The Alpha: Day 1 with Wolfram

So today, I officially began the first day of my summer-long journey through research internship with Wolfram. I’m probably going to remain sparse on the details of what I’m actually doing there – though interested parties can find some information here – but suffice it to say that it’s going to be awesome.

It’s going to be awesome, once all the technical hindrances get worked out. And yes, as of now, there are many technical hindrances. But that’s neither here nor there.

In my journey towards the apex of mathematical paradise, I’m forever acquiring (and seeking to acquire) access to resources I wouldn’t have been able to access otherwise. As of now, I’ve been an employee for about seven hours (maybe six) and already, I’ve found a really really cool resource because of my tenure there:

Behold, the Digital Mathematics Library.

So far, this place is a treasure trove of information – some new-ish, some archaic – and I can honestly say I’m beyond stoked.

Beyond stoked.

Perhaps we’re not as far from recognizing Terence Tao’s (and also Ingrid Daubechies’) vision of universal mathematical access.

Great minds, coming together to support the present and future of great minds.

Somebody pinch me.

Paradoxes, paradoxically

So I was able – fortunately – to wake up early and to do some legit reading, despite having only a handful of sleep hours (4-ish?). That’s a definite positive. Right now, I’m about 30 minutes away from a forced obligation (that’s a definite negative), but I wanted to use the 30 minutes I have to still do something constructive. Rather than spend this time wracking my brain with really difficult, hard-to-understand reading that would leave me mentally exhausted for the aforementioned obligation, I decided to come here and write a little exposition regarding something mathematical.

In particular, I’m going to talk about the so-called Richard’s Paradox (see here).

Of course, the fact that I’m avoiding theoretical math to postpone mental exhaustion while using the time to come here and talk about theoretical math is a bit of a paradox as well, so I’ll basically be expositing, paradoxically, about paradoxes.

You have no idea how much I crack myself up.

The ideology that birthed Richard’s paradox is intimately tied to the idea of metamathematics, that is, the study of metatheories – theories about mathematical theories – using mathematical ideas and quantification. I’m not going to get too deeply involved in the discussion on that particular topic; the interested reader, of course, can scope out more here.

To begin, we let \mathbb{N} denote the set of nonzero positive integers (aka, the natural numbers) and we investigate the collection of all “formal English language statements of finite length” which define a number n of \mathbb{N}. For example, The first prime number, The smallest perfect number, and The cube of the first odd number larger than five are such statements, as they verbally describe the numbers 2, 6, and 73=343, respectively. On the other hand, statements like The number larger than all other numbers and Scotland is a place I’d like to visit fail to make the list due to the fact that the first doesn’t describe a number in \mathbb{N} and the second doesn’t describe a number at all. Let \mathcal{A}_n denote the collection of all so-called qualifying statements, that is, statements that do describe elements n\in\mathbb{N}.

Note, first, that the collection \mathcal{A}_n is infinite due to the fact that the statements The ith natural number is a qualifying statement for all i=1,2,\ldots. It’s also countable: Only a countable number of words exist in the English language, and each statement in \mathcal{A}_n consists of a finite union of these countably many words. This fact, along with obvious language considerations, says that \mathcal{A}_n can actually be given an ordering.

Indeed, consider a two-part ordering: First, organize the statements in \mathcal{A}_n by length so that the shortest statements appear first, and then organize statements of the same length by standard lexicographical (dictionary) ordering. The result is an ordered version of the countably infinite collection \mathcal{A}_n which we’ll again denote by \mathcal{A}_n.

As of now, almost nothing has been done. Continue reading

Online reading seminar for Zhang’s “bounded gaps between primes”

Dr. Terence Tao has arranged for an online reading seminar to go through Dr. Yitang Zhang’s recent proof of the “Bounded Gaps Conjecture.” To say that this is a wonderful opportunity to pick something valuable up regarding a field that’s very hot right now in the research community would be the ultimate understatement.

What's new

In a recent paper, Yitang Zhang has proven the following theorem:

Theorem 1 (Bounded gaps between primes) There exists a natural number $latex {H}&fg=000000$ such that there are infinitely many pairs of distinct primes $latex {p,q}&fg=000000$ with $latex {|p-q| \leq H}&fg=000000$.

Zhang obtained the explicit value of $latex {70,000,000}&fg=000000$ for $latex {H}&fg=000000$. A polymath project has been proposed to lower this value and also to improve the understanding of Zhang’s results; as of this time of writing, the current “world record” is $latex {H = 4,802,222}&fg=000000$ (and the link given should stay updated with the most recent progress.

Zhang’s argument naturally divides into three steps, which we describe in reverse order. The last step, which is the most elementary, is to deduce the above theorem from the following weak version of the Dickson-Hardy-Littlewood (DHL) conjecture for some $latex {k_0}&fg=000000$:

Theorem 2 ($latex {DHL[k_0,2]}&fg=000000$) Let $latex {{\mathcal H}}&fg=000000$ be an…

View original post 1,319 more words

Idolatry, or The mathematician I wish I was

So as per my last post, I haven’t been around these parts much in the last couple days. I’ve been reading through a professor’s paper on Clifford Analysis and trying to bridge the gaps in understanding there; I also took some time to schedule an in-office meeting with another professor to discuss his research.

I’m always doing math, even if no math is getting done.

At some point in that time, I started digging around WordPress and looking specifically for math blogs and believe me when I tell you that a single discovery completely boosted my spirits.

Okay, in all honesty, it made me beam like a nerdy fangirl at Comic-Con.

Terence Tao has a WordPress.

Let me give you a brief rundown of why that’s significant for me:

Terence Tao is without a doubt near the top of my list of mathematical idols. This guy is amazing: The breadth of his work and the depth of expertise he’s been able to accrue in such a wide variety of topics is absolutely staggering. His publication list reads more powerful than the voice of god delivering commandments to Moses on Mount Sinai and the number of significant results he’s proven is staggering on any metric.

I’m never sure whether this sort of idolatry percolates up through the ranks of big-time, legitimate mathematicians. For example, I have a hard time imagining that Grigori Perelman spent days surfing the internet and pining over the abilities of mathematicians “better than himself,” mostly because I have a hard time imagining guys like that feeling inferior to anyone in terms of mathematical ability. Also, by and large, the number of my peers who seem to understand my thoughts when I gush over how amazing it would be to take a class at Cornell with Allen Hatcher or at MIT with Victor Guillemin, so to be honest, I’m not really sure what demographic of mathematician is incline to fangirl-ism or what about me forces me into that group. But I’ve digressed:

Long story short: Terence Tao is, to me, the standard by which we measure mathematicians. He’s the mathematician that I wish I could be, and to go one step farther, if I’ve accomplished 1% of what he has by the time I’m a crazy old mathematical recluse living in a shack in the mountains and yelling curses at various named-theorems, I’ll be a much larger success than I can presently imagine myself becoming…

…and he has a WordPress….

So suffice it to say, my Reader will be getting much more use now that I know this.

Also, among things to be getting more use: Things needed to do math. I’ve been slacking a bit lately, sleeping in and casually reading, but today’s the day I’m gonna take the plunge and go back to working arduously.

Today’s the day.

Happy Sunday, folks.