Friday, October 17, 2014

So you think you can do math?

My eleven-year-old son, Sam, has been working on a school project, and I decided he should be my guest blogger today because I think the end result turned out so well.  He had to research and write about a mathematician, and what he came up with was so funny and creative.  I've always loved to write, but I have also always struggled with this sort of assignment.  I can imagine that if it were my project, I would have come up with something quite dull by comparison.  Now, I just wish I had a video of him reading this to his class.  He was disappointed this morning that he didn't have a wig to wear.  Poor kid.  Next time, plan ahead.

My name is Sophie Germain. I was told to read off these questions here, some sort of dumb, talk-show type of thing. First question here... "Who ARE you?" I was born on April 1, 1776, and I died June 27th, 1831. I'm a female mathematician, physicist, and philosopher. "What did you do in life?" asks another beautiful fan. As a child, despite my parents opposition, I read my father's books from his library and connected with a lot of famous mathematicians such as Lagrange, Legendre, and Gauss. They all had weird names, not sure why exactly. But anyway, when I grew up, I became very interested in the "Elasticity Theory." This theory basically means if I were to bend the new iPhone 6 into a complete right angle, it would return to its original shape, such as a rubber band. This applied to any solid object, not just these new-fangled cell-phones. I became one of the earliest pioneers of this "Elasticity Theory", and ended up winning the grand prize from the Paris Acadamy of Sciences for my essay on the subject. My mommy was definitely proud.

Speaking of my mother, she would like to ask, "What else did you do in your lifetime, other then sit around?" She also says she hasn't forgotten about my room I never cleaned up. Anyway, I worked a lot on "Fermat's Last Theorem, and due to my general awesomeness, I provided a foundation for mathematicians to explore this subject for centuries after. Because I'm a woman, I was unable to make a career out of mathematics, but I worked independently throughout my life. In recognition of my contribution to mathmatics, an honorary degree was granted upon me six years after my death. The Academy of Sciences established "The Sophie Germain Prize" in my honor, not to mention a street and a girl's school were named after me. Bet you can't say that about you, huh?
"What about your teen years?" another devoted fan asks me. When I was thirteen, the French Revolution happened. With my small thirteen-year-old brain, I thought someone had stolen a baguette or something, and now everyone was mad. But it was different, and the revolutionary atmosphere forced me to stay inside, which is why I am so pale today! For entertainment, I immediately went to my father's library, but remember, there was no "Captain Underpants" for me. Instead, I found the book J. E. Montucla's L'Histoire des Mathématiques, and his story of the death of Archimedes intrigued me. "What happened then?", you may ask. I figured if geometry could fascinate Archimedes so much, it was a subject to study for me. I read every book in my father's library about mathematics. I taught myself Latin and Greek just so I could read some books in that language.
"What did your parents think of all this?" asks a snobby man who clearly dislikes me. My parents did not approve of this at all. They thought it was horrible I was into mathematics, which was apparently "inappropriate for a woman." When the nights came, I was denied warm clothes and a fire for my bedroom, but that didn't stop me. I studied much, and for a period of time, even my own mother was secretly helping me. Thanks Mommy!
And finally, the last question, "What was your correspondence with Legendre and Gauss?" I became interested in the number theory in 1789, when Legendre published his "Essay on the Theory of Numbers." After studying his work, I responded to him on the theory, and later we showed a love for "Elasticity Theory." He even called my work "Very ingenious." I'm so cool!
Thats all for today folks! I'm going to go make a sandwich then go to sleep. Goodbye everyone! See you next week on, "So you think you can do math?"

Friday, October 10, 2014

Love your neighbor

Loving your neighbor can be difficult when you're talking about the ones who annoy you, the ones who frighten you, the ones who don't love you.  But sometimes, you get lucky, and it's really easy, and at those times, you really ought to stop and just be grateful.
I started thinking along these lines for a couple of reasons: 1) When I go running, I almost always just run around my own neighborhood, and 2) I'm a pretty quiet and reserved person until I get to know you.
So, I started thinking about these two things because they are related.  I stay in my neighborhood when I run for practical and personal reasons:
1.  It keeps me close to home:  This is important to me because sometimes my husband is not at home, and I can leave my teenager in charge while I get my miles in, knowing that if the kiddos need me, I can be home in just a couple of minutes.  Also, those same kiddos, while lovely, did a number on my bladder (future blog: there is nothing natural about child birth), so I like knowing I'm close to home if the ol' bladder can't make it through the entire run I've planned!
2.  It's familiar:  I am not now nor have I ever been an adventurous person.  I'm good with running the same path most of the time.  And I like that I know exactly what constitutes one mile, two miles, three miles, etc., in my neighborhood.
3.  It's comforting:  Continuing with my introvert tendencies...I like seeing the same houses, the same dogs, the same people, smelling the same yummy smells from those grilling their dinners.  This does not bore me, it comforts me and reminds me that I am home.
4.  My neighbors rock:  The longer I keep getting out there, the more supportive my neighbors become.  I can't tell you the number of friendly smiles, waves, thumbs up, and atta girls I receive from my wonderful neighbors every day, and it never fails to make my day.  I pretend I have my own personal cheerleaders, and I guess in a way, I actually do!
5.  Even the dogs have mostly gotten used to me by now:  I'm a cat person, and while I appreciate all animals, I'm very respectful of dogs and their space.  I've had a few scares here and there, but I've learned a lot about my canine friends.  When you see them, give them a wide berth, and consider slowing down or walking when you pass them.  Again, my neighbors are equally respectful and always keep their pooches in check.  And now, my doggy neighbors all pretty much know me and realize I'm no threat to them.  So I still get a few barks, but mostly just drooly grins and waggy tails.
So, all of that is to say, thanks, neighbors!  I'm the quiet one in the earbuds, who smiles shyly back at you when you wave at me.  Your introverted running neighbor loves and appreciates you!