Sunday, October 08, 2006

First Few Days of Classes

The first few days of classes have come and gone, and I've learned a bunch. None of it was about math, but still...

First off, I never knew how tired one can get just from sitting still and being incredibly bored. On Thursday I went to four classes (Differential Geometry, Topics in Group Theory, Computer Aided Geometric Design, and Ramsey Theory). None of these was difficult or covered anything that I didn't already know, and none of the lectures was particularly good (the Ramsey Theory one wasn't bad, but it was slow and material that I already knew). Afterwards, however, I was incredibly tired and sleepy, and went home and did nothing all evening. It was surprising... I'd never before been so pooped just from sitting and being bored (and thinking about other things). (And before anyone asks, no I did not knit. I didn't have a chance to ask the professors beforehand, and I wanted to take notes. I should have, though; I would probably have been less bored.)

Secondly, I learned that the Cambridge math department has no logical system for (a) locking/unlocking doors to buildings and (b) room numbering. Some of the buildings have locked doors, others have unlocked doors, and they are all connected on the basement level... so it's unclear what the point is. In addition, they have a bunch of "meeting rooms" (which are the classrooms), but no system to the numbering. Rooms 2,3,5 and 13 are all close to one another, but room 9 requires going to another building. Not that any of the walks were that long, it was just difficult to find where you were supposed to be.

Thirdly I learned that even though the math department doesn't seem to want to change the policy of having class on Saturdays most professors don't want to go to class on Saturdays any more than the students do. Of the four classes I went to on Thursday, two simply had no Saturday lectures, one changed the Saturday lecture to Friday afternoon, and the third I'm skipping (it gives out typed notes). What's the point of theoretically having class on Saturdays if everyone just tries to get out of it?

On Friday I went to four more classes: Category Theory, Root Numbers, Algebraic Topology, and Lie Algebras and Their Representations. I'm not going to continue taking Root Numbers, as it assumes a lot more number theory background than I have. The Lie Algebras lecture was good and interesting, and the professor seemed cool. The algebraic topology lecture was also amusing: the professor speed-talked through the entire hour, and his handwriting was almost illegible. He almost reminded me of Elkies, although without the lisp and without the desire to show off. I'm mostly going to the class for fun, as there's no other class in the time slot that I want to go to. (By the way, the scheduling of classes here is hte stupidest thing I've seen in a long time. There are about one and a half times as many classes offered next term as there are this term, which means that I already have three class conflicts that I know about and I haven't even really looked at what's offered. Silly department.)

When I went to class I was worried that all of the lecturers here would be like Kronheimer, and lecture so fast that I'd be panting to keep up even if I already know the material. But it turned out that most of the lecturers go at about the pace of a Harvard class (and not even a graduate class; more about the level of an advanced undergraduate class), at least for the first few lectures. They're supposed to get harder as the term goes on, and I'm really hoping that this will happen as right now I'm just INCREDIBLY bored. And still amazed at how tired I can get just from being bored.

A final note about phones: I'm trying to get the land line in my room working, but it doesn't seem to be going up (although the company claims that it is...). I'll post here when I have the number (not the number itself, but that it's up and running and I have a number).


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