A note about the integrals

Occasionally blog posts will show up with with titles like these:

A Little Math Puzzle

Or

Why I Love Parseval’s Theorem

I intend the integral symbols (the things that look like this ““) to be a warning that the post contains some technical math or science. The number of integrals indicates the dimensionality of the underlying metric space. Er, sorry, in this context it indicates the level of background knowledge I think you will need to get anything useful from the post. Incidentally, the bad joke above is a weed-out joke. If you understood it well enough to groan, then you can consider yourself weeded out from reading the rest of this post and just keep reading the rest of the blog with impunity ;-)

If you didn’t, good for you! And thank you for helping me prove that I have friends who are real people. However, if you still want to read the blog, just use the integral symbols as warning signs. They’ll let you know how much heavy thinking you’re in for.

Note that, within the post, there may be separate sections that have more technical information than the post as a whole. In keeping with the above description, I’ll always mark a multi-part post with the value of the easiest section, because you can still get something out of the post even if you might find reading the whole thing to be a bit taxing. When possible, I’ll separately mark the technical sections inside the article.

The general guidelines I’ll use are:

a post like this is just one that actually discusses mathematics or science. It’s basically there to prevent you from being ambushed by math in the middle of your morning toast if you’re one of those for whom such an experience would put you off your breakfast.

This type of post probably does some tricky algebra, or uses some other pre-calculus ideas. In general, the math won’t be above what you probably saw in early high school. But unlike the above section, you might need to understand the math (or science) on its own. I.e., I won’t stop to explain it separately.

This is probably going to be hard to read unless you know calculus, have some science background, etc. I’ll still try to pause and explain things in case your calculus isn’t fresh. But I won’t stop to teach you what a derivative is. In general, I will try to stay away from these, unless there’s something so neat in the technical details that I think they need to be included in the discussion for completeness. I’ll try to almost never post anything that contains purely content of this type.

Uh oh. You should probably have an undergraduate degree in math or physics here. Or at least have a strong stomach for technobabble. Posts of this nature aren’t likely to pop up anytime soon, but I reserve the right to use it because (a) CERN or FermiLab might discover something awesome and I might want to write about right away and without a filter, or (b) I might start a dissertation project someday and I might want to vent about that too.

Ah, the illusive quintuple-integral. Someday, when I get a Ph.D., then if I am still writing this blog I will post the first page of my thesis under this heading as a celebration.

If you see this it means Ed Witten must be guest blogging for some reason.

Alright, that’s all you need to know. But do keep me honest! If I’m talking down to people in what are supposedly “technical” posts, or if you’re really struggling with supposedly easy stuff, let me know so I can recalibrate my writing, the rating system, or both!

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About Colin West
Colin West is a graduate student in quantum information theory, working at the Yang Institute for Theoretical Physics at Stony Brook University. Originally from Colorado (where he attended college), his interests outside of physics include politics, paper-folding, puzzles, playing-cards, and apparently, plosives.

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