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Time Flies When You're Doing Research

USA | Monday, 29 June 2015 | Views [373]

Thursday was the last day of the algebra short course. We finished up our cursury discussion of category theory with a couple of examples and theorems, and Dr. Aktar asked if we had any other questions. Angelo wanted to hear more about tensor products (another subject Dr. Farley had kind of explained, but mostly hadn't) so Dr. Aktar went over that briefly. And that was it. No more algebra. (Except, you know. Grad school. And probably next year and the year after. And the rest of the summer through our projects...)

The research seminar was more of a sampling of a little bit of every project. Polygonal linkages, braid groups of graphs, the CAT(0) square, and DGVF on Thompson Group T. (I feel like a real mathematician now that I'm able to throw all of those words around.) It was our penultimate research seminar, and people were increasingly focusing on which of the projects they found most interesting.

The last couple of days, my key card had been increasingly misbehaving. It had gone from letting me into everything without problems to taking nearly a minute of swiping to let me into my room to not letting me enter my rom or building. It needed replacing.

After lunch, I went to the Marcum Conference center to see if they could help me with that. There were two people behind the front desk. One of them seemed to have a very good idea of what to do, and, although the woman helping me out wasn't as experienced, things mostly seemed to be going well. They got my information and started a phone call with the people capable of changing my key card. Then she hung up the phone, and, without making sure I had paper or my own phone out, started rattling out a number that I needed to call back immediately. I needed to go to to class, so as I walked back, I tried to call the number I'd written down. It wasn't right.

Thursday we had another colloquium with Paul McKenney, a visiting assistant professor at Miami. He'd received his PhD from Carnegie Mellon in Set Theory. His talk was more like a class or lecture than anything else. Unlike the other lecturers, he did not sue a powerpoint. Instead, he used a combination of the chalkboards and whiteboards to write up proofs and definitions.

The talk was on a proof of Hindman's Theorem. Hindman's Theorem says that if you finitely color the natural numbers, then there exists a color and an infinite set such that every finite sum from the set has that color. The first proof was purely combinatorial, but the proof that Dr. McKenney presented used a number of advanced ideas and definitions, like ultrafilters. (And, since my project is also taking something that's been proven and finding another, different, and hopefully simpler, way of proving it, I have a newfound sympathy for that kind of thing.)

Overall, it was a good talk. Engaging and informative, as well as being about pure math, which was a nice combination. Plus, the speaker was able to use both white boards and chalkbaords, which is kind of rare. (You ever want to start a fight with a mathematician, ask them which they prefer to write on and, if they have a clear preference, argue passionately for the other.)

After the colloquium, I went back to the my room for a bit. I knew I needed to return to the Marcum and not leave until I had my key fixed, but I also needed time to unwind slightly. And then it was time for dinner, and the review session... once that was over, I remembered that not being able to get into my building or my room kind of sucked. Especially since Dana had lot her key earlier that day.

The very good thing was that, a week or so again, our door had stopped closing all the way. It would still latch if we pulled it shut, but not othwerwise. So Dana and I could continue to get into our room just by not deliberately closing the door and hoping that nothing else made it latch. It was a kind of a tricky situation.

So I went back to the Marcum. The woman at the front desk had no idea how to get my key card fixed, (she tried calling the number at the back of my key, only to discover that it was the number for the front desk she was sitting at) but was friendly and eager to help. After a bit, she found the number to call, and, after a minute or two of conversation, handed the phone over to me. The woman on the phone also sounded eager to help, and more aware of how to help. But first she needed to finish a previous call, so I sat down in the lobby and read for fifteen minutes.

Once they called back, it was only a couple of minutes of conversation to convince them that I did in fact have an issue with my key and needed it to be replaced. (The addition that I couldn't pay by tapping, and needing people to swipe my meal card seemed to be pretty convincing.) She told me that she'd meet me by Stoddard with a new key, so off I went, and soon I had a working key again. (It was also significantly less beat-up than the last key had been when I received it.)

Having met someone both competenet and helpful with power over keys made me question my earlier assumption that there was nothing that could be done about the annoyance of not being able to get into the guys dorm. I'd had pleasant enough intereactions with the woman on the phone to think that if I asked nicely and said that the program director thought we should haver permission, I could probably succeed. But first, I wanted to make sure I had the permission of the the program director, so I asked Dr. Aktar. Which turned out to be all that I needed, since he took care of the rest, and Friday afternoon I was able to key into Elliott.

I returned to Stoddard with a working key and settled into work on math. Maram, Griselda, and Dana were sitting in the lounge area reading through a paper on polygonal linkages. I sat with them as I tried to fiugre out pseudocode for the project that interested me. Together, we worked on doing things so that Dr. Farley would not be disappointed in us.

Friday was the last day of the research seminar, and also of analysis. :( In Aanlysis, we learned about the Cantor set and some of its properties. (Cantor Set and Complete Graphs both have the lovely property of being represented with a K. Because that's definitely the first letter of both names...) In the research seminars, we spent some time with everyone talking about what they'd done the night before, and each of the projects got a quick (or less quick, depending on what was necessary) addition and assignment for the weekend. And, for good measure, Dr. Farley introduced a new project on the quasi-automorphism group of a tree.

And with that, we were done with most of our structured activities. From this point forward, it's research and little else. At least I have a project I like.

Tags: analysis, dgvf, keys, math, set theory

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