### What kind of geek aren't I?

In high school, I thought I had some promise as a math geek, particularly since I started out a year ahead of my classmates. I kind of enjoyed certain fields, and had a degree of natural aptitude—my geometry teacher in particular was eternally miffed that I could carry a B average while almost never doing the homework, for which my grade never exceeded 46%. (She also didn't much apprecaite my answer on a solid geometry word problem involving a sphere of ice cream melting into a cone, which I indicated was unsolvable without the unsupplied densities of frozen and molten ice cream; she did, however, give partial credit since I was technically correct.)

By pre-calculus I hit my aptitude limit, and even with extra tutoring I just barely managed to pass. I signed up for calculus senior year, but discovered at the last minute that the teacher I would have taught my track and the AP class exactly the same, the only difference being whether the students were "allowed" to take the AP exam for college credit. I bailed in a hurry and traded that in for a related-arts class, which turned out to be where I discovered electronic music and thus had a profound effect on the course of my life to date. By the time I got to college, I dumbed myself down and took the easy way out, basically repeating the work I'd already done in high school across two semesters for 6 credits, rather than having to take pre-calc and calc for 9 credits, busting my ass and paying for the privilege.

I still love numbers though, especially wacky shit like number theory. My discovery of the Mandelbrot set in 1988 caused a near-orgy or geekitude, optimizing algorhythms for computer color-mapping of portions of the set in BASIC on the 2 MHz C=128 and in Pascal on the 8 MHz IBM PC AT (surprisingly, it ran faster on the slower machine, which I later learned was a result of a built-in math coprocessor.)

Which brings me around to mentioning that I just read a frustratingly interesting book that I found on the to-be-read bookshelf of Housemate M (as opposed to the has-been-read shelf):

Aczel, Amir D. (1996 October). Fermat's Last Theorem: Unlocking the Secret of an Ancient Mathematical Problem. New York: Four Walls Eight Windows, 147. ISBN 1-56858-077-0. LCC QA244.A29 1996.

Interesting because of the extreme math geekery: the proof (which at 200 pages is longer than the book itself) spans every major field of mathematical endeavor, several of which I'd never heard of before. Frustrating because this is, in essence, a history book more than a math book; it contains precious little actual math, so while I have some vague idea of why proving the Shimura-Taniyama Conjecture for the special case of semistable elliptical curves proves the theorem, I'm left without really understanding what a Modular Elliptic Curve is. Still more frustrating is the knowledge that it would probably require several years of post-graduate work to even approach that understanding—and that's assuming that I was wrong about my inability to deal with calculus in the first place. And this is not to mention miriad steps between polynomial equasions and such deep math. -sigh-

Anyway, highly recommended to fellow geeks and fans of science/math history. I'm still crossing my fingers to hope that James Gleick decides to cover the same territory, since he could probably manange both to cover more actual math,

By pre-calculus I hit my aptitude limit, and even with extra tutoring I just barely managed to pass. I signed up for calculus senior year, but discovered at the last minute that the teacher I would have taught my track and the AP class exactly the same, the only difference being whether the students were "allowed" to take the AP exam for college credit. I bailed in a hurry and traded that in for a related-arts class, which turned out to be where I discovered electronic music and thus had a profound effect on the course of my life to date. By the time I got to college, I dumbed myself down and took the easy way out, basically repeating the work I'd already done in high school across two semesters for 6 credits, rather than having to take pre-calc and calc for 9 credits, busting my ass and paying for the privilege.

I still love numbers though, especially wacky shit like number theory. My discovery of the Mandelbrot set in 1988 caused a near-orgy or geekitude, optimizing algorhythms for computer color-mapping of portions of the set in BASIC on the 2 MHz C=128 and in Pascal on the 8 MHz IBM PC AT (surprisingly, it ran faster on the slower machine, which I later learned was a result of a built-in math coprocessor.)

Which brings me around to mentioning that I just read a frustratingly interesting book that I found on the to-be-read bookshelf of Housemate M (as opposed to the has-been-read shelf):

Aczel, Amir D. (1996 October). Fermat's Last Theorem: Unlocking the Secret of an Ancient Mathematical Problem. New York: Four Walls Eight Windows, 147. ISBN 1-56858-077-0. LCC QA244.A29 1996.

Interesting because of the extreme math geekery: the proof (which at 200 pages is longer than the book itself) spans every major field of mathematical endeavor, several of which I'd never heard of before. Frustrating because this is, in essence, a history book more than a math book; it contains precious little actual math, so while I have some vague idea of why proving the Shimura-Taniyama Conjecture for the special case of semistable elliptical curves proves the theorem, I'm left without really understanding what a Modular Elliptic Curve is. Still more frustrating is the knowledge that it would probably require several years of post-graduate work to even approach that understanding—and that's assuming that I was wrong about my inability to deal with calculus in the first place. And this is not to mention miriad steps between polynomial equasions and such deep math. -sigh-

Anyway, highly recommended to fellow geeks and fans of science/math history. I'm still crossing my fingers to hope that James Gleick decides to cover the same territory, since he could probably manange both to cover more actual math,

*and*make it more of a page-turner.**( Collapse )**