4 days ago I wrote on this blog that perhaps I was finally finding math interesting. But there has not been much progress on that front since then. For quite a while I couldn't find the problem in the Thomas/Finney textbook on calculus and analytic geometry about the speed at which the man's shadow moved and the rate at which its length changed as he walked toward a lamppost. It was such a long while that I actually began to wonder whether I had merely dreamed the problem, and whether calculus would actually be any help which such questions. Then I googled Thomas Finney man lamppost shadow and deduced that the problem was in the 3rd chapter. In the 5th edition it's on page 132.
But I haven't made much progress at all in studying the preceding 131 pages. Whenever I begin to try, it's the sort of torture which the other 5 friends on Friends appear to feel whenever Ross begins to try to tell them about paleontology. I have tended to give up very quickly, and read about something else instead -- the history of India, for example, or paleontology. (I've always been disappointed when the other friends shut Ross down; I feel like I would have found what he had to say about paleontology interesting. Of course, Ross is just a fictional character, and I don't know whether David Schwimmer and all of the writers of Friends all put together actually know anything at all about paleontology or not.)
Clearly, I'm a geek. Just still not much of a math geek. I even felt the torture just now when I looked at a couple of calculators for scientists and attempted to learn what the symbols mean. I know the signs for add, subtract, multiply, divide, X to the power of Y, roots, percent, and... that's about it. (And actually, the % key is only on the calculator for non-scientists.) Presumably, studying those 131 pages would explain many more of the keys for me.
It's just really hard, because I really hate it for some reason.
Is it all my math teachers' fault? No, I really doubt that. The math teachers I had represented a wide variety of personality types. There was no lack of love of the subject among them. And I had a big crush on one of them. Between all of that, and my native aptitude -- I mentioned in the previous post that I had factored 3-digit numbers in my head years before a math teacher told me that it was called factoring, and that those numbers which could only be divided by themselves and 1 were called prime numbers, and that one could refer to 125 as 5 to the 3rd power, and so on. Just to be clear: by the age of 5 or so, I had factored all of the numbers up to and past 1000 in my head, in addition to many much larger numbers such as 1 billion and 15,625 and 6561 -- between all of that, perhaps a passion for math would have been kindled in me back in school if it could at all have been.
Even the factoring in my head has never been fun. It's always been tedious. I didn't start doing it because it was fun, but because I often couldn't stop doing it when my mind my wasn't occupied with something I found interesting, like history or music.
So -- put the Nobel for Physics and the Fields Medal on hold for now. I apologize to my vast numbers of fans if they're disappointed now because I got their hopes up about the math. For now, you'll have to settle for me being a literary genius, profound philosopher and all-around adorable person, as usual, and for me being able to tell when a candidate in the primaries no longer has a chance before most people, although maybe not before Rachel Maddow and Barack Obama, and things like that.