Saturday, August 03, 2013

disruptions, distractions.

so i was having dinner with my sister [0] when she asked me what i was thinking about lately. (i took this to mean mathematics.)

at first i couldn't think of anything, which was really weird,
especially since i was working on something that very morning;

i guess i've been really distracted lately.

to put things into perspective, the last five posts ..

(namely this, that, also this and this, and that too)

.. were dead-man's switches .. at least in erdös's sense [1]. they were compiled about a week in advance. i was away on the spur-of-the-moment holiday because .. well, the girl i'm dating was on holiday and we wanted to spend more time together. [2]

at first i thought i'd not bring any maths with me, if only as a romantic gesture .. but then i looked up my flight and it was 3 hours long: a long time, and i didn't have anything in mind to read at the time [e];
well, a laptop's not that heavy, and neither is that manuscript ..
so on the flight to rome, i idly decided to edit my $\LaTeX$. i sorted out one lemma, then another, and then in the middle of another proof, something didn't make sense.

closing the laptop, i tried to rework the proof in my mind .. only to perceive a gap. there was only an hour left in the flight to think of a patch before she and i would meet up again in the airport baggage claim .. and i started panicking ..
because the manuscript is supposed to be ready already, dammit! argh!
thus the plane touched down, decelerated [3], and arrived to its gate while i struggled without any viable ideas. dejected, i re-activated my cell phone, shuffled out of the plane and into another unfamiliar airport, and wondered ..
what kind of mathematician makes that kind of mistake, misses a gap like that?
sighing, i looked for the right baggage carousel from my flight ..

this would prove to be a distracted trip; in the mornings before we got up, i'd fumble with details in my head and feign sleepiness when she asked what was wrong.

.. to be continued?

[0] i.e. a mathematical sibling.

[1] according to this article and other accounts i've read, erdös would consider a friend "dead" if he stopped working on mathematics, so the term "dead man's switch" isn't that far off. (i wonder, then, if erdös considered "death" to be a permanent condition!)

[2] i'm leaving finland in 2 weeks. she and i haven't spoken about the future yet .. at least in much detail. suffice it to say that it's a rather turbulent time in my life. i'm pleasantly surprised that i can focus on anything mathematical, at the moment!

[e] in case you were wondering, she and i were on separate flights. now that i think about it, i don't know if she's aware of how much and often i work. (personally i don't think i work all that much, but experience with family and previous girlfriends seems to suggest otherwise.)

on an epilogical note: the laptop did help after all. i had merely a dumbphone and her smartphone wasn't connecting properly to the hotel wifi, so it came in handy with looking up various cool locations to visit.

[3] "de-celerate" shouldn't be an actual word. acceleration, being a directional quantity, can take on both negative and positive values.

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