Happenings – 2011 July 23

It’s been a distracting week, and I’m having trouble focusing on mathematics.

Last night, for example, I reread most of “Breaking the Maya Code”, by Michael D. Coe, a professor of anthropology at Yale, and curator of anthropology in its Peabody Museum. It describes how people learned to finally read the Maya hieroglyphs; unfortunately, this success was delayed for two generations because the great man in the field believed there was nothing to read, and his condemnations of people who disagreed with him were rather slavishly followed. (He believed the hieroglyphs were not related to any spoken language at all, never mind being related to spoken Mayan! Talk about putting a roadblock in the path of progress!)

It’s a good read, a popular book rather than a text.

Speaking of paths, I spent some time last weekend talking to myself about how to start presenting control theory. I may have a workable approach that will satisfy me.

I’ve gotten as far, I think, into the details of the “mechanics of solids” (Pilkey and Pilkey) as I want to go. The last couple of chapters in the book look very much like the ninth chapter, about the twisting of connecting rods. That is, each of the last three chapters deals with a specific question, for which a handful of simple approximate equations is offered. See how it goes in one chapter, pretty much the same kinds of calculations in the next two chapters.

So, I’ve now gone through major parts of two books (group theory, and mechanics of solids) without writing up a single thing based on them. The next book on my list is probably matrix groups, and the one after that will be circuit theory. I think.

And of course I need to start writing up some of this stuff.

There was an interesting regression example – I’m sure it was homework, now that I’ve done it – in the sci.stat.math newsgroup. The subject was “Equation of line fitting data”. I came up with a different solution than the best one posted, but I haven’t taken the time compare them to see if I think mine is better. It’s just an x-y curve fit, and some of you might enjoy playing with it.

Earthquakes? My prediction of four in July, of magnitude 6 or greater, was met some time ago; four was a conservative forecast. There have been four more since last Friday (Japan, the Solomon islands, Kyrgyzstan, and the Alaska Peninsula). I think that brings the total to 9 so far this month.

Okay, let me get started with math.

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