Wednesday, January 22, 2014

so, if anyone asks ..

like all other working mathematicians out there, i am often asked ..
.."so what do you do all day?"
lately i've felt like answering:
"i've been trying to build impossible geometric objects, in order to show that certain mass distributions [1] cannot possibly exist."
as you may guess, my recent obsession has to do with finishing a proof by contradiction .. which i suspect is a means of inference that most people are uncomfortable with.

if my experience in teaching basis analysis has any weight here, i think that even mathematics majors at university have trouble with this method of proof.
.. thinking about it, that kind of answer isn't terribly helpful .. that is, to me. more often than not, conversations of this kind only on go downhill after that question; either (a) i say something too complicated and the other person, not understanding, feels dumb, or (b) i make it sound too easy and the other person wonders why i bother working on that kind of problem.

more likely, the other person would probably be wondering what would drive a person to think all day about things that might not exist ..?

often i just can't win with this kind of thing.

[1] this is my colloquial expression for what's known as a measure; i think i borrowed (read: plagiarised) the term from falcοner's book, in fact. before settling on this, i tried to use the term "prοbaβility distributιon" but this usually misled my audience that my work is related to statistics of some kind ..

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