Wednesday, April 17, 2013

First post

"What one fool can do, another can"

That is the prefatory quote to Calculus Made Easy, published in 1910 by Silvanus P. Thompson. I bought this book in reprint when I was 15, and learned a little calculus from it. It's all one-dimensional, and isn't very careful in its treatment of limits and continuity, but gets the main points across very clearly.  As my chemistry teacher, Mr. Roberts said, when he saw me carrying the book, it's all about rates of change. That should be the entire first chapter of every calculus book: Calculus is about rates of change.

Thompson attributes the quote to an "ancient Simian proverb,"  then begins his prologue with the following: "Considering how many fools can calculate, it is surprising that it should be thought either a di fficult or a tedious task for any other fool to learn how to master the same tricks." He then refers to himself as "a particularly stupid fellow."  Being a particularly stupid fellow myself, I googled Simia to see whether it was some Mediterranean island, but no, I think he's talking about simians as in apes and monkeys.  

Less than three weeks left in Ohio. As another fool said, you must "love that well, which thou must leave ere long." I've been thinking about the flat, bland cheerfulness of the Midwestern part of Ohio and how it is characteristic of the Midwest and no place else. It's OK to make conversation with strangers in the Midwest.  It's OK to avoid controversy. Just about anywhere else, that would mark you as a salesman, or a dimwit, or both.

Of course, the boundary between the East and the Midwest is the Cuyahoga River, and I spent my first 18 years east of the Cuyahoga, so I do not think upstate New York is going to be any kind of a cultural shock. But I've been surprised before!

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