SMP Begins

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After talking to a number of girls, I think a lot of us were feeling a bit overwhelmed yesterday. Everyone is so nice and enthusiastic, but there was a lot of class, a lot of homework, a lot of new people, a lot of things to do. Nevertheless, I am really excited to be here and beginning to settle in.

We are all taking two classes this month. Yesterday we began a topology course: Topology and Geometry from the Universe to Molecules, and today began a course on Lie Theory.

In topology we talked a lot about the shape of the universe and different dimensions. One of the ways we’ve begun to talk about dimensions is by using the Flatland story. I had never heard about it, but from my understanding it was a novel originally written as a satire on the Victorian social structures. However, the premise of the story is that a character who has grown up and lived in a two-dimensional, flat world suddenly learns about the existence of a third dimension. It’s since been turned into a film: see the Flatland trailer.

We used these characters to think about what the universes “look like” to the two-dimensional characters. For example, we discussed the idea of how one would attempt to describe a sphere, something that exists in 3 space the way we as humans understand it, to a two-dimensional character. With this as an analogy, we began to imagine the existence of shapes in 4 space, a dimension one above our own.

Tonight we had a visiting presenter. I enjoyed her presentation a lot, but she came to dinner with us tonight, and I really loved the conversations that came out of that. In a smaller group, we really got into our own experiences with gender in math and minorities in education, among other topics. By the end, we were telling our favorite math jokes. I laughed harder than I have in a while during that conversation. She was really cool, and I feel like I got to know the other SMPers better because of that conversation.

I’m already behind in my homework for the week, but I have learned so much just in these first three days. I have heard that the grant from the NSF for the program is running out this year and may not be continued. I think that would be a mistake.

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