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I am a g**k:
No. 33%
Yes, and I resent a musician condescending to me about math skills. 20%
... even though he has probably studied more math than I have. 6%
... because I am superior to all musicians on principle. 0%
... after all, I know all the words to all the songs in _The Meaning of Life!_ 13%
Yes; and I humbly acknowledge nathan's utter, utter superiority. 26%

Votes: 15

 g**k math is not hard.

 Author:  Topic:  Posted:
Dec 19, 2001
I'm amazed at the numbers of g**ks who insist that they are geniuses because they're "good at math," or good scientists because they study "computer science."

More diaries by nathan
Bartok violin concerto
religion has failed us.
addition to previous diary (sorry)
Why girls are better than boys
tangential point off h.a.'s recent diary
why boys and girls are different
new job!
objectivist club
Another Friday night
some light reading
the opposite sex
hey, alprazolam,
should women?
a new threat
wiccan woes
is Christianity theistically monistic?
give me advice.
Canada rules!
Burma Shave!
do some atheists hate religion?
Now, information technology is a legitimate field of science, although I would call it more a specialized branch of mathematics and management than a discipline of its own. Most people who study "computer science," however, absorb only shreds of the actual mathematical discipline. Most merely learn to program in a few trendy languages.

Those objections aside, one must now turn to g**ks and math. Most engineers and computer scientists have a very shallow understanding of the field of mathematics in general. For instance, number theory is rarely a required subject - g**ks merely take arithmetic's functionality as an assumption! Engineers and CS'ers usually learn some calculus, analysis, linear algebra, and vector calc. Not many study ring theory, topology, or even advanced applied concepts like M-theory. They learn the workaday computational tools of a scientist, perhaps, which is fine for limited purposes; but g**k pretensions to really superior mathematical aptitude are best appreciated as informed by a very impoverished understanding of what sophisticated math really is. They're so impressed they can integrate functions that they don't realize that we're no longer in the XVIIIth century.

Now, g**ks must be g**ks. There has to be a class of specialized peons to operated and design the advanced machinery of our society, and g**ks are an economically efficient way of doing it. Throw them some Doritos and some Star Trek, and they'll happily churn out workmanlike code, then go home (eventually) to amuse themselves with harmless video-game diversions. I think even a little h4x0r terrorism is a cheap price for us to pay.

But, for pity's sake, people, don't start thinking g**ks are exceptional thinkers because of a petty knack for numbers. We really must demand a higher standard than that to allow admission into the pantheon.


I agree (5.00 / 2) (#1)
by bc on Wed Dec 19th, 2001 at 01:38:33 PM PST
I did a maths degree (or started one), and it never ceases to amaze me how the g**ks trumpet their own proficiency at mathematics because they can solve a few simple quadratic equations and do some trig. Damned arrogant peons, is what they are.

Real maths is a very hard and rigourous discipline, where you learn not just the simple, useful processes directly applicable to real world engineering problems (like some basic calculus), but learn to think in a rigourous, mathematical manner, learn to reproduce the main body of mathematical knowledge from the few simple axioms lying beneath, and then fuck with the axioms for fun to see what happens.

As soon as I discovered this, I dropped out of maths and changed over to the Arts double quick.

I hate maths.

♥, bc.

subject (5.00 / 1) (#3)
by derek3000 on Wed Dec 19th, 2001 at 02:09:07 PM PST
What do you think you would have needed to complete the math degree? In other words, what kind of reasoning/mindset do you need? I'm actually pretty good with music. Even after taking a couple years off, I can still play, improvise and write better than ever.

I've heard some mention the connection between mathematics and music, and I'd like to try and use any advantage I can to get my shit together with math. I'm assuming that the entire world looks different through the eyes of someone who knows advanced mathematical concepts.

"Feel me when I bring it!" --Gay Jamie

what do you play? (none / 0) (#5)
by nathan on Wed Dec 19th, 2001 at 02:39:37 PM PST
It's always great to meet a music hobbyist. Just so long as it's not a wretched violist.

All the best,
Li'l Sis: Yo, that's a real grey area. Even by my lax standards.

nice (none / 0) (#7)
by derek3000 on Wed Dec 19th, 2001 at 03:06:00 PM PST
I play guitar, bass, drums and enough keys to be able to 'splain something. I try to be diverse in my tastes. Most people think that this means liking Kid Rock and Limp Bizkit, but I pretty much try to find something good about all music.

I like experimental stuff, like jazz/fusion and post-rock, i also like emo (pu**y rock, I guess). My teacher is and old-head, who teaches jazz. I can also get into ethnic music and some hip-hop. Just about anything that's not fake or preconceived melodrama. I dunno. I'm sure that I left a bunch of stuff out, but I pride myself on listening to a diverse bunch of stuff. God, that's fucking pretentious.

Anyways, hows about you? Maybe we can find some common ground.

"Feel me when I bring it!" --Gay Jamie

common ground (none / 0) (#8)
by nathan on Wed Dec 19th, 2001 at 03:25:46 PM PST
I'm getting a masters' degree in violin. I obviously play "classical music," which is a rather large field. My tastes are a little arcane. I really like Eugene Ysaye's solo sonatas (which are his best pieces.) I like some of Szymanowski, Enescu, everything Janacek ever wrote, and then of course there are the gods of classical music - Beethoven, Bach, Mozart and Haydn. There's also lot of good music from the French Baroque. My favorite composer of that period is Jean-Marie Leclair.

I am just starting to study Indian classical music, and in January I'm going to begin studying Indonesian music (joining a gamelan band.) I also played a gig with an oud player a while ago, and that was a tremendous experience. I'm going to learn some jazz theory this summer, but right now I don't know much.

Music is an evolving field. In particular, the "classical" and "pop" genres are more or less reunified in electroacoustic music these days.

Anything you'd suggest that I listen to?

Li'l Sis: Yo, that's a real grey area. Even by my lax standards.

sure. (none / 0) (#10)
by derek3000 on Wed Dec 19th, 2001 at 04:10:06 PM PST
I don't know too much about classical music, however, Godspeed You Black Emperor! and A Silver Mt. Zion are both bands that use elements of classical music in their works. They can't be considered classical though, because their music is not as structurally complex as that. Also, there is a lot of ambient noise and things like that in between parts.

As far as jazz, I think that Jewish jazz (I'm not kidding) uses violin. If you want to be a better improvisor, I would suggest learning every different voicing of different chords in one key, and then transpose that to other keys. In other words, every inversion of Gmaj, Gmaj7, G7, Gmin, Gmin7, etc. After you know that, it will be easier to find substitution chords (i.e. Bflat 6th for Gmin), and then you can start connecting chords in a progression better. Anyway, that's the idea. Being able to do it when someone puts some strange-ass progression in front of you for the first time is another thing entirely, namely something that I can't do.

I'd be interested to hear what you have to say about Indian music. I've studied it a little bit, and it's a little refreshing having more than 12 notes to play with (although my ear isn't trained enough to tell the subtle differences right now). It's also interesting that the east focuses on melody, while the west focuses more on harmony. It's amazing, at least to me, the difference between "Michael Row the Boat Ashore" and a sitar part played over...what's the name of that accordian-like thing that is played with the feet? It only plays one note and acts as a drone.

Nice talking,

"Feel me when I bring it!" --Gay Jamie

Don't know (none / 0) (#6)
by bc on Wed Dec 19th, 2001 at 02:39:58 PM PST
I'm probably not the best person to ask, I'm not remotely talented at music or maths.

The people I have known who were truly gifted at maths seemed to have an inbuilt intuition for the subject. I suppose they could visualise obtuse equations much better than us mere mortals, and somehow think laterally to arrive at solutions. And they found it fun; for me it was always utter drudgery.

How does this relate to music? I'm damned if I know, unless being good at mathematical problem solving is related to musical talent, which I doubt.

Most of the musical types I know are abysmal at maths :)

I'm assuming that the entire world looks different through the eyes of someone who knows advanced mathematical concepts.

I don't think so, most of the time. Certainly maths will give you another way of looking at the world, but the same is true of any decent field. I wouldn't go letting it interfere with day-to-day thought, though, lest you end up screwed in the head. Philosophy students seem especially prone to this last. :)

♥, bc.

Music and Mathematics (5.00 / 2) (#11)
by T Reginald Gibbons on Wed Dec 19th, 2001 at 05:25:44 PM PST
The marriage of music to mathematics was expressed most fully by the Schoenberg circle in pre-WW2 Germany. It was most fully realised in the person of Anton Webern, Shoenberg's first student, who wrote brief but incredibly effective pieces using Shoenberg's 12 note methods of composition. Webern's compositions were brief and spare, using no more than was needed to express what was intended; composed in a a similar way to an obsessive programmer, trying to express the DeCSS code in as few bytes as possible.

Webern's music represents the culmination of the German dialectic, and it is a strange coincidence that the political consequences of the German mindset were mirrored in the life of Webern himself. In 1944, as the Allied war machine tore down the political edifice of nazism, Webern was shot dead by accident, by an American soldier. A tragic event, symbolic of the destruction of the soul and spirit of Germany, at the hands of invading barbarians.

Yes!! (5.00 / 2) (#2)
by hauntedattics on Wed Dec 19th, 2001 at 01:59:29 PM PST
I would humbly acknowledge your utter superiority, but I'm not a g**k.

Higher math is much more than calculus and linear algebra, and even I, a humble math idiot who never got further than precalc, know that. Now excuse me while I air my feelings on a somewhat related topic.

What really irks me is the way the g**k mindset that numbers rule has permeated the business world. Yes, numbers are important for measuring a company's success, in the form of revenues, profits, etc. But in order to generate those numbers, you have to have something to sell and a vision for how you want to sell it. I wish I had a dollar...hell, I wish I had $100 for every corporate client I meet who wants to formulate company strategy by putting a bunch of numbers into an Excel model and churning some sort of 'result' that will magically point the way to the company's success. (Hint: it doesn't work.)

The love affair with numbers is not limited to the corporate arena; the world of academe is smitten as well, especially in the social sciences. I've seen actual political science studies that purported to 'measure' leadership effectiveness in nations by assigning random scores to various characteristics of world leaders. "Hmm...Mobutu was a strong leader, so he gets a 3.75." In an effort to look more like the hard sciences, the social sciences are attempting to quantify the unquantifiable, and looking incredibly foolish in the process.

Now please give me a nice 5 rating for my post.

As a CS'er... (5.00 / 1) (#4)
by Anonymous Reader on Wed Dec 19th, 2001 at 02:29:16 PM PST
I don't recall doing much of the stuff you mention above. Mostly it's discrete maths, formal languages, and various things to do with the theory of computation (which, embarrassingly, I find totally fascinating).

As for hardness, I find some of it hard. Maybe I'm just thick.

My own emphasis is on the *Science* part. (none / 0) (#9)
by elenchos on Wed Dec 19th, 2001 at 03:50:39 PM PST
To me, Science means the open-minded pursuit of new knowledge. You observe your environment, imagine what it means, and formulate the means to test if you have created a truth. It is about exploration, not about accumulating a bunch of facts that someone else discovered or created. Pirsig in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance makes this point well (prior to the racist epilogue, but nevermind that...). Someone who approaches the repair of their motorcycle with an empty, unprejudiced mind and simply plays with it, experiments, and in a disciplined and honest way records what they learn (not what someone else knows -- what THEY learn) is a Motorcycle Scientist.

And this is what has given me my success as a Computer Scientist. Not because I meet some pedestrian definition of a "real computer scientist" because I happen to have memorized mere facts a, b, and c. Nor because I pretend to be a "programmer", professionally certified or otherwise. And certainly not a Net-Work "Engineer".

No. For me it is all about Science, in it's purest, most noble form. Man and Nature, in a loving expoloration, unfettered by any lodestones of facts to hold him back in his joyous pursuit of HIS OWN new knowledge. This same pure Science is the secret of my incredible sexual technique, by the way, but that too is another discussion.

And don't even get me started on math, or music. I know nothing of such things, or next to nothing. What use is all that to a scientist anyway? I mean a real Scientist, of course...

I do, I do, I do
--Bikini Kill

Probably the best advice I've heard so far... (none / 0) (#12)
by sdem on Wed Dec 19th, 2001 at 07:11:53 PM PST far as choosing a college and college in general is concerned (I'm in highschool) was to become a Math major and get a solid grounding before I went for a graduate's degree in something like Engineering or CS.

Really, most of these g**ks who claim to be computer scientists are really just programmers who went to college to fit as many facts in their head as possible about x trendy language. Hint: that is not what college is all about.

Good advice (none / 0) (#14)
by westgeof on Thu Dec 20th, 2001 at 07:34:48 AM PST
That's the way hirings work at the company I work for. Math and Physics majors are given priority over CS majors. We do a lot of graphics and modeling work, so such things are quite useful. Anyone can be taught to program, it's just a matter of learning how to express something in a clear and readabke pattern using a given set of valid phrases and syntax.

I majored in CS myself, and learned almost nothing in class, except one class where we went over common data structures. (i.e., information I could have got with a good programming book and about 2 hours worth of reading) I also majored in math and physics (I was more interested in physics in theory, but I wanted to work with computers, and I thought I'd need the CS degree for that), which actually challanged me and taught me a lot. (though I still shiver when I hear the phrase Electromagnetism.....)

As a child I wanted to know everything. Now I miss my ignorance.

Math is sexual perversity. (none / 0) (#13)
by tkatchev on Thu Dec 20th, 2001 at 01:52:07 AM PST
I hate mathematics. Math is nothing but a really disgusting, sickening sexual perversity[1]. If you have ever had the acquaintance of mathematicians -- the kind that study hard-core theory, not the kind that solve quadratic equations -- you'd know how true that is.

As for programming -- programming is a craft, not a science. In the non-virtual world, it is closest to poetry. (This is certainly borne out by my own experience[2].)

[1] Can you tell that I have an exam in functional analysis in a few days? What I wouldn't do to not have to study this shit...

[2] Word of warning: I'm a student in a European University, where students are given a more holistic education, rather than the drone-farms prevalent in the U.S. education system.

Peace and much love...


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