NAA: The Galois Correspondence

30 November 2009

New post at Not About Apples.

At long last, the conclusion of (the first half of) the Galois theory arc. Some payoff for all the ideas and terminology we’ve been acquiring over the last few posts.

Permalink: The Galois Correspondence

NAA: Favorite quotes

24 November 2009

New post at Not About Apples.

13 selections from my quote of the day file.

Permalink: Quotations: A Baker’s Dozen

Also, the version of the previous NAA post was an older, incomplete draft. The full version is posted there now.

Permalink: Symmetries of Number Systems

Picasso at the Lapin Agile

21 November 2009

Last night I saw Steve Martin’s play, Picasso at the Lapin Agile. It was my first time at a play in years, my first time ever seeing my cousin-in-law act, and a play I’ve specifically wanted to see for ages. And, given my schedule, who knows how long it would be until the next play. So I had a lot riding on that play.

And they did not let me down. I had the best seat in the house (or darn close), and they had me from when I entered the theater. The bar set was spectacularly done: it felt like a place I might go one night for a drink between bouts with the Riemann Hypothesis, and the old-timey music was transporting.

In case you don’t know the play, it’s Steve Martin at the apex of his powers. Filled with comedy of every sort, time travel, and so many fourth wall breaks that it will take a dozen metaphorical carpenters to put that place back together after the show closes on Sunday, and a e-shaped pie, it’s pure entertainment. But the play also deals with very serious themes: the nature of progress, whether it is possible for one man to change history and what that even means, special relativity, the relationships between men and women, the creative process, our attitude toward the future. To see those issues played out at the turn of the LAST century only reinforces their timelessness.

As with any play, a performance can be only as good as its cast, and the cast here was top-notch. Strong performances all, no weak links.

Mouse, my cousin-in-law (without whom I might never have known this play was even happening), was marvelous as Germaine — proud to have married into your family, cuz. Who knew you had such a French accent in you?

I don’t know how old the actor who plays Gaston is in life, but he captures so totally the man’s status on the cusp of old age, so thematically important to the work.

Really, every performance was solid, but special mention should be made of the main protagonists Einstein and Picasso. They skillfully evoked our modern notions of the people without ever being caricatures, and without ever losing sight of the crucial point that these people were still young, proto-Einstein and proto-Picasso, marked not by wporld-changing achievement but by the potential for it.

Actually, the actor playing Einstein reminded me often of Gordon Kaye, a British actor best known for the WWII screwball sitcom ‘Allo ‘Allo. Which means it’s time to get those DVDs from the library and watch ’em again.

Seeing a play like this energizes me, makes me want to sit down, put pen to paper, because sooner or later someone’s going to crack the Riemann Hypothesis. And who knows, it MIGHT be today, and it MIGHT be me.


NAA: Numerical Symmetries

20 November 2009

New post at Not About Apples.

The Galois Theory arc returns from its hiatus. Today we look at what we should mean by symmetry in the context of number systems, connecting the concepts of group and field. This leaves us just one step away from the Fundamental Theorem of Galois Theory, and only a few steps of away from one of the most important impossibility theorems of all time: there does not exist a formula for the solutions of a polynomial degree 5 or higher analogous to the quadratic formula.

Permalink: Symmetries of Number Systems

John Hodgman Down, Picasso to Go

20 November 2009

I work in Ann Arbor, a thriving university city with more things to do and places to go then anyone could ever have time for, and I live in Fenton, a pleasant, quiet place in the middle of nowhere. I often end up staying in Ann Arbor late, but that’s work-related. So by the time I m. Because I actually like my wife and children, and I want to get home while they’re still awake if I can.

Actually, in my year-plus in this job, I don’t think there’s been even one time I stayed in Ann Arbor later than necessary, just for fun.

Not until a week ago, when I went to the John Hodgman discussion, Q&A, and book signing.

Maybe you only know John Hodgman as the PC in the Mac ads. But he is also a delightly idiosyncratic writer and self-described minor TV personality. And author of two books, each containing all world knowledge, and each of which I have, autographed. His two volumes of made-up knowledge are worth four in the bush, which is twenty-eight in made-up dog knowledge volume bushes.

He was funnier in person that he had any right to be, and listening to him snapped me out of the bad day I had been having. He mentioned me a couple times while talking, referred to me as Sherlock Holmes because of my hat.

During the Q&A, I asked a question, and he cut me off, “Okay Sherlock Holmes, why are you wearing a deerstalker?”. I told him I always did, and he asked if I ever put the earflaps down. I said “Yes, in wintertime,” and started to ask my question again. Again he cuts me off, this time to ask, “Excuse me, I have to know. Did you say ‘wintertime’ or ‘adventuretime’?” Nicely played, big laugh.

“I *said* ‘wintertime’, but I would like to go on record as having said ‘adventuretime’.”

When I made it through the book signing line, he asked me my real name and it was revealed that he had been assuming that I was wearing the deerstalker specifically for the event, hence all the comments about it.

This seemed reasonable when he said it (which is after all his schtick, to make anything sound credible), but looking back, what kind of fans does he think he has? That when he saw a deerstalker his first reaction was “Oh, someone has come to see me dressed as Sherlock Holmes!” Is John Hodgman big with the Sherlock Holmes Impersonators audience?

I checked the autograph, and in one of the books he had appended a one-word message: “Adventuretime!”, which by then I had decided was one of my mottos.

But things get better still!

Tonight, I get to see my cousin-in-law Mouse act in Picasso at the Lapin Agile, a play by Steve Martin. (Yes, *that* Steve Martin, the banjoist of some renown.). I read the play a few years ago, and I’ve been waiting for the chance to see it on stage ever since. And when you get right down to it, I just like live theater. When I was in college, I’d never pass up an opportunity to see a play. But I haven’t taken the time in five years or more. I am excited.

Two genuinely stimulating activities in as many weeks! So what will be next for me? Will I find time for more exciting exploits?

All I know for sure is that the days are getting colder. Pretty soon it will be time for earflaps.


NAA: Borderlines

7 November 2009

New post at Not About Apples.

Another digression from Galois theory based on something that happened in my geometry class.  This time, what happens when two sets of numbers collide.

Permalink: Borderlines

NAA: Field day

5 November 2009

New post at Not About Apples.

We’ve said a lot about what symmetries are by now. Galois theory is about symmetries, but not symmetries of geometric objects. Galois theory is about symmetries of number systems, specifically of a kind of number system called a field.

Permalink: Number systems