Arcadian Functor

occasional meanderings in physics' brave new world

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Marni D. Sheppeard

Friday, April 02, 2010

Meanwhile II

So I've found a suitable proof reader for my book, am busy hunting down literary agents, and am making progress with exciting, although naturally temporary, alternative career options. Now if, and it is a big if, any of these avenues should land me in the UK again, where should I spend some time? Hmm. I wonder what Cambridge is like ...


Blogger nige said...

"Whether good mathematicians, when they die, go to Cambridge, I do not know. But it is well known that a large number of men go there when they are young for the purpose of being converted into senior wranglers and Smith's prizemen. Now at Cambridge, or somewhere else, there is a golden or brazen idol called the Principle of Least Action. Its exact locality is kept secret, but numerous copies have been made and distributed amongst the mathematical tutors and lecturers at Cambridge, who make the young men fall down and worship the idol."

- Oliver Heaviside, "The Principle of Least Action; Lagrange's Equations", Nature, v. 67, 1903, pp. 297-298.

Cambridge plenty of pubs, cafes, second-hand bookshops, etc., but too much traffic. When I was in Cambridge, I had my rear bumper shunted - in an almost a statinary traffic jam - by a day dreaming academic brunette. So you should either get comprehensive insurance or walk. Academically it's the most elitist place in the country, worse than Oxford. You needed about four grade "A" A-levels to even dream of getting a place there (even back in the 80s where there was no coursework assessment just exam slogs).

But you might find it just your cup of tea! Hope you head is big enough to impress them. :-)

April 02, 2010 10:17 PM  
Anonymous Tony Smith said...

Nige, I have not been to Cambridge since around 20 years ago, back when DAMTP was on Silver Street near FitzBillies (home of the world's best apple puffs).
What is the new DAMTP like?
What is now in the old Silver Street location?

Tony Smith

April 03, 2010 5:57 AM  
Blogger Kea said...

Hi Nigel. That sounds a lot like Oxford. Personally, I can't stand the crowds, but I'm not bothered by the high entrance grades. That's the way it should be. I walk everywhere anyway.

April 03, 2010 9:18 AM  
Blogger nige said...

Hi Tony,

I wasn't studying, just working on a programming project, and have not visited DAMTP.

"... I'm not bothered by the high entrance grades. That's the way it should be." - Dr Sheppeard

Granted you need competent researchers. However, extremely high grades indicate groupthink. You can easily end up with students who think alike, who have the same beliefs and methodology inherited from the same exams, the same textbooks, etc.

This is ideal for theology courses leading to the sisterhood, but not so good where a real diversity of ideas is needed in a subject currently dominated by few ideas. I'm not saying lower grades indicate dedication, because they could just indicate a carelessness or partying. But spending time on radical innovations doesn't always pay back as top grades in groupthink exams. To make my point clear, see Maxwell's preface to A Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism where he says he ignored all the mathematical works on electricity and magnetism until he had studied Faraday's experiments. Strong theories historically have been built on facts, which can easily be confused with mathematical models based on facts.

April 09, 2010 10:30 PM  

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