Monday, July 31, 2006

Geek world

I've been surrounded by supergeeks for the past 5-6 days. One of them is carrying his own wireless router so that he could get wireless access in his room. A bunch of them have been wearing T-shirts with math jokes on them and some with formulas in the front and references on the back. The chief geek is the main organiser of the workshop, WS and has an interesting autobiography on his webpage. He's assembled a computer with 64GB of ram and once took apart a wristwatch and converted it to calculate some sophisticated math formulas.

This workshop is about using computer programs to have a more hands-on approach to number theory rather than use just abstract reasoning. So, half the participants (like me) are here with zero knowledge of programming while the other half is full of geeks (like WS) who're obsessed with telling each other about the latest tricks or codes they've cracked. Lecture notes, slides, etc are updated realtime on the conference website rather than the standard math conference which has only blackboard presentations with no slides.

I've been sitting in a corner with my laptop at an angle so that nobody can make out I'm actually reading cricket and baseball scores. Over the last few years, I've perfected the art of looking busy and involved in a math lecture. A little bit of fidgeting, some scribbling on a piece of paper, a deep frown and then a quick nod of the head to make people think I follow what's happening. Very reluctantly, I've let people know that I'm not a student anymore so I can't keep hiding behind the magic words "I don't know". In this workshop though everyone else around me is writing code at the same time as listening to the presentations. I feel like a con artist sitting out here surrounded by nerds.

The location of MSRI, a math research institute, is spectacular and is the first math building I've seen which is not the ugliest and most boring place imaginable. The Berkeley math dept is ugly, but MSRI has a breathtaking view of the university, the SF skyline and the Golden Gate. I have a great view from my office and watching the sun set is quite magical.


Bidi-K said...

its breathtaking, the colors are awesome.

bandafbab said...

i have to admit that i didn't take the picture.

Tabula Rasa said...

yes, looking intelligently distracted as seminars is a very valuable skill :-)