my earlier post .. but i won't, due to context:
free online education gives me hope, in the same way that universal suffrage and publicly-funded libraries give me hope.

these are not perfect solutions -- e.g. voting randomly at the booth does nothing -- but they give some form of access to everyone, and hence anyone who wants to better themselves.
on the other hand, the author of the article makes a good point about lecturers having an audience. thinking about it, i wish that i had thought of that ..

.. but after a quick search, it turns out that i did! [3]

[1] no comment about the film .. at least, not yet and not here. if you're that desperate for news about it, i'm sure that you're more resourceful than to rely on me for news about it!

[2] not all diversions are created equal. if i'm really embedded in a task, then i'll think about it while running .. which makes for a terrible run. the symphony doesn't help either; i tried that, back where i did my first postdoc. as for leisure reading, i never even get to opening the book cover. i guess, for me, the film experience is rather all-encompassing.

[3] i'm referring to this earlier post, specifically the paragraph after the red text.

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