Icosian Reflections

…a tendency to systematize and a keen sense

that we live in a broken world.

[Meta] Name Change

For those of you following along at home, I've re-named this here weblog. I wrote the first few posts under "Turtles and Turtles", which might be a fine title, were I writing about physics. ("Turtles all the way down" is a common metaphor for infinitely recursive layers of increasingly precise physical theories, each model of the universe underlain by a "deeper" physical law.) But I'm not a physicist (nor writing about physics). Depending on the day, my mood, and the transit of Venus, I may be a mathematician, computer scientist, or aspiring rationalist, but in any case, physics is a hobby, not my art.

The new title, "My Faults My Own" is firstly a (not-so-humble) litany for humility, and secondly a nod to the great popularizer of mathematics Vi Hart (autoplay warning: youtube channel). Her brilliant piece, Doodling in Math Class: Connecting Dots (a lament of the state of twenty-first century mathematical education, masquerading as a lesson in curiosity-driven mathematical exploration, masquerading as a lesson on constructive geometry in the cartesian plane, masquerading as the ramblings of a student bored by an uninspiring high-school math class) concludes with a rallying cry for rationalists, explorers, and doodlers alike:

Here's the thing about connecting dots. You can have all the steps laid out for you, taking whatever next step is easiest and closest and be sure of what you're getting the whole time. This way is safe and comfortable.

Or, you can try new ways of connecting dots and not know what you're going to get. Maybe it will be something great, maybe it will fail. And when it fails it will be your fault. You can't blame anyone else, not mathematics or the system or the check-boxes.

But if I am to have faults, I would rather they be my own.

From the first time I heard it, this little speech struck a chord with me. In fact, I like it so much that I've assigned Connecting Dots (as well as What was up with Pythagoras?) as pre-seminar reading for the three-day seminar in abstract math I'll be teaching in Beijing, China next week. "What?" my readers cry. Later, dear readers. I promise I'll start talking about China, teaching math, and teaching math in China soon.