Thursday, 29 October 2015

Old Fashioned Teaching

I noted in a previous post how I am somewhat 'old fashioned' when it comes to academic matters. That reminded me how, on various occasions, I have pointed out at my university department's staff meetings, when I did a course in education, one of the first things my cohort was told was that we were there to teach, NOT to be liked. Sometimes it takes a lot of effort on the part of the student to learn. It takes sweat certainly; tears sometimes (although, ideally no blood)*. That, I have been told is a thing of the past. It is now important that the students are kept happy. (This is because it is important to get a good score on the National Student Survey.)

Unfortunately, there are different types of happiness. There are students who are only happy if their teaching is thorough and challenging. They want it to require of them an effort. (As you can guess, these are my kind of students.) There are, however, students who want it all to be quite straightforward and set out for them in easy, non-taxing steps. (If not, woe betide, the lecturer.) I am not aware of any survey that makes a distinction between these different types of happiness - or student. If they did, institutions that deliberately cater for the latter would be seen as rather suspect. They would not be seen as at present, as successfully fulfilling students needs.

* That said, I do remember having to have blood samples taken in certain laboratory sessions. (Other fluid samples were also provided by other students.)

Friday, 23 October 2015

Hilbert's Space-filling Curve

Devised by the mathematician David Hilbert (1862-1943) in 1891, the following is a quite simple idea but a lot less simple to explain (but I'll give it a try).

Take a square, divide it in four and connect the centres of each of these squares without the connecting lines crossing. (There is only one possible pattern that can be generated when doing this.) Divide each of the previous four squares into four and repeat the connection of the centres, as before, this time modifying the previous pattern to include these new connections in the process. Repeat ad infinitum.

The following diagram is perhaps more explanatory.

(From Wikipedia: Hilbert Curve where the process is also animated.)

The process is also possible in three dimensions. Here is a screenshot from Hideyuki Hotta's web page at the University of Tokyo, where an animated 3D Hilbert space-filling curve can be seen. (Of course, mathematically, one does not have to stop at just three dimensions.)

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Epictetus - 7

From: The Golden Sayings of Epictetus (translated by Hastings Crossley) - from Project Gutenberg.

—"O! when shall I see Athens and its Acropolis again?"—Miserable man! art thou not contented with the daily sights that meet thine eyes? canst thou behold aught greater or nobler than the Sun, Moon, and Stars; than the outspread Earth and Sea? If indeed thou apprehendest Him who administers the universe, if thou bearest Him about within thee, canst thou still hanker after mere fragments of stone and fine rock? When thou art about to bid farewell to the Sun and Moon itself, wilt thou sit down and cry like a child? Why, what didst thou hear, what didst thou learn? why didst thou write thyself down a philosopher, when thou mightest have written what was the fact, namely, "I have made one or two Compendiums, I have read some works of Chrysippus, and I have not even touched the hem of Philosophy's robe!"

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Barcode - 21

This is a Royal Mail 4-state Barcode:

Monday, 5 October 2015

Academic Language

There is, I was not entirely surprised to find, a word 'academese'*. (Even though the spell-checker has just put a wavy red line under it.) Across the web, there are numerous humorous digs at the way academics speak - not least this one at the PhD Comics website.

I recently experienced something much more subtle. I hear a speaker - a historian - whose talk I was attending, refer to what he was currently 'working on'. I don't doubt his scholarship - his talk was most interesting and informative - but as a scholar, I would have preferred that he told us what he was currently 'studying'. I am, I believe, not being as pedantic as it may appear. There is a significant pressure on academics to produce and show that they have been working. Hence, many slip into 'working on' rather than the 'studying' way of speaking. I find this a pity but as I am often reminded, I am rather old fashioned.

* Not to be confused with 'academise', which, despite having a meaning originating from the Nineteenth century, is coming to be used of the process of turning a publicly run British state school into a privately run academy (so-called).