Not Glass, Maths

Yuck. Saturn’s day and not bright. The weather is not supposed to be as precipitous as yesterday but my mood is. But I did get to go walk in park this morning. There was some sort of spitting but so sparse as to only be observable once per lap or thereabouts. I continued listening to “Linux Luddites” from Thor’s day and this bit was quite nice a bashing of both Fedora and Gnome Shell. 

I have tried Fedora a couple of times and it is too gritty for me. I like a bit of polish and smooth. And Gnome Shell is at once both a tile GUI and a betrayal of the user community. Admittedly it is the best of the tile GUIs, much better than Winders or Unity, but still a tile GUI. I have recently considered that if the Christianists are accurate and there is a afterlife place of punishment (yes, I know that is contradictorily illogical) then part of that place will be using W8. 

Back when I first came to Linux, Gnome 2 was the pinnacle of GUIs. It was Glodilockian; it was “just right”. And then it was abandoned and Gnome Shell was flooped out – like a flatulent bit of feces – as a replacement. That’s the betrayal.

On which azimuth, I cam across an article [Link] entitled “The Math Ceiling: Where’s your cognitive breaking point?” It’s a blot written by a chap teaching pre-college (?) maths in England. And the question, posed I understand, by his department head is whether humans have a “natural” maths ceiling. He does quite a good job of covering the matter which seems to collapse into a model of teachers saying “no” and students (past and present) saying “yes”. 

I have expressed previously my agreement with Tyson’s tweet that good students learn in spite of bad teachers. Bad in this context is the perception of the student, not the teacher or peers or instrumentality. Somehow I doubt this fellow is bad to most students, however. 

I have to admit that I have never had a teacher of maths tell me that I can learn something. They mostly just laid it out and let us partake or not. Yes, some wanted us to learn but they didn’t push very often. (My freshman calculus instructor is an exception. I blew an integration exercise on a test and she made me revisit it, much to my embarrassment and edification.) But prior to college and after  most of my maths learning has been on my own.

I have to admit that learning has been superficially sporadic. From my perspective I have learned a lot of maths since graduation and not learned a lot. The distinguishing factor is whether I could see some use for the maths. If I tried to learn some maths for its own sake, I almost always failed but if I could early on see some way I could use the maths I plugged away at it. Did I learn it as well as a mathematician? Absolutely not! Did I learn it well enough to help me in my research? Absolutely yes!

I tried several times, years ago when it was popular, to learn chaos theory. Failed every time. Those landscapes just didn’t have enough tool to them. But renewal theory and order statistics and a bunch of others. Yes. Unqualified. 

So is that a ceiling or some sort of buffer or filter? I think more the latter. We can learn a lot more if we are interested than not, and for me, at least, being able to bash things with the maths is a form of being interested.

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