Milk production at a dairy farm was low so the farmer wrote to the local university. His plea for help was soon answered by a team of scholars, all paragons in their fields. At the farm, they undertook an intense investigation, and left with their notebooks crammed with data. Shortly thereafter the farmer received the write-up, and opened it to read: “Consider a spherical cow in vacuum. . . “
This is an old joke. It seems contemptuous of academia. However, those that know it, tell it, and preserve it seem to be academics or highly educated. Why is that? In a way, the intention of this blog is to answer that question.
This is a mathematics blog, but my intention is for it to be accessible. Mathematics is a subject of infinite breadth and depth, literally. As such, regardless of your level of technical proficiency, I truly believe there is something in the subject for everybody to marvel at. Furthermore, there are far too many blogs for specialists, whose posts are closed off to laymen by layers of jargon and unfamiliar concepts (believe me, I’ve read them). This blog will be different. You need only have a high-school level of mathematics understanding and an eagerness to know more. I hope that you find reading my posts easy and fun, and that you learn something from them.
If I were to categorize the math I wish to discuss here, I would call it Elementary Math from an Advanced Perspective. This is not the type of stuff one would find in the standard undergraduate math tract; rather it would be more akin to a math elective, or math for non-math-majors. Here one will find elementary concepts looked at in more depth, or from unorthodox perspectives.
Mathematics, as I hope to show in future posts, is a deeply humanistic study, which in its instruction has lost a lot of its humanity. Through discussions of its philosophy, history, and personalities, I hope to imbue it with human warmth and shed light on some of its less frequently articulated charms. This is a task of some ambition, and I’m quite certain one I cannot accomplish fully. However, if something I write places a seed of curiosity in the mind of a reader, I will have succeeded.
Finally, two points of humility and one of frequency: By the very nature of my subject, nothing I write will be the last words on its thesis. Indeed, in mathematics the term “last words” is most often meaningless, and this is wonderful. Secondly, as a student of mathematics, I stand on the shoulders of giants. I will make all effort to credit the geniuses that inspire me. As for frequency, a bimonthly update schedule seems doable to me, though this is of course subject to life’s ebbs and flows. I will strive to make these posts accurate, well researched and readable.
Thus, I christen Spherical Cow.
-Webster Batista-Lin, August 24, 2010
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