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Archive for the ‘Ring Theory’ Category

steel and glass

Posted by vlorbik on March 10, 2014

Photo on 2014-03-10 at 11.50

Posted in Lies, Ring Theory | 1 Comment »

use the source luke

Posted by vlorbik on November 15, 2009

the gospel i preach: simple things first.

basic arithmetic, for example, turns out
to possess a bottomless depth… and will
reveal new secrets to any investigator
that can bring it new eyes.

the easiest way to get new eyes is of course
to find a student.

or rather to have students
provided for you as i did at indiana u,
ohio dominican, columbus state cc, ohio state u,
and capital u at various times. finding students
outside ivory tower walls is a new challenge for me.
i’m recruiting. and at reasonable rates too but so far
i haven’t really got anything you could dignify with
the name of “a plan”. or for that matter any students.

but the easiest way to find the depth
is to lend one’s own eyes to old texts.
and start simple.

better to understand arithmetic,
for example, one could and should
investigate (as soon as possible)
modular arithmetic.
the most familiar example
(“clock arithmetic”) uses the
hour-numbers marked on a clockface.
replacing “12” with “0” gives
the commonest mathclass
representation of “the integers
mod 12”:
i’ve “primed” the numerals
representing the elements
of Z_12 (the set of integers-mod-12)
here to emphasize a point…
namely that they are *not*
integers. 3’+5′ = 8′ all right
like anybody would expect but
we also have… what would just
look *horribly wrong* without
the “primes” 8’+7′ = 3′
(because starting at eight
o’clock and waiting seven hours
takes us to three o’clock…
we “throw out multiples of
twelve” to do arithmetic mod 12.)
it turns out you can multiply too.
very important this. turns out if
you use a *prime* number in place
of twelve you get something called
a finite field. manymany
very simple examples to be found
of phenomena whose depth remains
unsounded. the ever-growing subject
of “crypto” more or less *begins*
with the study of these fields
from what i’ve been given to understand.

but that’s not the subject of today’s ramble.
which is counting permutations. and starting simple.

there’s one permututation of one thing.
that’s it.

there are two permutations of two things.
pretty simple still.
and uninstructive.

things get much more interesting
when three things are considered.

this is the key example in understanding
what goes on. but the key *exercise*
is “write out the permuations of
the elements of {W, X, Y, Z}”.
(one will have been given a solution to
“write out the permutations of
the elements of {A, B, C, D}”
already in the body of the text.)

how does it work? well.

the “reason” that the
six permutations of
the elements of the set
{A, B, C} are six
is that 6 = 3*2*1.
(where “star” denotes “times”:
5*3 =15 etcetera).
the point here being that we can
imagine writing our letters
one-at-a-time into three “spots”
“_ _ _”
with *three* choices for the first letter
and *two* (we are, thus far implicitly,
but now by explicit decree, not allowing
ourselves to repeat letters [and moreover
each letter *must* be used]) choices
for the next. finally, there’s one letter
left… our only “choice”. the “3” (A, B, or C),
the “2” (don’t reuse the one you picked!)
and the “1” (whatever’s “left over”)
in 6 =3*2*1 are now all accounted for.

the same reasoning tells us than in the case of four letters
one will have 4*3*2*1 = 24 possible permutations.

one-fourth *of* ’em will start with “A”;
one-fourth with “B”; so on. six each.
so one might write down


first. (the underlines denote
*blank space*… the very model
of “harder than it looks” in my book).

then “go down the A’s column”.
there are six entries…
and B, C, and D
(the “unused” letters so far)…
will each have the same chance
of appearing next: twice each
as it turns out. so fill in two B’s,
two C’s, and two D’s.


likewise for the B’s…
“go down” the column
distributing “missing letters”
(in this case A, C, and D).
and the C’s… finally the D’s.

we’re now at

finally go down each column one more time.
there are two of each “string” so far.
in the first, AB, add the remaining letters
first in their “natural” order (ABCD)
then in the opposite order (ABDC).
continue with this pattern:
two missing letters in each case,
first in the natural then in the opposite
order. go through the whole list.
voila. all twentyfour permutations
of four things. in alphabetic order
no less.

i’ve taught this procedure to dozens.
one-at-a-time, too. somehow seeing me
do it in class doesn’t do a thing *for* ’em
sometimes. the student has to move the pencil
(and wants an expert standing by
to bail out at the first sign of trouble).

sure it’s tedious. but it’s just incredibly necessary.
you can’t do *anything* with certain sections of
very common textbooks until students can rattle off
lists like this.

one way or another. certainly there’s no need
to learn *my* algorithm if you’ve got one
of your own that works. i’d love to have you show me.
better if you show the whole class.

there is nothing for “knowing what you’re talking about”
quite like “being able to write it down”.

Posted in Notations, Permutations, Ring Theory | 4 Comments »

this will all make sense later

Posted by vlorbik on August 20, 2009

whenever you’re teaching, say,
“intermediate algebra” and talking about,
say, adding fractions… whatever,
sooner or later somebody will say
“my *old* teacher showed me…[this]”,
where [this] is, typically a sketch of,
some very-likely-flat-out-wrong or
in-any-case-insufficiently-general or
other way to go.

and we’ve got, as it were, a new
stumbling block. because, although
it’s easy enough to learn to rein in
one’s initial reaction
(“well, first of all i don’t believe you;
*no* math teacher would’ve told you *that*…
but more to the point, so what?
it obviously hasn’t been working out
for you since you’re still being
“remediated”. maybe *this* time
you’ll take it *seriously*”)…
the student isn’t getting “buy-in”.

because this “new” thing that *you’re*
presenting is *felt by the student*
as an *attack* on the “trusted source”
that they remember as having taught them
*something*… something that will have,
at least, made some sense to them at one time.

so they’ve circled their mental wagons
around their wrong idea hoping to keep
your good idea out as some kind of
*act of faith* (in their trusted source).

or so i conjecture.

i was telling essentially this story
one day in the barracks and was overheard.
“i like the way you put things”
said i-forget-who (a near-stranger)
gladdening my heart and giving me
some confidence that here was,
anyway, some blog fodder.

because we teachers need to talk about
issues like this and i’m just the guy
to jump right in and participate
whenever i can. i’ve *always* felt
this way. i’ve *also* felt that
formalizing such discussions,
say under the heading of
pedagogical content knowlege,
is in vain and a grasping for wind.

because why? because there’ll be
*no* “right answer”… anyway no
right answers of the kind we encounter
in, well, say, adding fractions.
where certain very precise claims like
{a\over b} + {c\over d} = {{ad + bc}\over{bd}}
can be displayed as it were
like a “text of our sermon”,
an anchor to insure that our discussion
never drifts off into mere opinion;
a way to get our *feelings about*
the material off to the side
and compare *our* ideas to
what i’ll go ahead and here call
“the truth” or “the fact of the matter”
or something like that.

nope; it’ll always, like in *most*
academic subjects, be about *words*…
and *opinions* about them…
things that flat-out *don’t have*
“literal meanings” in the sense
that equations do. what’s weird
is that we usually like to pretend
that words *can* and even usually *do*
have strict, this-and-only-this
“meanings” in ordinarly conversational speech.

i was kidding around yesterday
with some funny-when-taken-too-literally prose.
typical math-major stuff, really.
people say “always”, for example,
to mean “sometimes”… and are clearly
understood in their context.
this happens all the time (see?).

along comes a math major who thinks
(or pretends to) that “one non-example
refutes any claim to universality”
and expects (or pretends to) that
*displaying* a counterexample will
cause whoever is making the sweeping assertion
to *modify* their claim rather than,
say, reply with, “oh, you’re being
too literal” or some variant.

“acceptance is the answer to all my problems”.
all? really?
you’re just being too literal.
well, maybe *you’re* not being literal *enough*.

we keep wanting to be able to say things that
are *true*, as it were universally, and moreover
we keep wanting these things to be *believed*.
but because we’re working with ill-defined concepts
(not mathematical symbols), this is,
strictly speaking, impossible.

there’s *always* (okay, i don’t mean this)
some man-behind-the-curtain “hidden assumptions”
preventing us from settling arguments
in, say, religion and politics:
we *say* we’re talking about *school* classes,
for example, when maybe we’re “really”
talking about *social* classes
(but are prevented by blindspots and taboos
[in this case, by generations of redbaiting]).

math-heads keep noticing this; it annoys the others.

oh, and we saw _revolutionary_road_ a little bit ago.
good picture. but did the cinema really need another
madman mathmajor? couldn’t he have just been a philospher
or something? geez.

Posted in Movies, Rambles, Ring Theory | 4 Comments »