…hopefully not another first and final blog post.

January 12, 2010

Hello everyone!  Or no-one, as the case more accurately may be.   This is my first post, and hopefully not my last…although for now I will keep the existence of this blog to myself in case it does turn out to be a passing fad.  So why am I doing it at all?

In my daily struggle with mathematics, I have become frustrated by the constant seep of information from my brain.  I am pretty sure that this is a natural seepage, possibly exacerbated by abuse and neglect of my mental faculties.  It’s possible that my brain is just not designed to hold large quantities of mathematics…I don’t know, and probably never will.   What I do know is that I am spending far too much of my time relearning the same things over and over again.  Whilst mulling on this yesterday, I realised that I have never forgotten something that I have taught to someone else in the past.  And this made me suspect that the things that I keep forgetting are things that I don’t fully understand.  In order to teach something properly, one needs to have a complete understanding of it; in fact I think that one of the best ways to determine how well a person understands something is to observe how effective they are at teaching it.  And one of the best ways to learn something properly is to study it with the aim of communicating it to others.

Hence this blog.  I intend to write short essays on topics that come up in my mathematical life, whether it be through my research, the seminars I attend, or the subjects I teach.  It could be simply that I have a conversation with someone and realise that I don’t understand something as well as I’d like.  Or it might be that on one of my far-too-frequent rambling and distracting excursions through wikipedia and other mathematical blogs I happen on something which catches my interest, and which I want to know more about.

As to the level of my posting, I envisage that it will be readable by fresh undergraduates, and highly interested lay people.  I would like to develop my expository skills, as I make a living from teaching (and if this whole mathematician thing doesn’t work out then my next choice of occupation would probably be “science-writer”).   I would also like to be able to appeal to a large audience.   But at the same time I will be mainly writing about things that I will be learning myself, and these things unfortunately seem to get more difficult with each day.  So I will tread a fine line between dumbing down and incomprehensibility.

Perhaps one day someone will come across something I’ve written, and decide that mathematics isn’t all bad, and is even kind of interesting: that would be enough to make it all worthwhile.


PS – If any mathematicians do happen upon this, then I would be grateful for even the most scathing and fastidious corrections in your comments: there is no point trying to be a good expositor of nonsense.