Thursday, February 25, 2010

Speaking Math

So, I'm not saying that I haven't been distracted by other things (like this and this (more to come on this later) and a meeting and chatting with my office mate and others), but part of me is wildly proud that I've made progress at work today and part of me is devastated by how small the progress was.

I'm doing a project with some people that do things (that's about the extent of my knowledge of what they do...seriously...this isn't me keeping top secret stuff from you, this is me being oblivious). On orders from a co-worker, I built a model for them (this is what I do at work - build models that exist wholly within my computer, my head, and sometimes my white board or some scratch paper. Either that or analyze things. Yes, this _is_ rocket science). But in reading the papers about the system that I modeled, I came across this other way of modeling things that I had some (albeit limited) experience with a few years back. So I started delving into that way of modeling things so that I could better understand the papers about the system.

But while I understood the text of the papers about the other way of modeling things, they would occasionally throw in a section using set theory. Set theory, my friends, is definitely _NOT_ rocket science. And by that I mean that I know almost nothing about it. I know math. I know basic physics, dynamics, statics, orbital mechanics, etc. I don't know jack about set theory. So I've spent the last several days at work trying to work through what amounts to half a page in one chapter of a book about this other way of modeling things.

My progress today? Most of two paragraphs. Two short paragraphs. And that was with the help of my office mate and his mathematician friends.

But I understand it. For reals. I _grok_ what those things mean. Transitive closure? BAM - the way to make something that's NOT transitive into something that is! Silly little symbol that I can't find anywhere other than this book that "denotes the restriction of f to B?" BAM.....ok....I've got it, but I really don't feel like explaining it to y'all. So just trust me.

Only two paragraphs left in this little half-page ("Preliminaries") section. But they start talking about alphabets and "words over" an alphabet. So I think I'll go home for the night and come back to it tomorrow.

It's been a long time since I've had to really learn something absolutely new to me. I don't remember it hurting this much. I think that makes me old.

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