Saturday, February 21, 2009

how i choose movies

Well, I have survived the first two weeks of the semester. The more attentive of my students are learning how to prove trigonometric identities and navigate slope fields.

A recent Pre-calculus class took a turn for the historic and I found myself mentioning Fourier. Jean Baptiste Joseph Fourier. (He was French). That evening, I cracked open my rather intimidating (almost as thick as it is wide) Stephen Hawking book "God Created the Integers" to read the bit about Fourier. He was a revolutionary in France who narrowly escaped the guillotine. He was a scientific advisor for Napoleon's expedition to Egypt, the discoverers of the Rosetta stone. Most impressively, he wrote a paper on the behaviour of heat and made the bold assertion that every function looks like a mess of trigonometry if you can scrunch your eyes just perfectly. In my class, I was shocked to hear myself relate Fourier, and it carried with it the faintest glimmer of familiarity as I stared into the murky depths of my university memories. But mostly it felt like accidentally scratching off a scab. My Fourier is a bit rusty.

I also recently read "Abel's Proof" by Peter Pesic which is (perhaps appropriately) mostly about Niels Henrik Abel, but which mentions Evariste Galois. Galois was also a Frenchman, presumably a Gaul, by the sound of his name. Also like Fourier, I mean, not also like Abel, who was Norwegian. And also a Frenchman like Fourier, I don't really know if Fourier was a Gaul. But Asterix was. Anyway, Galois was a revolutionary in France, but then it seems like they all were. He once uttered a threat to the king in the presence of Alexandre Dumas, who evidently frequented the same seedy revolutionary locales as Galois. Galois was a world class mathematician by the time of his death at 21, and he died in a duel after a tormented night of scratching down the beautiful (and ponderously novel) math in his head that he had no time to painstakingly articulate in the volumes that others would have to write about it instead.

Anyway, these recent tangents served as sines that I must have subconsciously weighed in my decision to watch "The Count of Monte Cristo" tonight. Dumas, duels, Napoleon... you can secant you?

1 comment:

  1. these recent tangents served as sines can secant you?

    I stumbled on this, long after written. It's hard to understand your angle.