living in a gorgeous mathy future

i was reluctant to start reading the book Anathem by Neal Stephenson because i was afraid that i would be depressed about living in the present. i voiced my apprehension to the author at a book reading here in Berlin. he thought it was a silly fear, and thus i started absorbing the pithy mathtastic volume. i usually jot down page numbers of my favorite passages at the front of the book, but since this one had been autographed and dedicated to me, i figured i shouldn’t sully it with my usual pencil scratches. [sidenote: why aren’t there ebook readers where i can annotate (underline and scrawl notes in the margin) and do full text search yet? get on it ebook creators.] so i twittered my three month journey through this mathic universe. notable quotes include:

p. 171: “When I recited the 127th through 283rd digits of pi, the fight went out of them.”

p. 210: “his plan had another advantage as well: it was flagrantly silly.” recreating battles with weeds vs. garden. awesome.

p. 351: “…desperate men living on the top of a mountain, eating lichens.”

p. 642: “We are speaking of an infinitesimal snatch of time just after the Big Bang…”

p.721: “anything else, as long as i have a channel open?” “is it a private channel?” “don’t be ridiculous,” he pointed out.

…and on page 799 reference to euclid’s proof that the square root of two is an irrational number. this was an incredible read, one which i hadn’t anticipated i would enjoy, but in the end it wasn’t the future world or its mathy inhabitants that drove the story. as always, it was the incredible characters that propel a narrative that only stephenson can weave into a cohesive story. i loved the whole journey.

the media frenzy will go bonkers over ecc


dude, schneier, please please don’t write a rant that can so easily be blown out of proportion by other persons in the media. ok, i know we should be paranoid about all pseudo random number generators, but frankly all the media will read out of this piece is: ecc is b0rk3d omg!!11!!!11!

it really irks me that people crap on ecc (elliptical curve cryptography) just because they haven’t taken the time to look into some of the excellent literature on ecc’s use (and abuse, this is security, everything is broken as some point in time). even math kids should be studying up on this because wow is the math behind ecc fun.

crypto + hippeastrum

crypto and hippeastrum

bruce schneier’s applied cryptography isn’t a new tome to many of you who follow this blog, but i had never cracked it open. i started with Chapter 11: Mathematical Background, mostly because i knew the familiarity of the math would draw me in faster than starting from the beginning. there was a time where i wouldn’t touch a book that included the word applied in the title, i fancied myself a pure math girl, one who didn’t dally with the banalities of real world problems. my old purist approach seems hilarious to me today as what i enjoy now is extremely hands-on and rarely theoretical in nature. i was worried the math included in the book would be too flippant or too mired in algorithmic code for me to enjoy it, but schneier’s writing is fantastic. even though i didn’t come across any math that i hadn’t studied, he includes a boatload of references for deeper reading. if nothing else, one should purchase the book for the 1,653 references listed. (is schneier an a.i.? how can one person possibly read that much?)

the author’s tone is relaxed, but precise. with talk of aliens and supercomputers, even the math chapter reads like science fiction. let’s just say i’m now inspired enough to absorb the other chapters, even the non-prime ones.

math of the future: fewer computers please

memory, all alone in the moonlight

i’m not sure if i disagree with this prediction out of frustration because i’m much more of a fan of pure math or if i truly believe the contrary. for me, applied math brings back memories of bunny population problems in calc 4 aka ordinary differential equations. if the future really brings a blurring of pure math, i would hope it would do so more because mathematicians collaborate and reason across disciplines.

it seems sort of a safe prediction to me to say that the advent of powerful grid computing will help mathematicians solve problems in fancier ways. that’s a cop out because software will still be buggy, hardware will still deteriorate, and ultimately it’s down to the programmer/mathematician to code something up that would help her. grid computing has some incredibly cool applications, putting together huge high def photos being one of the coolest, but it’s not a band-aid for boring old problem solving and proof writing.

i think the whole thing smells of the math vs. comp-sci department debates that happened halfway through the last century. perhaps i’m just a jaded girl with a math degree, but please if you are making predictions for the future, spice it up a bit!