Bag of Examples

As a student in mathematics and physics, I’m part of two different worlds. On the one hand, proofs and abstraction come from the side of mathematics. On the other hand, physics is where concrete examples and applications are the norm. In physics (at least, within the scope of undergraduate education), we only care about the mathematical tools that we can apply to a given problem. Of the two camps, I find myself identifying more with…

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Local peaks and clinical resistance at negative cost

Last week, I expanded on Rob Noble’s warning about the different meanings of de novo resistance with a general discussion on the meaning of resistance in a biological vs clinical setting. In that post, I suggested that clinicians are much more comfortable than biologists with resistance without cost, or more radically: with negative cost. But I made no argument — especially no reductive argument that could potentially sway a biologist — about why we should…

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Only Numbers and Algebra

Learning mathematics in school and doing mathematics in general are not the same thing. This might seem obvious, but I worry a lot about students that don’t have a chance to realize this before they are turned off from mathematics forever. The reason is that the message which is sent to students throughout their years in elementary and secondary school is that mathematics is all about numbers, but this is false. Sure, a lot of…

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Causes and costs in biological vs clinical resistance

This Wednesday, on These few lines, Rob Noble warned of the two different ways in which the term de novo resistance is used by biologists and clinicians. The biologist sees de novo resistance as new genetic resistance arising after treatment has started. The clinician sees de novo resistance as a tumour that is not responsive to treatment from the start. To make matters even more confusing, Hitesh Mistry points to a further interpretation among pharmocologists:…

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Not Necessary

In mathematics, the terms “necessary” and “sufficient” have technical meanings. These terms come about when looking at two statements P and Q. If we say that P is sufficient for Q, then that means if P is true, Q automatically has to be true (P implies Q). On the other hand, if P is only necessary for Q, having P be true doesn’t mean Q has to be true (but the other way works, so…

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Effective games from spatial structure

For the last week, I’ve been at the Institute Mittag-Leffler of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences for their program on mathematical biology. The institute is a series of apartments and a grand mathematical library located in the suburbs of Stockholm. And the program is a mostly unstructured atmosphere — with only about 4 hours of seminars over the whole week — aimed to bring like-minded researchers together. It has been a great opportunity to…

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Memorization in Education

Educators have unrealistic views about memorization. If you’re reading this as a student, think about any time a teacher spoke about their thoughts on memorization. Unless the point of the class was to memorize certain facts, I’m guessing the teacher did not love the idea of memorization. In fact, for those who teach subjects such as physics or mathematics, they might have gone on a rant about how memorization is a terrible thing to do…

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Plato and the working mathematician on Truth and discourse

Plato’s writing and philosophy are widely studied in colleges, and often turned to as founding texts of western philosophy. But if we went out looking for people that embraced the philosophy — if we went out looking for actual Platonist — then I think we would come up empty-handed. Or maybe not? A tempting counter-example is the mathematician. It certainly seems that to do mathematics, it helps to imagine the objects that you’re studying as…

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