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Monday, July 9, 2007

First lecture: Dammit, where's my elitism?

Full of surprises, not all of which were pleasant.

First there was a room change, from a smallish seminar room to the biggest one in the school. The reason for this became clear when I walked into the room - there are millions of people in this course! To be precise, there are 47 enrolled. Let me put that into perspective. MATH 312 last trimester had 17 at the first lecture. By halfway through the trimester that had dropped to 11. There were 10 people enrolled by exam time, and seven of those turned up to the exam. When I briefly did MATH 301 last year, there were 24 people at the first lecture. Chris looked alarmed when he came in. "Are you all here for 301?" he asked anxiously. When I dropped the course four weeks later, there were about 15 people still enrolled.

So 47 is a ridiculously high number - Chris time will obviously be a rather scarce commodity in this course.

The second surprise was the lecturer set - Matt and Mark aren't involved any more. Instead Peter is taking care of the last half or two-thirds of the course. I quite like Peter, so that's cool, although I would have liked to get to know some less familiar lecturers.

The third surprise was my classmates - Rebecca and Nicole from MATH 206 [and here I was thinking my year had already moved on ahead of me], Richard from MATH 312, Michael [?] from Memphis [!] and that serious guy from most of my ECON courses to date. There are probably other familiar faces somewhere in the throng, too. I hadn't expected to know anybody at all.

Finally, and most alarmingly, the assessment. Last year there was compulsory oral assessment and group work. This year... there isn't. It's just gone. I'd psyched myself up so much for this aspect of the course that I'm quite disappointed, especially about the oral assessment. The group work will, I expect, quickly be replaced by an informal collaboration with some subset of the people named above.

Quote of the lecture: "The problem with string theory is that there's absolutely no reason to believe it." Yes indeed. And naturally, it's vital to discuss this in the first lecture of any mathematics course, right?

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