Dr Eugenia Cheng --no advice please-- Profile picture
Pure Mathematician+pianist. Aim: to rid the world of math(s) phobia. Author: How to Bake π, Beyond Infinity, The Art of Logic, x+y, Molly and the Math. Mystery.
2 May
I bought one experimental pair of stretchy pants for the summer (three quarter length) and that's it, I might just never wear non-stretchy pants again. (Previously I've only had stretchy long pants. I had stretchy shorter ones but only for home as they look like PJs.)
Well either they've managed to make these new ones not look like PJs, or my standards have changed! Or possibly a little of both.
Non-stretchy pants are doomed not to fit me one way or another, because my waist measurement is about 4 inches bigger when sitting down, so there's no way a non-stretchy pair can fit both standing up and sitting down.
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1 May
I just did more trig than I think I've done in the last 20 years put together, to figure out how to draw a regular five pointed star in PSTricks - like the one with overlapping lines, but without the overlapping lines. I guess this is an advice magnet, lol. No thanks.
It was exceedingly tedious, thoroughly painful, and I felt very sorry for everyone being made to do geometry and trig calculations in school. However I also felt extremely triumphant when I did it. I enjoyed being sure I could do it; I just didn't enjoy doing it.
And somehow when you're a pure mathematician you mostly need to know you can do things, but you don't need to do them.
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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.
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20 Feb
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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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24 Oct 20
That fing where you sit working at your computer in the dark because the sun went down and the light switch is out of reach and you just filmed virtual class *and then* sanch backup audio because the main audio failed and also had to restart twice because the computer crashed...
...so there is *no way* you are getting off the sofa just to turn on the light and yes "sanch" is the past tense of "synch".
Also, while we're on the subject, "hat on" is the past tense of "hit on", and "quat" is the past of "quit".
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8 Jan 19
Some of my organising tips: 1. Leave everything exactly where you last used it. Chances are that's where you'll next use it. Much more efficient than putting it away and getting it out again. Also more memorable so I don't lose things.
2. Leave cupboard doors open. Saves loads of opening and closing time and it also helps you see where things are. 3. Never make your bed; it will just get messed up again in a few hours.
4. Keep your clothes on a chairdrobe instead of a floordrobe. It's easier on your back.
Read 13 tweets
22 Jul 18
I haven't really written about that! Those are deep question. At the start you are a PhD student so your supervisor gives you problems. Then every time you achieve something it opens up new problems. One of the skills is to recognise what might be interesting and fruitful. 1/n
2/n Personally I periodically write lists of things that have occurred to me to think about. Often I'll do an initial investigation to test the waters, and then decide what to think about first. Often it chooses itself for me because I can't stop thinking about it.
When it comes to choosing a strategy: that's often how I pick which question to think about next, because I actually have a strategy in mind. If I have no strategy in mind, just an interesting question, that is quite likely to come to a dead end quickly. 3/n
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7 Mar 18
I dare you to stop using the word "talented". The idea of "talent" perpetuates the myth that there is something you have to be born with in order to be good at something.
It stops people achieving things if they think it's futile because they're not "talented". It invalidates the hard work that people put in to achieve things. It is part of a fixed mindset when it's more productive to think about growth.
It makes an exclusive culture around things like music, maths and possibly everything if we use language that suggests that some people just can and some people just can't.
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