Tuesday, April 10, 2007

hyperbolic geometry at 7am in the morning

On my bus ride down to work this morning, I happened to sit next to a student who assumed I was a student and asked if I was taking vector calculus.

"Ten years ago, " I said.

He seemed somewhat confused (and a bit too alert, I might add given that the sun had just barely come up) and then asked if I worked down town. After exchanging the regular bout of introductions he then proceeded to ask me about what measure theory was exactly. Now that was especially random. In my cloud of morning exhaustion fuzz, I attempted to gave him a brief explanation and then realized mid sentence that I never once told him that I majored in math or that I even used measure theory in any useful manner at work. This was when the whole barrage of questions just started zipping through my brain:

Why is this so important at 7am in the morning?
Was he a former student of mine?
Do I have a big sign that reads "nerd" hanging around my neck?
Was he simply assuming I knew advanced math because I was Asian?
Did Dr. Radin send out a spy to check up on me?

I was too tired to bother asking out loud, but I guess the important thing was that he was inquiring and I had the answers. This eventually turned into a deep conversation (or rather as deep as one can get when one of the participants is half asleep) about Hyperbolic geometry, my master's thesis and how this translates to the shape of the universe. He seemed utterly fascinated with the comparison I made with a Poincaré disc and the edge of a lettuce leaf and wanted to know more about a periodic tilings ...Ironically, I never did really wake up. I was just regurgitating pieces of information stored in my brain from years ago that never needed to resurface until now.

Normally such a conversation would be invigorating. I'd encourage whoever I was speaking with to explore more maths. Excitement would abound with finding math nerd brethren. However, today emotionally I felt as if we were talking about the weather.

I think I'm mildly depressed or something. I guess I'm a little alarmed by how meh I am with the whole event. I never bothered trying to get to know who he was or why he wanted to know all of this. I was the anti-social teacher. I'm ashamed of myself really--disappointed at how blase' I acted. This could have been a fantastic teaching/learning opportunity and I can't help but wonder if I was too aloof and cold towards the excited student. Was this a lesson from the universe? What does this say about me? I dunno.

Maybe I'm jaded these days....or maybe I'm just plain tired at 7am in the morning. All I know is the dude's name was Robin, he's a mechanical engineer and that he asked for my email address so he could contact me for math help. Why the hell did I hand out my email address to a complete stranger?

Lately I've been pondering a great bit about Joshua Bell. No, not pining after him or admiring his physical and musical beauty but really just feeling baffled at the events outlined in this Washington Post Article. Basically, as a "stunt" of sorts, Bell pretended to be a street musician serenading rush hour pedestrians in downtown DC with Brahm's "Chaconne" (and other pieces you'd normally hash out $100 bucks to hear in concert). One person out of the 1,097 recognized him during the 45 minute show. The video is painful to watch, frankly. About 4 people really stop to listen and you can see Bell in all his glory playing just as beautifully as he would at Carnegie Hall. At the very least you would expect people to look his way, but most pedestrians just ignore him. They don't hear him. Are people in this much of a fog on their way to work (after this morning's math lesson, I'm starting to wonder if that was the case) or are the purposefully ignoring him because they don't want to acknowledge a street musician?

How much did he make in pocket change? $32.17.

From the article:

"Actually," Bell said with a laugh, "that's not so bad, considering. That's 40 bucks an hour. I could make an okay living doing this, and I wouldn't have to pay an agent."

Joshua is such a good sport.

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Blogger Unknown said...

here is what i done learnt in college gemomeries. hit the shiney white ball so that it hits the other shiney colored balls so they may fall into one of 6 pockets. i got a B- in that.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007  
Blogger cchang said...

What happened to your blog? Did you delete it?

Tuesday, April 10, 2007  
Blogger Unknown said...

i dunno. but i hadnt posted to it in a yr. go seaweed and weeseed!!!!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007  
Blogger dasMobius said...

That's pretty impressive that you were able to actually remember that stuff and actually talk about it to some stranger.

Thursday, April 12, 2007  
Blogger cchang said...

It's the broad general concepts and the application I can remember. I definitely can't recall exact equations.

Saturday, April 14, 2007  

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