On Mathematics, Mandelbrot, and Beauty

I have a confession to make. I suck at math. I always have, and maybe always will. Despite possessing two engineering degrees and being very close to completing a third, I can’t say that I am comfortable with math. So you might be surprised if you ever drop by my office on a Sunday afternoon. You’ll find me with a broad smile on my face, leafing through a big fat book titled something like ‘Advanced Engineering Mathematics’. I read it because I want to, and I read it because it is fun.

“But math is hard!”, you say. I agree, but great difficulty does not always breed contempt. On the contrary, years of struggling with math have actually pushed me to a level where I have started to see the beauty in it.

To the uninitiated, the very notion of finding beauty in numbers and rigid logic might seem absurd. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Case in point – the pictures below:

Continue reading

Is Anything Private?

A few months ago, a friend and I were working on our taxes, and we had to look something up on the Internet. I searched for it on my browser, and my friend noticed that something was odd. This didn’t look like your ubiquitous Google results page. Somewhat reproachfully, he asked if I was …gasp… using a different search engine. Surely as a PhD student in a department that specializes in delivering information to users, I should know that Google is peerless in its ability to dig up the most appropriate information. So, why was I using something different? I told him that I was worried about my privacy and the amount of data that Google had been collecting about its users. I had switched to duckduckgo, which follows a strict no-tracking policy. “But, you don’t do anything illegal. Why do you need to hide?” was his retort. “Why does it bother you if they collect data about you?”

Well, let me give you three examples of data collection that keep me awake at night:

Continue reading

If you think others think you can’t, you definitely can’t

Criticism can threaten our sense of self-worth. 
 Sometimes we spend mental energy protecting ourselves 
 and block out criticism.

Criticism can threaten our sense of self-worth. 
 Sometimes we spend mental energy protecting ourselves
 and block out criticism.

 

Remember the last time a loved one asked you to eat a little healthier? Or the time that your manager asked you to work a little harder? If you were like me, you immediately became defensive. You concocted reasons in your head for why he or she was wrong and never really considered the possibility of the person being right. Good managers, however, know that the way to make you listen is to start off by complimenting you, and then directing any criticism. But why do we become defensive in the first place, and why does the initial complimenting work? Continue reading