Sunday, August 22, 2010

Getting Paid to Read for Fun

I've been getting pretty behind on my reading, as is obvious from the dearth of books crossed off my reading list. This lack of progress comes from a combination of a number of factors. I have been busy preparing for teaching my own class at work. Cerinthus is here, which has impeded my progress. However, I would not give up having him here, especially since I will not be able to see him for another six months. Currently, I seem to have contracted a cold, which has been making me pretty lethargic and unable to think clearly enough to read some of the texts on my list.

Although I was sick yesterday, I had to proctor an exam. To begin with, I had to grade essays. The essays were of better quality than I was expecting. Some of the kids I'm teaching have the promise of being very intelligent and doing very well. I hope that I can help to guide them there. The rest of the time while I'm proctoring the exam, I am free to do as I please, provided that I make sure no one is cheating and that I call the time properly and read the script.

How the Universe Got Its Spots: Diary of a Finite Time in a Finite Space
My most recent reading.

During this last session, I read How the Universe Got Its Spots: Diary of a Finite Time in a Finite Space by Janna Levin. The book is a wonderful fusion between the personal life of a mathematician/cosmologist, the history of math, and lessons in cosmology and mathematical topology. Although the topics in the math are complex, they are explained clearly and deftly, as well as peppered with personal details that keep the reader engaged and never overwhelmed by the complex concepts. I highly recommend this to everyone with any interest in math or science.

In the book, Janna Levin comes across as an sweet, passionate, obsessive, quirky individual with sharp sense of humor and an easy, approachable writing style. She speaks of the loneliness that comes from working in mathematics-- at least the theoretical mathematics of academia. This worries me. Although I am a classicist now, theoretical math and physics was always my first love, my first passion. Some days I have dreams of going back there. Her book makes it seem as though the work is lonely but rewarding, but a living nightmare for the spouses/boyfriends/girlfriends/partners of the mathematician. Is classics going to be like this too? Am I going to ruin the life of Cerinthus and drive his career into the ground because I want to pursue a life in academia? I hope not.

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