Sunday, October 21, 2007


I'm studying for a calculus exam (because), which until the start of this semester is not something I've done for literally a decade. Leaving aside the fact that I can refer to anything as something I "haven't done for a decade," which freaks me out, I have a more immediate problem:

Conceptually, I'm having no problems, which on some level is reassuring. What's troubling is that I keep dropping signs (as in, positive/negative) as I work through the algebra, which inevitably leads to wrong answers, especially after several rounds of differentiation. In my paranoid mind, this repeated missing of signs must be a sign of something bigger in my life. I don't know what to do.

I've got a post in mind relating three recent bicycle exploits of mine which I've been meaning to write for a few days now. Soon as this calc test is over, I'm on it. And if you're wondering, I'm not telling you this, I'm telling me this, as though typing these sentences will keep me on track or something. Unlikely.


Blogger Marco said...

Nah, it's not a sign of anything except that humans are prone to minor mistakes. This is why sign errors are usually marked as -1 points in sane math courses -- because even if you messed up the sign, you can still understand the principle. Is it a multiple choice sort of thing?

Of course, this is also why validation and verification is such an important thing. Nobody wants NASA making any sign errors, for instance.

October 22, 2007 at 2:22 AM  
Blogger JDS said...

Not multiple choice, but very forgivingly scored.

It's funny you should mention NASA: I haven't looked this up yet, but the Prof., going on about how he's bad at remembering to convert units, mentioned that apparently on some recent Mars mission, someone did in fact make the billion dollar mistake of forgetting to convert units somewhere along the line. Now, this sounds like the kinda thing where like 25 people would be checking someone's work, so it's hard to believe it actually happened. But you never know.

October 22, 2007 at 7:06 AM  
Blogger JDS said...

Of course I have to seat myself next to the dude w/ the tic for the exam. Now my heart goes out to the dude with the tic for all of eternity, EXCEPT for the 1 hour during which I'm seated next to him in the exam; the whole time I'm trying to remember derivatives of trig functions, his head is turning in circles and his shoulders are shrugging erratically. Not that it's his fault that I didn't study trig derivatives enough.

October 22, 2007 at 9:17 AM  

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