A mathematician’s nightmare: Lockhart’s lament

I might have posted this already, but here it is again for George! One of my favourite texts written by a mathematician about mathematics and the way in which it is (but ought not be) taught.

https://www.maa.org/external_archive/devlin/LockhartsLament.pdf

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The life of a postdoc on a T-shirt

 

postdoc-tshirt

If you stopped drinking coffee for a week or two, assuming your research doesn’t suffer from this violent caffeine withdrawal, you can buy one here with the money you save:

https://www.teezily.com/postdoctoralresearcherwsm

via fellow postdoc and researcher of academic precarity, Mariya Ivancheva.

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Minesweeper is NP-complete

Remember that old game? I had it in my second computer, a windows 95. thanks to Facebook algorithms (and I don’t often say that), I just stumbled upon something fun: an article about the mathematics of minesweeper I had read back in 2011 when I wasn’t even researching mathematics! Enjoy: Minesweeper and NP-completeness.

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The two body problem (a bunch of articles I read today)

On The Two Body Problem, blogpost on Women in Astronomy http://womeninastronomy.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/figure-1-two-body-problem.html

“We Met in Grad School” in the Chronicle, with loads of interesting reader comments http://chronicle.com/article/We-Met-in-Graduate-School/134548/

Blogpost about “Advising on the two body problem” http://biochembelle.com/2012/09/30/advising-on-the-two-body-problem/

“”Solving” the two body problem”, at the blog Tenure, She Wrote https://tenureshewrote.wordpress.com/2013/09/18/solving-the-two-body-problem/

A happy “Two-Body Problem” story, for a change! http://sciencecareers.sciencemag.org/career_magazine/previous_issues/articles/2005_10_12/nodoi.4906092037166312197

Unusual academic paths (“Alt” or “post” academics) http://theprofessorisin.com/2014/09/29/the-one-body-problem-when-youre-both-alt-and-ac-part-i-cardozo/

An (overly?) optimistic anthropological discussion of personal benefits such as broadening of horizons which occurs thanks to hypermobile lives: Liudmila Kirpitchenko, Academic hypermobility http cosmopolitan dispositions,Journal of Intercultural Communication, ISSN 1404-1634, issue 27, November 2011. immi.se/intercultural/nr27/kirpitchenko.htm

A more balanced anthropological discussion: Scott A Cohen and Stefan Gössling (2015) A darker side of hypermobility,Environment and Planning A 2015, volume 47, http://epn.sagepub.com/content/early/2015/07/24/0308518X15597124.full.pdf

(somewhat long and rambly) blogpost about alternative (non-academic) jobs for PhD graduates http://scicurious.scientopia.org/2013/09/18/redefining-alternative/

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Find the missing i!

The new Mathematikon building of the University of Heidelberg and its… imaginary i :-)

11878921_1137820686232301_4394361652472691971_o

Photo and mathematical meta-joke shamelessly stolen from today’s status of Springer Spektrum Mathematik I Physik’s Facebook Page.

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Not Even Wrong 

Interesting blog about mathematics and physics (with a cool title), by Peter Woit:

http://www.math.columbia.edu/~woit/

In Memoriam Jeroen Witteveen (1980 – 2015)

The quiet academic summer was interrupted yesterday by the tragic news of the death of a young mathematician, Jeroen Witteveen, from the Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica (CWI) in Amsterdam. He was only 34 and worked in uncertainty quantification.

http://www.cwi.nl/in-memoriam-jeroen-witteveen

I did not know him personally, but can’t help wondering what brought this young and talented person to the desperation of ending his own life. Was it personal or work hardships? Perhaps both? Perhaps neither? We will probably never find out. But I also can’t help wondering what, if anything, can universities and institutes do in order to support their staff when they go through personal or emotional difficulties. A few years ago, when my fiancé was working at a not-very-large US university, he kept receiving email notifications from the university head about suicides on campus. This happened several times a year and the number of suicides amounted to an annualised rate of about 0.1% of the campus population of that university. Not infrequently, it was someone he had heard of, or knew someone who knew the person. The academic world is small, and one campus is even smaller. And yet there are all these people who become so sad they decide to leave the world, and at least for some of them perhaps something could have been done to help them be a little happier.

P.S. This blog is mainly about the work and life of mathematicians, and about fun mathematics. But then, death is part of life… Perhaps, as my fiance put it, when a young mathematics postdoc chooses to die, this may be “the ultimate manifestation of personal and career difficulties”…

 

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Group theory in simple English

Are you sick of academese? Or maybe your field really is so hard that the thought of explaining your research to your grandma has never even crossed your mind? Now you have a chance to explain a hard idea (e.g., your research topic) in simple words – in fact, with only the 1,000 most used words! A friend who is a group theorist has just made group theory sound awesomely simple: 

A group is a set of things with a way of putting two things together to get another thing. One type of group is all the ways of moving three things in space to a different place, and in fact if space was “bigger” we could get a bigger group by having more things to move. If we only do some but not all of these moves we can get a smaller group, but sometimes this will only be a little bit smaller than the group that we started with. I am interested in trying to find all of these slightly smaller groups in the situation where we are trying to move ten add six or ten add seven things.

And here is a longer explanation of Hilbert’s Hotel:

The House of Mr Hilbert:
Suppose that you are a person who has a big house where other people can give you money in order to come and live in a room for a short time. (click here to read the rest) …

Try it out here and post the results in the comments!

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