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Monday, July 16, 2007

Never a dull moment

Train borkenness led to me being late to today's lecture and having to sit near the back of the room, which was aggravating. However Chris, apparently aware of the very large size of his class, is writing nice and big so it wasn't a problem getting all the notes down.

Among other excitements, the lecture solved one of my big unanswered questions in life: why do we use the prefix "quad" to refer to things which have four wheels, four cores, four sides, four channels, four legs... but two as the highest power of x? In short, why is a quadratic called a quadratic and not, say, a duotic or a bipic?

Answer according to Chris: "quad" refers not to the number four, but to squares. And of course, the x2 term in a quadratic is a square! Many of the aforementioned uses of "quad" actually arise from the link between squares and the number four - not because quad itself means four, as I had thought. As Chris commented while explaining this, "life is full of these petty absurdities". This particular absurdity, at least, is now wonderfully clear to me.

Later in the lecture I had the pleasure of hearing Chris pronounce "Handbuch der Lehre von der Verteilung des Primzahlen" while evangelising the work of Landau. Apparently Landau's German is so clear and simple that it can be read by English speakers in search of mathematical treasures. I doubt that I'll take the time to test this claim, but it was heartening to be told that there's a copy of Handbuch in the library, just in case.

I haven't yet done any more on the assignment, but I have made a time to discuss it with Rebecca. Chris hasn't quite finished lecturing the material necessary for the end of the assignment - not a big concern as the whole thing can be done with second-year maths and some imagination, but it might be throwing some people.

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