28 April, 2009

End the University as We Know It

An Op-Ed from the NY Times:

GRADUATE education is the Detroit of higher learning. Most graduate programs in American universities produce a product for which there is no market (candidates for teaching positions that do not exist) and develop skills for which there is diminishing demand (research in subfields within subfields and publication in journals read by no one other than a few like-minded colleagues), all at a rapidly rising cost
For many years, I have taught undergraduate courses in which students do not write traditional papers but develop analytic treatments in formats from hypertext and Web sites to films and video games. Graduate students should likewise be encouraged to produce “theses” in alternative formats.

Full article

Not all of the article is as provocative as the two quotes above but much of it is close. I have the impression that the opinions expressed could only come from someone in one of the more liberal of liberal arts areas. Statements like "Abolish permanent departments, even for undergraduate education, and create problem-focused programs."
Seem to display an ignorance of, say, an institution who work on cancer research. (One might question too why such a group would benefit from collaborations with theologians or architects as the author seems to imply).

Anyway, read the article and then go a read some of the few hundred odd commetns it attracted. The NYT kindly offer an Editor's Selection.

27 April, 2009

Early morning at work

I was in my office before the sun was up this morning so I got this view of the early light on the Northern Tararuas.

09-04 Morning Office

26 April, 2009

Hanging out for cross-fit

From the excellent cross-fit workout this afternoon: (I'm not sure why the table displays so far down the page...)

Figure 4s7,7,8,77,11,13,138,12,11,108,9,7,62,3,3,1

Well done Judith. The goal for next time: everybody with scores over 100.

14 April, 2009

Dundas Hut and Easter Snow

It got pretty cold here last week, specifically, around Thursday night, and the Tararuas got their first snow for the year. The following morning N. and I walked to Dundas hut in the northern Tararuas, somewhere behind Ekatahuna. Bethany and Travis had been planning to come too but Travis was worried about his thighs after too much stair running so they stayed at home.

The weather was perfect when we arrived at Putara road-end; no wind and sun on the fresh snow promised a great day's walking in the tops. However, this was not a promise that the Tararuas intended to keep.

The weather remained fine for the first two hours up to Herepai hut, but almost as soon as we were out in the tops, clouds started building from the west. First they just blocked the view over the western side of the ranges, then they covered the peaks, leaving the ridges exposed, and finally, by the time we had crossed over to West Peak they had settled down around the ridges giving visibility of a few dozen metres. The track as far as Ruapae was pretty nice, climbing gradually, for the most part, over a few bumps and saddles with boradleaf and mountain flax amoungst the snowgrass and leatherwood. Between Ruapae and East Peak the ridge got pretty narrow, and in one section had been severely undercut on both sides so that it was just lumps of dirt held together by some old leatherwood roots. (It would have been possible to drop off and sidle this section). From about East Peak there was enough snow on the ground to make things a bit slippery underfoot and to cover the track. The climb down fro East Peak and back up to West Peak was slower than we had expected with a bit of leatherwood to be negotiated along the way. N. was starting to get a bit tired by this point and we hadn't been making as good a time as I had expected. By the time we were past Walker and on the way to Pukemoremore it was getting late in the day and the clouds made things pretty dark. It was about here that it became clear that we weren't going fast enough to reach the hut before dark.

Just before the summit of Pukemoremore, and just after the sun set, the clouds dropped down into the valleys giving a fantastic sky of the clouds lit by the sun and the snow lit by the full moon. It also gave us a chance to catch a glimpse of the moonlight reflecting off the roof of Dundas Hut in the distance.

The clouds had closed over again by the time we had passed Pukemoremore and were looking for the track dropping off the main ridge and down a spur to the hut. We couldn't find any tracks in the snow but partway down the spur we could see something that looked like light coming from the hut windows. Apparently only two candles make enough light to be seen from a few hundred metres away. The party who were already at the hut had seen our headlights coming down the spur and put a billy on for some tea so we arrived to be offered (much appreciated) hot drinks as soon as we stepped out of our frozen boots and through the door.

During the night the wind picked up until there was a decent gale blowing along the main ridge. After our slow progress the day before we opted to walk out the way we had come rather than taking the longer, if more sheltered route over Cattle Ridge and past Roaring Stag Lodge.

The wind kept up for the rest of the day, threatening to blow us off the side of the ridge each time we crossed a pinnacle or a small dip where the wind funneled through. It managed to clear the clouds by the time we reached Ruapae though and for the rest of the walk down to Herepae hut we had clear views of the Mangatainoka valley while being buffeted about. Our times each day were around two hours between the road end and Herepai hut, and about seven hours (a couple of hours over the posted time --- we moved pretty slowly) between Herepai and Dundas huts.

09-04 Dundas Hut

02 April, 2009

Something to show for a day's work

Click the image for a bigger view

One of the problems with mathematics is that it's difficult to find something to show for one's work. I'm not saying that nothing gets done during a day, (though that too can be a problem), but that it's rare to be able to hold up anything which another person, even another mathematician from a different field, could distinguish from gibberish (with a large percentage of Greek letters). Today though, I made some stripy tubes --- I thought they looked pretty good. (The stripes are just for decoration.)

For those who care, and I'm sure you all do, the picture shows two orbits from the Henon-Heiles Hamiltonian system, projected from 4-D to 3-D. The fatter tube making a loop is a periodic orbit, the thinner tube winding around it is a quasi-periodic orbit which is following the surface of an invariant torus. If it kept going it would eventually make a solid looking shape like a slightly bent doughnut. Both orbits give important information ( just don't ask me what) about what is happening in the model. Depending on the sort of computer algorithm that is used to study the model, these two orbits will either look (quasi-) periodic like they do here, or vanish off into the distance.