Friday, September 30, 2005

Been a Slacker

I've meant to write more; I like to keep this up a few times a week. But it's been a pretty stressful week at work, and I've also felt kind of slow and dumb, and not up to analyzing things.

This is particularly sad, since I had some interesting thoughts I wanted to put down earlier this week about a talk I went to. Ed Burger, a math professor at Williams, just published a book called Coincidences, Chaos, and All That Math Jazz, and I went to see him speak about it at the Harvard Bookstore. It was really interesting, and I asked a question, which made me very proud. (My question, for the interested, was this: in his book he discusses how cryptography depends on the fact that it's very, very hard to factor number. So if a HUGE number has only two HUGE prime factors, it can be used in cryptography. My question is, if you can't factor huge numbers, how do you know if a number is prime?)

Anyway, I had just finished his book, which is in large part about how our intuition is often wrong about things, and how math points us to the right answers. And I had just started a book called The Scientist in the Crib (I have to stop reading nonfiction, it's not nearly escapist enough), which is about how babies explore the world around them and come by all the knowledge that seems given the rest of us.

And I had in my head this big long discussion of the idea of being surprised by the nature of reality, and how these two books fit togther. Only now I'm feeling mentally logey, and it turns out the Scientist is really more about how amazing it is that babies are born able to understand seeing and hearing, etc. which doesn't seem THAT amazing to me since animals are born like that, too (I like the parts of the book about social skills and language much better). So we're going to abandon that lofty plan.

Yeah, I really need to read some fiction.

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