# studying

Csaba Henk tphhec01 at degas.ceu.hu
Mon Feb 17 18:12:45 PST 2003

```On Mon, 17 Feb 2003, Miguel Bazdresch wrote:

> - If you feel frustrated about doing pure abstraction, get out of it!

That's what I intend to do.

> - There are good uses for even the more abstract math. The problem is,
>   you don't know beforehand if your results are ever going to be useful
> or not. I had a professor in college, math PhD, the type that was
> absolutely abstract and proud of it. Think Hilbert. Well, once the
> director of the grad school where I was doing my MS needed a math prof
> and I put them in touch. When this guy was exposed to the multitude of
> problems that the researchers were working on, he became fascinated and
> eventually became more practical. He won't touch a soldering iron, but
> now he's working on formal verification, which is abstract and tough but
> useful in a practical, immediate sense.

A positive example.

>
> >  E.g., do you know what is conditional exceptable value in probability
> > theory? I don't mean the elementary concept of conditional exceptable
> > value of event A wrt. event B (E(A|B)), but the highly complex concept of
> > conditional exceptable value of the random variable X wrt. the random
> > variable Y (E(X|Y)), or still more purely, wrt. the sigma algebra S
> > (E(X|S)). Or do you know what a martingal is? I had to learn these notions
> > without any hindsight given.
>
> You'd be surprised but I do know them;

Why would I be surprised? I can imagine you're a clever guy :-)

> I'm doing a PhD in
> Telecommunications and believe me, there's no way to understand telecom
> systems without them.

I know this. I wrote in my previous mail the I know that these are useful.
I just do not see the reality to which these correspond. The problem is
with my education or maybe with Hungarian mathematical culture or maybe
with today's mathematical culture. (Don't know which one.)

> What is sad is that no one could explain to you
> that these concepts are useful, and give examples.

Or would you say that the problem roots in the nature of these notions?
Concerning those abstract notions for which I managed to find their base
intuition, I think they could be teached in a setup which tells about
their origin.

> You might like to know that if the sphere-packing problem was solved,
> then we telecom people could design the best error-correcting codes
> possible. There's a problem you might want to tackle for your postdoc :)

Could you tell it in more details? I had one idea what kind of
sphere-packing problem you are speaking of, but then I found a paper on
the net which said that that one is solved ("Kepler's Sphere Packing
Problem Solved", http://www.maa.org/devlin/devlin_9_98.html). And how does
it relate to error-correcting codes?

> Oh, you don't need to worry about me. I have my feet firmly planted in
> the earth, and the soldering iron scars to prove it :)

I doubt I could have express it more fancily :)

Csaba

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