Monthly Archives: June 2009

List Your Self: Turning Points

I have a book on my shelf that I’ve probably had for close 15 years.  Every once in a while I pull it off the shelf and tell myself that I should read it and try it out.  The book is called “List  Your Self: Listmaking as the way to Self-Discovery”.  The subtitle says that it is “A provocative, Probing and Personal Expedition Into Your Mind, Heart, and Soul”

Seems to me that this is not only great fodder for a blog but also for a social network like facebook.  While many meme’s that go around annoy me to no end, there have been a few that have allowed me to know a little more about my online friends (mostly friends from days gone by).  That has to be one of my favorite things about Facebook and Twitter, getting to reconnect with old friends and keeping up with all my current ones.

So here it goes, List #1

List the Biggest Turning Points in Your Life

  • 1985: In fourth grade, I was recruited to participate in a UIL contest called Number Sense.  This definitely started me down a path toward becoming a mathematician and an educator.
  • 1985: Also the year that I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior.  Life would be totally different without Him.
  • 1994: Summer I traveled to Bakersfield, CA, to work as a summer missionary.  Met Si Budagher and made a lot of good friends, a few of whom would eventually come to Wayland.
  • 1994: Senior year in high school when I decided to go to Wayland for college.  That was a major life decision considering I met my wife there and now plan on teaching there for as long as they’ll let me.
  • 1995: After a year as a Religion major, I missed math too much and decided to add mathematics as a major.
  • 1995: Also the year I met the most intriguing, hilarious, intelligent, witty, and beautiful woman that I have ever laid eyes on.  I took only a couple of months to learn that I would have to spend the rest of my life getting to know her.
  • 1998: Decided to go to Texas Tech to get my graduate degrees in Mathematics.  I decided very early that I wanted to teach undergraduate mathematics.
  • 1998: Marriage.  Almost nothing turns your life around more than this.
  • 2000: Children. NOTHING turns your life around more than this.  Emily came in August and being a father has become the most fulfilling and challenging job of my life.
  • 2000: Wayland hired me as a Mathematics Instructor. 
  • 2003: Along comes Timothy and we now have both a boy and a girl.  The family is seemingly complete.  It is the family that both Lori and I had always planned on.  We’re most likely done having kids at this point.
  • 2004: Along comes Zachary and God reminds us that his plans are better than ours.  Life is different and better than we ever imagined.  Our family is just not complete without the life of the party, Mr. Z.
  • 2005: Completed the Ph.D.  My formal schooling after 24 years is finally over.  Hard to believe.
  • 2007: With all my life goals seemingly met: family, Ph.D., teaching at WBU, I get restless and wonder if I shouldn’t try full-time research for a while.  So I do and after 6 months in a bioinformatics post-doc with Dr. Wilkins in Lubbock, I know that I’m cut out to be an educator.  Research will have to become my hobby.
  • 2008: After commuting for a term, we moved back to Plainview for financial reasons.  It’s tough at first but eventually, it becomes clear that this was the right decision.
  • 2009: We buy the house of our dreams.  Having saved up and having Lori working full-time (without sending any of the kids to day-care) we are in the perfect place to buy our dream house. 
  • 2009: I have been promoted to Associate Dean and begin in August in a new role as an administrator.  Still waiting to see what becomes of this turning point.

That’s a lot of turning points. Not all of them were major changes but most were definitely course corrections in life.

I’m curious, from both the readers of the blog and from my friends on facebook, what are some of your major turning points?

The Real Story

Last week, a friend on Facebook pointed me to a story that seemed like it would be of interest to mathematician like myself but upon reading the story, there were a number of quirky details in the story and some important details missing.  It made me suspicious.

STOCKHOLM (AFP) – A 16-year-old Iraqi immigrant living in Sweden has cracked a maths puzzle that has stumped experts for more than 300 years, Swedish media reported on Thursday.

In just four months, Mohamed Altoumaimi has found a formula to explain and simplify the so-called Bernoulli numbers, a sequence of calculations named after the 17th century Swiss mathematician Jacob Bernoulli, the Dagens Nyheter daily said.

See the rest of the news story here.

Now, I’m no number theorist but I did take a course in Special Functions where the topic of Bernoulli numbers came up.  I was not aware of any 300 year old problem so I did some hunting and couldn’t find out what problem had been solved.  I also couldn’t find any mathematical news source citing the major development.

Thanks to Keith Devlin, we have a little more insight to the story.  In his MAA article this week, he wrote,

So I dug around on the Web for more details. There were a lot of news stories about the topic, but they all said more or less the same as the article I had already seen. Eventually, however, I found a Swedish news Website with an English-language story that was close to the source (Uppsala University).

"Swedish teen tackles centuries-old numbers challenge" was the headline. The story began, "A 16-year-old Iraqi immigrant in central Sweden has single-handedly figured out a formula with Bernoulli numbers that is normally reserved for much more seasoned mathematicians, earning him praise from professors at prestigious Uppsala University." Ah. Much more believable.

The reporter went on to explain that Altoumaimi, the young high school pupil, had developed some equations involving the Bernoulli numbers. When his school math teachers were unable to tell him whether what he had done was correct, the student contacted a professor at Uppsala University, who, after examining his work, declared that it was indeed correct. Not new, however. As the story continued,

"While it’s not the first time that someone has shown such Bernoulli number relationships, it’s highly unusual for a first year high school student to make his way through the complicated calculations, according to Uppsala University senior maths lecturer Lars-ke Lindahl."

I feel better knowing the truth behind the story.  Devlin was able to find the source I couldn’t find in my own digging.  Thanks, Keith.