Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy new year!

Happy new Year!

In Israel the New year and Christmas are not celebrated. At least not officially. Officially we have Rosh Hashana (It is the biblical new year) which is celebrated about two month earlier.
So unfortunately there is no vacation for me ...

I intended to write here a bit about calendars but .. I don't have enough time now so I will do it in the next post.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Albert Einstein quotes

Just a short selection:

“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”

“Everyone should be respected as an individual, but no one idolized.”

“Try not to become a man of success but rather to become a man of value.”

“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving”

"A happy man is too satisfied with the present to dwell too much on the future."

"To punish me for my contempt of authority, Fate has made me an authority myself."

It is very interesting that he was also offered to become a president of Israel. He refused.
You are probably wondering why I posted this quotes. Well everyone knows who Albert Einstein is. Even my spell check application knows his name... But there are things about him that should be also well known but are usually not talked about.
As far as I know he was divorced, married his cousin soon after the divorce and then cheated on her. At my opinion at least he should not be looked on as an example to family life.. Why am I bringing this? Simply. As he said himself - “Everyone should be respected as an individual, but no one idolized.” We should learn from him but should not idolize him. However the attitude that at least I usually see is closer to idolization than to respect.
This is not the main point of this post however. It is a well known "fact" that he did very poorly at school. However this is a lie. There is a permanent exhibition about him at the Hebrew University. His Diploma is also there. He did very well in school.
When I was in school I was often told that all of the famous scientists did well only in a specific field but were horrible in all the rest. I of course believed it. But this is a dangerous thing to believe in because if you do, you will always have an excuse no to do something that is difficult for you. You will say to yourself that it is OK to fail in something, because even those scientists failed in something, and they still became famous. But this is a very wrong mind set.
While it is fine if you fail in something, it is unacceptable if you don't try to be good in it because it is hard for you.

This is entirely unrelated to math. But this is a blog about math and science, so it would be unfair to post something that doesn't have connection to math.
Einstein ones said: "If you have difficulties with math, I assure you that mine are greater."
Well what can I say - lets not make him an idol and lets not think that if math was difficult for him it will be difficult for us.
As a fun fact - at Hebrew university, in the information for new math students it is said that you don't need to be Einstein to graduate...

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Behind the name

Many of the well known companies have a very unique story behind their names. This is a short list:

Adobe - came from name of the river Adobe Creek that ran behind the house of founder John Warnock.

Apache - It got its name because its founders got started by applying patches to code written for NCSA's httpd daemon. The result was 'A PAtCHy'server -- thus, the name Apache

Apple Computers - favorite fruit of founder Steve Jobs. He was three months late in filing a name for the business, and he threatened to call his company Apple Computers if the other colleagues didn't suggest a better name by 5 o'clock.
(Either this was the best name or the others just didn't care - what you think is more probable?)

CISCO - its not an acronym but the short for San Francisco.

Google - the name started as a jokey boast about the amount of information the search-engine
would be able to search. It was originally named 'Googol', a word for the number represented by 1 followed by 100 zeros. After founders, Stanford grad students Sergey Brin and Larry Page presented their project to an angel investor, they received a cheque made out to 'Google'

Hotmail - Founder Jack Smith got the idea of accessing e-mail via the web from a computer anywhere in the world. When Sabeer Bhatia came up with the business plan for the mail service, he tried all kinds of names ending in 'mail' and finally settled for hotmail as it included the letters "html" - the programming language used to write web pages. It was initially referred to
as HoTMaiL with selective upper casing.

HP - Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard tossed a coin to decide whether the company they founded would be called Hewlett-Packard or Packard-Hewlett.

Intel - Bob Noyce and Gordon Moore wanted to name their new company 'Moore Noyce' but that was already trademarked by a hotel chain, so they had to settle for an acronym of INTegrated ELectronics.

Microsoft - coined by Bill Gates to represent the company that was devoted to MICROcomputer SOFTware. Originally christened Micro-Soft, the '-' was removed later on.

Motorola - Founder Paul Galvin came up with this name when his company started manufacturing radios for cars. The popular radio company at the time was called Victrola.

Red Hat - Company founder Marc Ewing was given the Cornell lacrosse team cap (with red and white stripes) while at college by his grandfather. He lost it and had to search for it desperately. The manual of the beta version of Red Hat Linux actually had an appeal to readers to return his Red Hat if found by anyone !

SAP - "Systems, Applications, Products in Data Processing", formed by 4 ex-IBM employees who used to work in the 'Systems/Applications/Projects"

SUN - founded by 4 Stanford University buddies, SUN is the acronym for Stanford University Network.

Xerox - The inventor, Chestor Carlson, named his product trying to say 'dry' (as it was dry copying, markedly different from the then prevailing wet copying). The Greek root 'xer' means dry.

Yahoo! - the word was invented by Jonathan Swift and used in his book 'Gulliver's Travels'. It represents a person who is repulsive in appearance and action and is barely human. Yahoo! founders Jerry Yang and David Filo selected the name because they considered themselves yahoos.
(And why they think that I will use their servers exactly?)

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

You know that you are a mathematician when:

.. when you see an advertisement that reads "... in partnership with H&O", and the first thought that comes to your mind is: I know what it means H - stands for quaternions, O - stands for octonions and ... What?!?.

I hope it doesn't sound like math is the only thing I think about...

Anyway, it is a good thing that when mathematicians think too much about math they are at least not very dangerous. You just need to remember that if the person you are talking to doesn't know math well enough - it is not a good idea to talk with him about cantor sets, cardinalities, vector spaces, etc... Even if you feel that it is simple and you are sure that you can explain it, hold you self.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Invented or discovered?

Is math invented or discovered? It is a very ancient question. It dates back to the ancient Greek mathematicians. They believed that everything is a number - and they took this philosophy very serious. In fact, according to a legend the man who discovered that is irrational payed for this with his life. He proved that while sailing in the sea with his friends, and when he told them, they threw him out of the boat. For them such a proof was totally unacceptable.

In our days this sound weird. Killing for money and power is more or less common. But killing because of a mathematical question? This is not something you hear all the time.
But anyway, back to the question. If math is invented what does it mean? Does it mean that it is a mere game of thought? But if so why there are wrong answers? And if it is only a game of thought, then why it actually describes something real? Take E8 for example. Some people believe that it describes the shape of our universe and also all the particles are described in this symmetry.
The math is build on a logical basis. In fact, it is an old joke that math professors are the only one who can say that what they teach is always true and correct and it will stay so. But it does not explain why so often pure mathematics is found to either be useful in natural sciences or to describe something that exists in the real world.

If math is discovered, what is this strange "universe" that we are discovering then? The term Mathiverse is sometimes used for this. Also in some mathematical jokes we are told about things like "function city", "fractal forest" and so on. But are they real? Well the functions are real, but I really doubt that they have a city to live in. I cannot prove this of course, so all I can do is to say what I think about it, and it is fine if you think differently.

Personally, I believe that math is discovered. But I don't believe that we can talk about mathematical "entities" as if they were humans - they don't have cities, and they don't drink tea. So for me the term Mathiverse is just a reference to a very real set of objects. They are real because we can use them, and they are important because a lot of what we have depends on how well we understand them. Even the fact that you are reading it now is only possible because someone understood math well enough to build this monitor.

By the way the in the first paragraph is brought to you by a script that integrates latex to blogger (unfortunately there is no official way to type formulas here). You can get it here, and you can find its author here.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Strike in the University

You probably don't know about this but all the universities in Israel (there are seven) are partially close for about two month now. The professors are on strike so they just don't show up.
They have a serious disagreement with the treasury. In Israel the professors salary is payed by the universities, but all the agreements about it are done with the government. Or more precisely are not done at all. The last contract they had ended a few years ago and the government simply refused to do a new contract. It lasted in this way for a few years and all went well - except for the inflation. Because of inflation the professors lost about 35% of their salary. At the end of last year they tried to begin talks with government officials about this but without any success.
This year they decided not to show up to classes until their demands are met. It didn't help. As far as I know the government refused to acknowledge the problem and they even said they don't care if the semester will be canceled because of this.
The students are the main victims in all of this, but for different reasons they prefer to wait and see what happens. Officially they support the professors, but many of them a very angry.
Personally I support the professors. I didn't go to any of the demonstrations and I don't plan to go. Partially it is because half of my courses are taught despite the strike but mainly because I simply don't see any point in such demonstrations. The government already showed clearly what they want. Their plan is to modify the universities so that they will bring immediate profit. It was already stated in a public enough way. As a side note there is even a poster near the entrance to the Hebrew University - "We want education not education ltd." So what is needed is a change of policy. And for this to happen ... only God knows what can cause this.
I hope the strike will end soon and that the professors will get what they want.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Readability level

I recently did a check of this blog readability level on website grader. The site checks different specs including readability, google rank and so on. Strangely I got a Phd level. Since I tried to write it as simple as I could I was very surprised and amused by this result.

Anyway, I recently stumbled upon a site about octomatic number system. It is a system of base 8.
As of itself it is not very interesting - as I already wrote in a previous post, Evolution of numbers, all number systems that can be used for geometry are isomorphic to each other. However on this site they also offer to use different signs for the numbers:

What is interesting is the second row from below. The signs here are directly connected to binary. You can see it for your self if we will line to be 1 and empty space zero we will get:
000 001 010 011 100 101 110 111
And from the image you can tell immediately that 111=7. The same rule works for large numbers: 100111001 is for example 4*8*8+7*8+1=313.

The bottom row is a handwritten form. Personally I doubt that it is a good form, but it is their choice...