The Unapologetic Mathematician

Mathematics for the interested outsider

Open Gap Thread

I’m preparing for my drive tomorrow. I’m heading down to New Orleans for the final move-out. As such, I think I’ll throw this one out to discuss the (non)existence of the math gender gap. Also, feel free to weigh in about Title IX applying to math and science departments. The latter I heard about through Jesse Johnson, so here’s a tam-tip to him.

Talk amongst yourselves.


July 25, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | 17 Comments

Screw you, George

George Carlin is dead at 71. Since any appropriate words would be inappropriate here, I’ll just say “good riddance”. I think he would have, too.

June 23, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Albert Hofmann, R.I.P.

And in the “who knew he was still alive” category: Albert Hofmann died yesterday at the age of 102! Man, I wonder what he was taking that kept him alive so long. You don’t suppose…

April 30, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

R.I.P., Dr. Wheeler

John Archibald Wheeler diad last night. This will take some getting used to, since for years whenever I’ve been reminded of him I’ve thought, “surely he’s not still kicking around, is he?” A truly singular individual.

April 14, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Unapologetic and Unavailable in Brazil

(I accidentally wrote this as a page, I just noticed. This new WordPress interface takes a bit of getting used to.)

Evidently my Brazilian readers (if I have any) will be readers no longer, now that a Brazilian court has ordered all ISPs to block WordPress. Officially it’s about one well-known and powerful lawyer there being insulted by something one WordPress blogger said. Me, I think it’s all part of a cunning plan on Isabel‘s part to dominate the Brazilian blathosphere.

Hat tip to Frank Pasquale at Concurring Opinions.

April 12, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | 7 Comments


Well, I’m back, and in more or less one piece. The talk seems to have gone well, but that’s filtered through my superego saying that people generally like what I do when they see it, which is itself cover for my id’s default assumption that everyone thinks badly of me. YES I DID MY FIFTH GRADE RESEARCH REPORT ON FREUDIAN ANALYSIS WHEN EVERYONE ELSE WAS DOING RACE CARS AND PONIES I AM A HUGE GEEK.

OK, I’m better now.

Anyhow, since I was near Los Angeles, Sgt. Friday would ask for “just the facts”. So here’s a closer slice to fact: John and his students (a big shout-out to those regular readers among them) liked it, as they told me at dinner. But they’re sort of the choir here. Them liking my talk just says it doesn’t belong on The FAIL Blog.

There were a couple guys up in the front row who were following and paying attention, but they seemed skeptical of the whole invariant/covariant distinction I’m trying to push. I really should have motivated the move to tangles better, and that might have helped smooth that over. From my side it was a good-natured difference in viewpoint, but was it the same on their end, or did they get the impression I was wasting their time?

I saw one person I’d spoken with earlier leave early. Did she have a previously-scheduled appointment, or was I just that unengaging?

I wish I could have gotten more time with Marta Asaeda, since I haven’t really seen her in years, but she was busy with a guest of her own most of the day.

And what of the silent majority? One young woman in particular stood out since she had what looked like the “confused” look on her face — not a good sign. But it was pretty consistent, never devolving into the “I give up, but don’t want to stand up and leave” look. Maybe it was her “thinking” face? Really, this is who I’m always the most neurotic about: the people who don’t say anything at all. I don’t mind if I don’t set the entire room on fire (metaphorically), especially in such a mixed audience as this was (I’m more used to seminars than colloquia), but I’d like people to go away thinking “that’s an interesting viewpoint, and one worth pursuing, even if it’s not something I’ll drop everything to chase down myself”.

Anyhow, I’ll go crazyier if I think about this forever, and I’ve got consequences of Green’s Theorem to show to my multivariable calculus class in 15 minutes — the best section of the entire course.

April 4, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment


I’m about to head off to the airport for my trip out to Riverside to give tomorrow’s colloquium lecture. On top of that, today’s the posted deadline for applications for UCR’s visiting positions, so the committee should be starting to make their considerations any time now. I can has proffessurship?

Anyhow, I’m going to take a couple days off, especially since I’ve done about all the integration theory I’m interested in doing for a while. When I get back, I’ll actually do something with it.

April 1, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | 5 Comments

2008 Abel Prize

As Chris Hillman just pointed out in a comment, the 2008 Abel Prize went to John Griggs Thompson and Jacques Tits “for their profound achievements in algebra and in particular for shaping modern group theory”. The comment went on my recent throwaway post about the 7x7x7 Rubik’s Cube, but a more appropriate one might have been this one from over a year ago, in which I discuss the Feit-Thompson theorem in passing.

Incidentally, I think I’ve met both of the winners. Tits I’m sure of, since I tried and failed horribly to take a short course he gave at Yale on “buildings”. Thompson I believe showed up for Walter Feit’s memorial, but I could be wrong about that. I wish I could say I was particularly close to one or the other, but I suppose that will have to wait until Adams and Vogan win the prize.

March 27, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | 19 Comments

Plans for tomorrow

I’ve been going over notes in preparation for tomorrow’s talk at the University of Pennsylvania (scroll down a bit).

For anyone who happens to be there (Isabel, Charles…) I’ll be heading out from a little south of Baltimore early enough to (hopefully) compensate for the fact that I-95 is closed a little north of the exit for UPenn. I should be there in plenty of time for lunch with Jim Stasheff, and dinner later on. Drop an email (if you remember that I teach at Tulane it’s not too hard to find the address) with any contact information you want to pass along.

March 18, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Not today again…

XKCD did it at the top of today’s post. The first reference to the day. I’m not going to get all ranty. I’ll just refer to my rant from last year.

Actually, I did go to an event today, but despite rather than because of the day. Jeffrey Bub was talking up at UMBC, and it gave me the chance to clothesline him and ask about convex sets and ordered linear spaces, which Howard Barnum had said he (Dr. Bub) knew something about the interpretation of as state- and measurement-spaces.

March 14, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | 4 Comments