academiamarginalia

The life and self-reflections of a professional mathematician

Month: December, 2011

Tucson

Initially we planed to fly to New York. Then the plan was changed, and we decided to go to Fort Ross in the northern California. Last minute, as always, changed our mind again and we ended up going east to sunny Arizona: to see Biosphere-2 and giant Saguaro cacti. Biosphere-2 is really cool, the Sonoran Desert is phantasmagoric (hi from Don Juan Matus).

These are 5 minutes from our 4-day road trip.

Statistics in Cartoons

This is the first book on statistics I read from cover to cover! :-)

I have serious doubts it can serve as a textbook, and I would be really surprised if someone without any knowledge of statistics could really learn it from this book. Gonick&Smith‘s book is a great source of entertainment for those who love cartoons – the cartoonist is the first author for a good reason – and love statistics, and, therefore, know it already at some level. I would definitely recommend it to both beginners (as a complementary text for keeping motivation) and to professionals (as, for instance, a perfect in-flight reading).

There is just one tiny thing I am not comfortable with: throughout the book authors maintain the idea that it is ok to be afraid of mathematics. I completely understand why they do this, yet I feel this is a wrong message. To me, to be afraid of mathematics is the same as to be afraid of dogs. Yes, indeed, a dog bite in childhood may develop a life-long phobia of dogs. Similarly, a bad first math teacher may cause a “math allergy” for the rest of life. However, it is not good to be scared of either. Both mathematics and dogs are our friends. Big friends, indeed!

Loud Statisticians

The quiet statisticians have changed our world, not by discovering new facts or technical developments but by changing the ways we reason, experiment, and form our opinions — Ian Hackling.

Well, statisticians are not quiet any more!
Watch The Joy of Stats with Professor Hans Rosling.

First Teaching Experience

My first semester of teaching is finally over! In this fall, I was teaching Math 118 “Fundamental Principles of Calculus,” the course that nobody wants to teach :)

The main lesson I have learned is that I have to do everything slower: to speak slower, to write slower, and, most importantly, do not erase things from the blackboard too fast. Students need some time to digest new material, regardless on how trivial this material is (or seems to be).

The main surprise was the overwhelming number of emails that in one way or another were related to teaching. The are exactly 115 days between August 22, 2011, the beginning of the fall semester, and December 14, 2011, the date of the final exam. Within this time slot, I received exactly 231 emails. It means, on averages, I was receiving 2 emails per day!

The main question I am still puzzled with is the following. How come that, although I can do this, I can’t do that, while almost all students in my class can. What is wrong with me? :)

P.S. In spring, I will be teaching two courses: Math 245 “Mathematics of Physics and Engineering,” and Math 408 “Mathematical Statistics.” Pretty exciting!

Christmas is All Around

What is the most exiting thing about Xmas and New Year for me? It is definitely writing and mailing out postcards to all my close relatives, good friends, and dear colleagues. This year we will send 21 Xtmas postcards: 9 to Russia, 3 to Ukraine, 3 to Hong Kong, 3 to United Kingdom, 1 to Germany, 1 to Sweden, and one to USA!

Academic Genealogy

I spent a couple of recent evening at the Mathematics Genealogy Project digging up my academic genealogy. According to the database, my full academic genealogical tree (which is not a tree in mathematical sense!) has 131 vertices and 150 edges. Below is a small portion of this graph. I have brilliant “genes” :)

 

Small World

My Erdös number is 5.

K. M. Zuev coauthored with A. V. Bolsinov paper
A. V. Bolsinov coauthored with V. I. Arnolʹd paper
V. I. Arnolʹd coauthored with Y. F. Meyer paper
Y. F. Meyer coauthored with S. Hartman paper
S. Hartman coauthored with P. Erdős paper

Viva Winter!

A piece after 3:50min (II.Largo) is about our winter in Pasadena :)