12 thoughts on “About The Blog Thing

  1. Deb S

    Can we convince you to change your mind? Go blog go! I have no idea how my family members came upon your writing but I’m glad they forwarded me your website/thesis and I’m eager for more. I’m not a mathematician. I am a feminist and anti-racist. Hope you’ll write more!

    1. Piper Post author

      ….maybe…. i just don’t know how much i have to say. my experience in academia is limited to graduate school, many memories of which have been shoved aside to make room for parenting memories, and my husband’s experiences on the job market. and while i certainly have things to say about his experience, he’s not a woman or a POC.

  2. Neil

    I found your blog because your thesis got shared on Facebook. As someone who identifies as mathsy, I found it witty and refreshing!

    So as someone who is on something like the middle rung of the abstraction ladder — I can still relate some of my work to physical things, but only via a theory of physics that no-one on the street will understand, and other of my work involves taking things which I can sort of describe in lay terms but asking questions about them which I can’t — I worry about how inaccessible so much of math and science is, including my own stuff. I started out in math thinking it was a path to Ultimate Truth; now I don’t believe an accessible Ultimate Truth even exists, but I stayed in math (well, math-flavoured computer science) for much the same reason people write (non slashy) fanfic. All of that flags me as weird, weird, weird as far as society goes: my interests, my priorities have never been theirs, even if I was encouraged and even willingly and enthusiastically funneled into this career. And even *I* find the jargon and the uneven questioning of motivation galling (not to mention the passive-aggressive politics; and that’s my experience as a white guy).

    Modern math and science seems to do *some* useful things, and I have hopes that my personal work will actually build up to something that will actually mean something to someone in an undergrad course at least, but the game is obviously rigged in favour of unapologetically unexplained frippery. How much of math is total bullshit — not just because it won’t actually come to anything, but because it couldn’t? Because it is an abstract game with several obfuscating levels of supermarionation, and in the end applies to the behaviour of people who aren’t real anyway? How much of math *could* come to something if it were stripped of the layers of jargon, or if the ideas were at least consistently explained with some intuition as to their possible meaning? (Telling which is which is tricky of course, but we can make guesses. A refusal to try to explain, would be a good first hint.)

    Anyway, you know all of that. I wanted to vent because it’s part of my thinking process when it comes to things like this, and I imagined that you’re a sympathetic ear. Nicely done with the thesis! Hope the kids are well. (The comics being an incidental feature of the thesis has a bit of an ironic taste to it, given the relative importance of things.) In a fantasy universe in which time and energy were unlimited, you’d be a great expositor of mathematics. Maybe that’s also true in this universe; but as for reality, I wish you well!

    1. Katherine

      @Neil @Piper — Yes! Thank you!
      “So as someone who is on something like the middle rung of the abstraction ladder β€” I can still relate some of my work to physical things, but only via a theory of physics that no-one on the street will understand, and other of my work involves taking things which I can sort of describe in lay terms but asking questions about them which I can’t β€” I worry about how inaccessible so much of math and science is, including my own stuff. ”

      Neil, what would be an example of a question you would be working with that can’t be described in lay terms?

      Reason I ask: for a design project, I have been looking for ordinary-world metaphors or analogies for a collection of mathematical quantities and expressions–e, Euler’s number, is one–but having trouble finding compelling things. How would I draw a picture of e as the “basic unit of growth,” for example, in the way I can draw a picture of a baby’s rattle (circular, bisected by plastic frame, etc.) to show pi as the ratio between circumference and diameter.

      (I say ordinary-world but it could be fantasy-world, just something that can be visualized/depicted.)

    2. Nick

      I always wonder how the people here manage to encounter obfuscating behaviour in math? Of course some things are just hard and when you read a research paper some concepts might not be explained from the bottom up, but the reason for this is because that would be totally infeasible and not because of a malintention of the author. Maybe it’s because I’m doing pure math?

      1. Piper Post author

        if you wanna make things better, you have to look at the impact on those without power, not the intentions of those with power. i’m in pure math; i think things could be better.

    3. Ursula

      I would like to point out that one can write both mathematics and slashy fanfic on the principle that it would be hilarious to combine X and Y.

  3. Piper Post author

    I just found out there were comments waiting in comments limbo which I didn’t even know existed. Hello comments!

  4. Marcos

    As a recent escapee, I really, really appreciate what you did with your thesis. It was an inspirational read, and it is a great comfort to know that my graduate school experience was not a unique hell. Congratulations on your achievements, and thank you for being so honest.

    1. Piper Post author

      haha thanks! this would make a wonderful thank you card/meme. “It is a great comfort to know that my experience was not a unique hell.”

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