20 Feb, 8 tweets, 2 min read
I really enjoy going further and further back "to scratch" like with the tiramisu... for me it's a lot like trying to go back to first principles in math, which is why I'm a category theorist.
I think to go back further "to scratch" with tiramisu I'd have to make my own brandy, raise my own cows and chickens... and also grind my own cocoa from beans, maybe grow wheat and coffee... I'm not going to do that. I think it's like the fact that I'm not a set theorist!!!
I did once try making chocolate from beans. It was...gritty. Now I make it from raw cacao butter and powder. That's as from-scratch as I'm going with chocolate.
And before someone else quotes it at me, yes, there's that Carl Sagan quote "If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch you must first invent the universe".
There are people who ask me why I make something when I can buy it. I think it's like why we learn how to prove things in math even if someone else has already done it so we know it's true and/or we can use a calculator, google, etc.
I've had many first year calculus students who've done AP and can differentiate way more things than me, who get frustrated that we go back and prove things like 0x=x, and that the derivative of the constant function is 0...
Anyway, I like making things "from scratch", and I like proving things "from scratch" and I also recognise that what counts as "from scratch" is not very absolute.
For example, I like knowing how to construct the natural numbers "from scratch" as sets, but I'm not going to use it to do anything!! No thanks. I'm also glad I tried making chocolate from beans one time.

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# More from @DrEugeniaCheng

22 Feb
I am musing about why students tell me they don't know something (eg on the homework) rather than looking it up on The Internet. Have we somehow given them the impression that googling something is "cheating"? When in fact it is now an important life skill, in my opinion.
I wonder if education spends too long telling them Wikipedia doesn't count as a source, without also explaining to them that it's a perfectly good way of starting to find things out as long as you read it sensibly, and it's better than not even trying to find out.
I mean, maybe they think that pasting the homework question into google is cheating. But I carefully write homework questions so that pasting it into google will help them with background information but won't actually just tell them the answer.
19 Feb
I'm doing that thing where I was just improving one line of my proof and that turned into an entire paper. And then I was fixing one line of that proof, and that turned into an entire paper. And again. I'm currently in about the 6th nesting of something I started in 2013.
Along the way, this morning I also had my sort of annual "Ooh I think I've solved that thing I've been trying to solve since 2006" - but yet again, I haven't. But I get closer each time, so I'm optimistic that I might get there in 20 or 30 years if I'm still around and lucid!
The thing I proved today might turn out to be one of those things that everyone knows and nobody bothered writing down (because everyone knows it). Which is really problematic, because then a) you can't cite anything, but b) you can't publish it because everyone already knows it.
18 Feb
PSA: the tiramisu with my home-made mascarpone was totally bizarre. The mascarpone was extremely solid when I took it out of the fridge. When I beat it into the egg yolks it went completely runny, and just tasted of lemon, so I thought it was going to be terrible. But...
I compiled it anyway (little mini ones) and they completely firmed up again in the fridge, and taste...decent. The mascarpone is just a bit grainy. On reflection, I suspect this is because I used previously frozen cream.
I considered putting it through the cream machine after heating it and before adding the lemon, to make sure the fat and why was properly, er, back together. But I decided that the heating and lemon processes would override that.
26 Oct 20
OK funny story related to my previous thread. It starts not-so-funny though: I was thinking about when I used to hang around in bars (when I was "young", and when there was no pandemic). Men very often tried to buy me drinks. I almost always declined.
Partly this is because I have a very low alcohol tolerance and prefer to keep my mental faculties. Partly it's because I will not accept a drink unless I have watched it being poured, straight out of a bottle. Partly it's in order not to give the wrong idea.
They almost always continued to insist. I continued to decline. Unfortunately I saw many women give in after a few rounds of the guy insisting, so of course this contributes to them thinking we don't mean it.
26 Oct 20
I've been thinking about how this business of unsolicited advice is part of the same culture of consent (or lack of it) that results in widespread sexual harassment.
First, that we (often women) can ask people (often men) specifically not to do something and they still do it. Somehow they think that we don't mean it, or that they know better than us, or that we're going to love it anyway, despite ourselves.
Also, that when we say we don't want something they often feel they are owed an explanation of why we don't want it, and if they are unconvinced by our explanation then they can still do the thing we asked them not to do.
25 Oct 20
Well that calculation got out of hand.

No advice, thanks. I'm just posting this pic for interest and a glimpse into what my research looks like.
It's sort of aggravating that I always have to specify "no advice". But some people (usually male) will always try to give me "advice" otherwise, and indeed they often still try even when I do say it. Even about my research!
Nobody could give me useful advice about my research from looking at this picture. Even for researchers in my field, I'd probably have to talk to them about it for at least an hour to get them to a place where they could offer any useful thoughts. Possibly longer.