Monday, October 29, 2007

"How old are you?"

When someone asks you that question, chances are that you might be in trouble. Or maybe you have done something which raises eyebrows, since it is not expected of someone 'your age'. Or you might be 21 and look 18, and the woman is reluctant to sell you alcohol. (I had written cigarettes first, but I think you can buy them at 16). Or maybe it is an 18-rated computer game? Whatever the reason, the question isn't always a welcome one.

I wouldn't say I was in trouble, but I was merely being reminded of this thing or concept known as age. (So I guess I did something which raised eyebrows!) An answer wasn't required in this instance of the question being asked. However, as always an answer I did feel inclined to give:

"Well it depends on which age you are after."

The natural response was a roll of the eyes (I take it a good thing that I am unable to do this damnest of things!) But when has that ever stopped me?

"Mathematically I am one years old. Mentally I am seven mod25. And, well by law I am now nineteen."

In college, as I once told Mr Hu of my mental age, he commented that my mathematical age will probably be more then seven. He gave an optimistic figure (which I will not reproduce!) but nonetheless it was definitely more than one. So why now does it seem to have gone back to one?

You see, my mathematical 'awakening' (so to speak) happened a year ago. Well the base case happened on the coming Monday last year. (I mean week 7 of the year). This was when we had a new lecturer for a course, and slowly my whole outlook and attitude to maths started changing. I began seeing maths differently, and started enjoying my degree. I had the rhythm for all modules\{stats}. That transformation in me at that stage of my life, is why I am sitting here now. But of course that was the base case! After the first semester had ended, I difficulty readjusted to the change in the second; but the wheels had already been set in motion by DC.

So I only see myself as mathematically one years old, because I feel before that my eyes were closed. I know mathematics is like a chain of knowledge. If I may lamely continue to use the 'base case reference', topics are built up from the base case. What I had learnt before my awakening is invaluable, since without that chain I wouldn't have actually got to the stage of wanting to study maths. Nevertheless, the magnitude of amazing maths which I see now, seems to make everything before hand seem insignificant. I will be having a 'Happy Mathematical Day' party on Monday.... depending on how the test goes that is! (You are all of course invited.)

As you can tell, a lot of thought has gone into this post! (Ach - you got me: I jest.)

If only it was true that when you start university you are one, and that you are only allowed to leave (if you want to) when you become a teenager (thirteen). I honestly can't imagine leaving university. That thought scares me. I always feel a certain reluctance to sometimes leave the building at 5pm, but I must! Today was the first time I thought about this, since I wondered what would become of 'the not to be mentioned thing' when I leave. :( I only got that far in my thoughts, for the prospect of not being there was too depressing. Life goes on and you become preoccupied with other things, but until you do become preoccupied you can imagine no such thing. I am having difficulty in setting my sights on a target. If I was to know what to aim for, then I would try my hardest to get there. Do I aim for what is impossible, and then whinge when I miss the target? Or do I aim for the possible, and then always ponder about what might have happened had I gone for the impossible?

The answer is staring me in the face. I could just about spit it out, but then as with all unfortunate scenarios, time runs out. "Pens down." calls the examiner and you feel the paper snatched away from you. You look dejectedly at your stationary, and hope that you have done enough. When I wanted to study maths, that is all I cared for. When I should have been doing chemistry or other homework, I didn't. Now I still want to do maths, but now things are no longer linear. They are piecewise continuous! I read somewhere that no matter what happens to the function (i.e. jumps etc), if it is periodic it can be represented by sines or cosines. This I believe is the motivation behind Fourier series (as I read a page a day!) The difficulty lies in trying to deduce or 'force' the function to be periodic. Not as simple as it sounds I'm afraid...

Now the mod25 was introduced when I read the quote:

The mathematical life of a mathematician is short. Work rarely improves after the age of twenty-five or thirty. If little has been accomplished by then, little will ever be accomplished.'

However, I can now drop the mod 25 and reduce that to mod "some other number", where it is acceptable for one to act without thinking! Why? Well if I am going to be one mathematically on Monday, then I have a good 20 years remaining of my mathematical life! So maybe everything is not that bad after all? The question to ask is: if at 3 years of age I find myself no longer doing maths, will I ever get to 25? No probability can be stuck to that, which is probabilities way of getting its own back on me. Damn- I should have politely told it to chuck itself out of my window, and never come back!

I have been having a mixed time with statistics today. I need to go over my double integration for a start! My solutions are 'right' but I get them in a different way. This is most annoying, because I would have preferred for the solutions to follow from the definitions etc. But then again, I am probably the only student you will find who had forgotten how to compute E[X]. There seems to be a lot to do because I have honestly forgotten everything I once knew about stats. I also refuse to buy any stats books for my shelf, namely because apart from erm... bringing a grey cloud with them I will never use them again. EVER!

So my mental age is seven at the moment, and that is the way I like it for now. The grey hairs of turning eight are beginning to show, but once we stick a mod something in, all will be well.

And the 19 - well call me a law breaker on this occasion, but it is a no thank you very much from my part! I know why I prefer being seven and what not: certain responsibilities frighten me. At seven I can cope with them, but at 19 they are looming over my head. But I am sure that without this stupid things looming everywhere, I would most definitely not give a damn about whether I was seven or seventeen.

I think back to the wish I made last Thursday. Do people ever wish for realistic things, or do we consciously wish for things that we know we will never achieve? Or do them wishes serve as a comfort, that yeah, there is something that I would love to do. I guess some lucky people achieve their wishes, and it is my hope that someone is able to do the same.

Having told myself to get through five lectures of stats today, I will sadly report that I only managed three and problem sheet one. Not good enough since that means that tomorrow I have to go through seven, which is definitely not going to happen. Things here will return to a degree of normality soon. (Well the long posts are semi-returning).

So next time someone remarks on how old you are, make sure you ask them to specify whether they want your mathematical, mental or 'legal' age!


miah said...

"So next time someone remarks on how old you are, make sure you ask them to specify whether they want your mathematical, mental or 'legal' age!"

Are you always this pedantic when you
speak to people?

Беанс said...

Depends on who the person is. ;)

I don't really know 'how I speak to people' - only the people I speak to can comment on that...

[I normally respond with 'I'm seven' but my discovery of my mathematical age had me excited!]

miah said...


"I don't really know 'how I speak to people' - only the people I speak to can comment on that..."

Do you not know how to give a straight answer or a simple answer when asked something?

That is, a simple yes or no would have done . . .

Беанс said...

Do you not know how to give a straight answer or a simple answer when asked something?

Most often than not, that depends entirely on the question. If the question demands a straight answer (as decided by me), then it receives a straight answer. However, if I feel that a straight answer is not appropriate, you get a reply such as this.

Does that answer your question? ;)

(Sorry - I have watched Shrek the third and I'm just playing with you! I don't know whether you have watched it, but that Pinocchio scene was great stuff!) :D