Saturday, 20 August 2016

Elementally, My Dear Watson

As you'll know if you've been following along this month, one of our ongoing titles in our Great Conversation project is Euclid's elements; the maths textbook. Since I'm having a lot of trouble parsing the way that Euclid thinks, I've been struggling quite a lot to keep all of the concepts in my head in order to effectively follow along, so this week I started a little project to make it easier.

I thought having a single reference sheet to be able to refer back to earlier propositions would be useful, but figured that it would have to be just one page to save me having to flip through my notes looking for relevant bits. I quickly realised that that page would have to be huge in order to fit all the good stuff, so I went out and got the biggest piece of paper I could at the supermarket (it's a tablecloth), and proceeded to start copying down the Elements on to it, one proposition at a time. I'm hoping this method will work a little better for me remembering things, as I feel like retaining pertinent information just isn't happening for me the way I've been trying to work through the Elements so far.

I quickly realised that if I were going to copy down each and every proposition that this project was going to take weeks and require a lot bigger sheet of paper, so I limited to myself to the ones that were either interesting for their own merits or because they're likely to be regularly used down the track and will therefore be useful to me. As it is I'm still not convinced that all the good stuff is going to fit, but the chapters seem to be getting shorter over time, so I'm still hoping that by coincidence everything will fit nicely.

I'm feeling good about this little project so far, having got a much better grasp of the concepts involved having actually written them down and interacted with them rather than just reading them off the page, but since I'm still working through book one, where the concepts are mostly extremely familiar, I guess we'll have to wait and see if this poster is at all useful once we proceed on to the real deal. I'll have to put in quite a bit of time this next week in order to catch up with where I am in the Elements, but I think the investment will be worth it for the time saved during my geometrical efforts in the future.

This project also fulfils the secondary purpose of putting something moderately interesting on the large plain walls in my living room, since the paper is light enough that it can just be tacked up instead of requiring picture hooks or the like, which we're not supposed to use in university accommodation. Whether this 'decoration' will survive the artistically discerning eye of Mrs. Owl when she gets home is another matter, but for now there's nobody here but us chickens and I can't help feeling a little bit attached to it. I'm secretly hopeful that she'll like it so much that she'll decide to do some kind of watercolour wash or something to make it actually pretty rather than just a creamy sheet on a creamy wall, but I'm not holding my breath on that one. Apparently she's busy actually doing real life work or something...some people have strange priorities.

At least this new addition should give visitors something interesting to look at while I'm making the tea if they get bored of staring out the window looking for squirrels. I'd better be careful not to make too many mistakes, though, as we get some pretty discerning visitors.

Blaugust Writing Prompts
1) What method do you use when you want to remember things?
2) If you could memorise one book, what would you want it to be?
3) What kind of art do you have (or want to have) on your walls? 

No comments: