Wednesday, October 28, 2009

NO! It’s Not a “Theatre!”

     People say that college changes you. That you leave a different person than you came in. But I never imagined such radical changes as the ones that have been happening could take place in me. In this scientific analysis, let us first examine the case of how I write my “t’s.” In general, there are two kinds of people in the world. Those who write their “t’s” as crosses, and those who curl the bottom up and to the right just slightly. It essentially becomes a backwards j without the dot sitting on the line with a cross through it. Huh. That probably just confused you more. Whatever, you know what I’m talking about. Anyways, the principle of Occam’s Razor states that in general, if there are two theories explaining the same effect, then the simpler one is true. Logically, I have always prescribed to writing my “t’s” as simple crosses. I scoffed at those foolish people who tried to make their writing pretty, or worse, LEGIBLE! And then I came to MIT. I took 18.022. You may be wondering “18.022 what? Potato chips?” If you’ve forgotten, 18.022 is my Multivariable Calculus with Theory class. In this class we at one point were covering parametric equations. It doesn’t matter what they are. The most important thing I have to teach you about them is that the variable in use is a “t.” A lowercase “t.” Typically, these equations also contained the dreaded plus symbol, which looks like this: +. Just in case you’ve been going through life without adding.

     I then encountered the problem that each mathematician who writes their “t’s” like any sane person must one day confront: “t’s” happen to look quite a bit like “+’s.” I soon became confused, lost in a maze of crosslike symbols. It was pretty bad, especially considering that I already can’t tell my 2’s and 7’s apart. So one night/early morning I was forced to make a radical shift. As my candlelight grew dim, a frigid breeze blew in, carrying a few snowflakes. The candle flickered but only barely survived. My skin was chilled to the bone, goosebumps clawing their way to the surface. My teeth chattered slightly and my pencil shook in my unsteady hand. I then engaged in the act which I had never believed would happen, having survived the few “t’s” involved in high school math perfectly fine. I curled the end of the t. Call me a hypocrite. Call me a traitor, a two-faced math geek, or Ryan, since that’s my name. The fact is I did it… and I’ve been doing it ever since. And today I came to a frightening realization: when I’m writing words, I am sometimes curling my “t’s.” I have done the writing equivalent of a jump from marijuana to heroine. And there’s no going back. At least while I’m still here.

     But that’s not all. I hope you’re still reading and were not too riveted by my last paragraph because there is indeed more. This effect is unique to MIT. Had I chosen any other school, I would not be suffering so. Yet the culture of numbers is beginning to get to me. Take the following example: the other day, a kid in my advising group asked me if I was still 18. I replied that, yes, I still intend to major in math, but am open to other things. You see, math is course 18. And, of course, MIT people refer to their major and everything else by number. An hour and a half later I realized that he was talking about my age.

     Still there is more. I know, it’s hard to believe. Tonight I am in the process of writing a handout for my philosophy presentation. Okay, right now I’m not. I’m typing this. But if you read this within half an hour of me posting it, it will be a true statement. See, I’m thinking ahead! Philosophy readings have been the only thing I’ve read that comes close to actual literary materials (i.e. not a textbook). Many of these readings are by British authors. Hence, they talk about their “favourite colours.” Not specifically in the philosophy, but I’m sure Brits do the same thing we Americans do. Which is talk about their favorite colors once in a while. Man, do I need to explain everything I write to you guys? No wonder these things come out being so long. Anyways, during the writing of this handout, I appear to have been influenced by that country across the pond. I’m not going to explain what that means because you all should know. If you don’t ask someone; they’ll probably laugh at you, but it’s better than going through life in ignorance. I wrote the following word on my paper: theatre. And it’s not even underlined with a red line!!!! Because in Britain, it’s correct! But I’m not in Britain! I’m in America! A very liberal part where certain liberal classmates oppose my views on capitalism, health care reform, and even government spending! Sorry, that wasn’t really related. But you know who you are. But don’t be too concerned about the British thing, I noticed it right away and fixed it. I doubt it will become a recurrence.

     One final change. This is again related to math. I apologize for my one track mind. But if anyone knows how to find the Taylor polynomial of x^3+xy+y^3-3=0 of order 2 based at y=1 I would be much obliged if you would like to share that knowledge with me. Back to my radical changes. My professor for 18.022 is from Canada. And we all know that those Canadians are a little loopy. Just listen to Canadian Idiot by Weird Al Yankovic. They actually think curling is a sport! You realize you’re like… sweeping ice, right? So silly… everyone knows that “curl” is actually defined by the gradient of a function crossed with the function. So he has a slight accent that’s not really noticeable, but he also pronounces the letter “z” as in the “z-axis” as “zed.” ZED! That’s even in Weird Al’s song!!! He was right! That man is a genius. Anyways, my chemistry professor also pronounces z as zed. Not sure why, he doesn’t seem exceptionally Canadian. BEWARE! They are already among us! :-O Listening to zed for quite a while has actually changed my speaking patterns. Truthfully, I have yet to say the word “zed,” but when I am thinking, I think it. I think zed-axis. It’s frightening. They’ve gotten inside my head. HELP!

     So yeah. MIT is radically changing the way that I operate. I will exit this place talking about zeds and curly t’s in theatres who majored in 18. Hopefully I will be able to somewhat stave off these changes. If not, I apologize for becoming a math-obsessed British Canadian.