Thursday, November 29, 2007

The aftermath (of Wednesday's lecture)

After the lecture

Straight after my lecture Fizz gave her lecture, and it was very interesting. Like my voice, Fizz's voice had also shook due to nerves, but I am eternally grateful to Fizz for volunteering. It was about Babylonian's number system, and how they worked in base 60. Interestingly, although they never proved Pythagoras's theorem they used it. The Babylonians basically had two symbols, one representing 10 and the other representing 1.

Then she went onto talk about Egyptian maths, and how once again, the Egyptians had developed mathematics due to their needs i.e. is due to their physical surroundings. They even had used Pythagoras's theorem without proving it.

Interestingly, it was the Greeks who first studied maths or deduced maths from axioms. They created some sort of order, and it wasn't the physical surroundings which motivated them to study maths. Fizz was more composed up there than I was, and did a fantastic job. Having been up there, you can't help but appreciate and commend everyone else who does that. Especially if they are there because of you! During my lecture she had been sitting like a bag full of nerves, but thankfully apart from one moment of recollection I hadn't been in the same position as her. (That is why sometimes it is useful to go first!)

Fizz did finish slightly before time, so maybe I shouldn't have panicked about going over time! (I had gone over by 5 or so minutes). Having both completed our lectures, I thought that was the end of it and felt the refreshments calling. (Actually that is a lie: I was too excited too eat anything, and during the day had also forced my sandwich down). Before we all rushed out though, Dr. W said: "Any questions... to both of the speakers!"

Damn! You see there hadn't been a chance to ask me questions, and I thought that I had escaped! I was actually worried that Dr. E would ask me something non-trivial, for the day before my lecture he had asked me how old Galois had been when he had died. It was a trick question you see! Many people think that Galois died when he was 21, because the year he died was 1832 (and he was born in 1811 on the 25th October). However, he died on the 31st May - a few months before his birthday - so he was still 20.

Thankfully Dr. E didn't ask me any such question, but I can't remember whether I was asked two or three questions! A lecturer who I didn't know before then asked me a question, about whether what Galois discovered could have been discovered by others and Jake asked me a question. However, I seem to have someone in between them asking about his life and circumstances?! (I think I'm going mad!) I believe others could have made them discoveries, but it would have been after a very long time. I am of the opinion that sometimes, you need individuals like Galois to spark something new. [I discussed this with PS on Thursday, and how when it comes to art and music (say), no one else can create what was created. However, with maths it is there to be discovered!]

To make a good read a think a some misleading has to be done by authors. I myself had been taken back by Simon Singh's account on Galois' life, but the extent to which Bell and friends have done this is silly!

Dr. E though, did make a remark to Fizz about the doubling of numbers and nurses after which Dr. W brought an end to the proceedings. Fizz and myself were slightly shocked and relieved at the same time, that we had survived this ordeal. People were saying things which didn't register at first. I just found myself nodding and saying thanks at first - I still can't remember who I spoke to directly afterwards.

As I eventually left the room, Simon appeared from no where and gave "The Key" to Dr. Coleman; but since he was doing the open day interviews straight after the lecture, I took the key to give it to Dr. W. I stood for a moment with DC, and Prof. Sp happened to be there too. Prof. Sp hadn't attended the lecture and I pointed out to him that this was inexcusable. He agreed (naturally) and so I made the bold remark that I will not attend his lectures next time! Prof. Ply (who had asked me the question) was there too, and it was after a few seconds that all three lecturers came to the same conclusion: "They won't have to sit an exam for my lecture!" We shall soon see about that.... I thought as they all laughed away.

It seems as DC said, I had passed my stress to everyone else before I had given the lecture, but I for one do not believe that DC was stressed! He can't have been... but I better check just in case. (Let us hope I am wrong!) That is why everyone else was probably mightily relieved that I had come out in one piece. My first instinct straight after was to ask for feedback, but I can't remember exactly what people said at the time. There was no time for a proper conversation with DC about the lecture (open day calls) so I hurried with the key to Dr. W. It was here that I became very happy. People were talking to each other and no one was eating the jaffa cakes! [Note to self: next time we won't make "as much" coffee. It seems, as my learned coffee drinking friends informed me, you can't really drink coffee at any instance but the right one. However, tea can be drank whenever one feels like it, even though one isn't really in the mood for it!]

Initially I happened to be talking to Dr. E about Bell's book Men of Mathematics. He was shocked to hear that I hadn't read it(!) and I had torn it apart during my lecture. (It feels cool it in a weird way saying that. :D) This was actually quite a funny moment, for we then went onto discuss Bell's other maths books. (I think he had to recover from the shock when he learnt that I hadn't read that book.) Dr. E then dissappeared for and I went everywhere for some time. I sat with PS for a while to get feedback, and everyone seemed to be telling me that I hadn't done as badly as I feared. PS said that he did notice when I had made an effort to slow down, but he said it was my first ever lecture. Unable to sit down for too long I was back where the refreshments were. (note I only had some tea and a jaffa cake myself). Due to the jaffa cakes still shockingly being there, I decided to give some to PS, DC and Prof. Sp (even though he hadn't attended!)

The atmosphere was electric at this moment(in my opinion), and then finally I happened to bump into my PT. [He drank tea as well!] I thanked him for being the friendly face in the audience, and he said well done. {This is rather a waffly part of the post, for it is merely about me writing about every little thing that happened; but such was the nature of the day that I can't not do this. }

My PT gave me feedback and told me that considering it was my first time doing such a thing, it was "cool". (That's my word though!) I didn't believe it when people were saying this, because I kept on thinking about the mess ups. My PT however, told me that he had liked the way I had done the first half, and that we all have moments when we forget things. We talked for quite a while, until Dr. E returned from out of the blue. With him he had a book. The book was called Men of Mathematics! I was once again in stitches, but felt it was very kind of him to lend me his own copy of the book. He felt that I had to read it and told me to look after it because he doesn't normally lend books to students. (He gave us a rather amusing story about an instance when he had done such a thing!) What can I say: I am honoured. I made no promises of looking after the book though... (It is on my shelf at the moment, waiting to be read sometime or other).

Another lecturer happened to walk past at that time, with copies of a newspaper which had something about maths magic in them. He was giving them to the lecturers, but he also gave one to Fizz and myself because of our lectures. (He had been in the audience) Once again I thought "cool" to myself. There you have it students: there is no need to fear your lecturers. They are actually very supportive and cool, but it all depends on your attitude. Another member of staff JB, who I also never knew, spoke to me as well. Well there was a group of us and we discussed the likes of Hilbert and Galois and about how he couldn't attend the lecture. Due to this lecture, I now know some more lecturers and a few first year students. But more importantly that community is ripening.

In the end of the day, we need student undergraduate volunteers. So yes, I was rather pleased when two people volunteered, and when a first year said to put him down as a question mark! Sadly there were no third or fourth years at the lectures, but hopefully they will attend the next ones and volunteer. Because I am a second year and second year students probably know me, the volunteers so far have been second year students. (I need three more undergraduate volunteers: so if any are reading this, then please do get in touch.)

Slowly everyone started leaving and it was just us with the refreshments, and no Key. (The Key episode I will refrain from mentioning, but in future I will try to "not touch" the Key.) Cleaning up brought a sense of completeness to things. I think I will summarise the feedback I got and what I learned from the lecture in another post. (Out of sheer kindness of course). The end also signals the beginning. The next batch of posters have to be made, printed, stuck around everywhere, and so it continues. It is very exhausting actually, and I am fearing for my studies.

They say red bull gives you wings. I say do a maths lecture and you will be left wondering about what the heck red bull is. Oh, and this is another one of them instances when I say something about something which I haven't tried or read! DC gave me more feedback when I went to store everything, but as I said I will leave that to another post.

The event I shall naively put down as a success. I was surprised at the attendance (especially 12 lecturers being there!) but I hope that it continues like this. Most importantly I am still alive -- hurrah! Thanks to all those who attended, and those who gave feedback. Is there anything I have forgotten to mention? ;)

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