September 23, 2010

A Method of Characteristics

Theme song: Bad Romance, Lady Gaga, The Fame Monster

Mkay, so today's post is inspired by the Methods of Mathematical Physics (MP) lecture that I had this morning. Well, on second thought, it's not really as much inspired by this particular lecture as it's made out to be but what the hell... I just dish out the reading material! ;)

So I was sitting here typing up this post when I was overwhelmed by the sudden urge to go and sleep -- which I did. On lying down, I suddenly felt as light as a feather (trust me, this is saying something) and it was as if the entire universe opened up around me, just as a really strong gust of wind would blow a poor, unsuspecting woman's skirt right up so that she looks like one of these guys down here (photo taken by Miklos Schiberna):

What actually would give me such a drastic epiphany? Well, I'm sorry to have to lead the unsuspecting reader down somewhat of an anti-climax, but it was none other than the fact that we are all travelling fronts of the Non-linear Transport Equation:

The average reader would probably ask what this line of mathematics is doing on a blog like this or even, more importantly, just what a travelling front is. Luckily I shall spare you the grief and confusion by letting you know that you do not have to know what the Non-linear Transport Equation is, or does, or even what a travelling front is -- leave the tough mathematics to us Applied Mathematicians! :)

So what does all of this have to do with MP and the current nature of my post? Good question... I remembered, but then I got so fussed-up with trying to find a good LaTeX editor for Blogger that I clean forgot what my original intent for this post was. But all is not lost though, as I'll simply improvise one on the spot (hey, sometimes we've got to strike a compromise).

Today we were sitting in the said MP lecture when our lecturer so happened to be examining a case of roots for the above equation (well, not of the equation exactly, but for one of the terms --  the exact details are really not important). I really cannot remember what exactly he was pointing out to us, but I do remember seeing two parabolæ: one "smiling" and the other "sad". And then a curious thought came back to me -- something that someone once told me about the extra-maths lady who taught at my old high school after hours. What she told them was something to this effect: remember now, if you have a greater than zero, then Jesus is in your life and you're happy; if you have a less than zero then Jesus is not in your life and then you're going to be sad. With all due respect (and no, I'm not being blasphemous here), the reference was not literally to one's standing with God, but rather a sort of mnemonic to remember what orientation the parabola would have, given a particular value of a. Of course, the novelty and humor of this mnemonic only once again became really apparent to me, which led to me bursting out laughing in the middle of the lecture. I don't know how, but it seemed as if my lecturer knew I was recalling something funny because he stopped halfway through his sentence to ask me what exactly I was laughing about. Naturally I wasn't able to tell him (since he wouldn't perhaps have gotten it in quite the same way I did), so I settled for a rather glib explanation about our high school's old extra-math tutor-lady. It was deemed acceptable, but the grin he had was priceless.

Moving on to more serious affairs: Thursday night is Pizza Night at Panarotti's! I love pizza nights! It's a pity that almost everything else in life can't be like these wonderful things: make everything on the menu and serve only one slice of it to the customer who wishes to have some of it. Should life be like Pizza Night, all would be right with the world.

Moral of the story: we are travelling fronts and life should be like Pizza Night.

And now I'm off to get me some pizza.


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