Our doubts are traitors, and makes us lose the good we might oft win, by fearing to attempt. ~William Shakespeare
Question #89706 posted on 05/18/2017 1:04 a.m.
Q:

Dear Anathema and any other learning addicts,

Your genuine love and excitement for learning radiates from your answers. I am awed by it, and mostly just want to read another answer that will give me some more secondhand excitement! So,what have you done to cultivate this love of learning? Were you born with it? What are you especially excited to learn about soon? Would you share something cool that you've learned recently?

-fellow minion of learning

A:

Dear Compadre,

First of all, thank you so much for asking this question! Reading it seriously made my week. I do absolutely love learning, and it makes me super happy to hear that it comes out through my answers.

I'm pretty sure I was born with this love, though I've worked on cultivating it as well. According to what my mom has written in my scrapbook, when I was three or four, I was absolutely fascinated with genealogy/family history and genetics (specifically why I was the only one out of all my siblings to have blue eyes and light-colored hair). While my interests have changed over the years, the underlying curiosity about pretty much everything I come into contact with hasn't. 

That said, there are still times I feel frustrated, feel like my brain is melting out of my ears, and even get headaches from trying to digest so much information in a short period of time (like attempting to learn an entire new branch of applied mathematics/economics in a week). This normally happens when I get wrapped up in things I have to do, and am not just choosing to learn stuff because I can. When this does happen, I like to take a step outside of myself, and rather than focusing on deadlines I have to meet, I take a moment to appreciate the amount of knowledge at my fingertips, and how cool whatever I'm studying is. Thinking about that instead of the drudgery of my 15th hour on campus always restores my sense of wonder (though sometimes there's a couple hours of brain-deadness before that happens; just ask Alta for really weird things I've said in those interims). Honestly, even when I'm not in a slump, I like to take moments just to appreciate the wonder of the world we live in. 

Now on to the most exciting part of your question: cool things I've learned recently/am excited to learn soon. The following are all things I've learned since this question appeared in the inbox:

  1. Did you know that for that if you have a convex single variable function defined over an open interval, it's continuous over that interval? And Lipschitz continuous (which is the strongest form of uniform continuity) over any closed subinterval? Neither did I until last Friday morning. Math is so cool. 
  2. I learned how to come up with the envelope to an equation! (And just more about envelopes in general).
  3. As it turns out, Pontryagin wasn't the only one to come up with a method to solve optimal control problems. There's also the Hamilton-Jacobi-Bellman equation. I found this particularly interesting because it made me realize that for all the super hard problems we encounter--even with set methodologies of approach--there are still multiple ways to solve them. Like, it's possible that there's an entire system of mathematics distinct from calculus to solve the kinds of problems Leibniz and Newton were working on (pretty sure my heart rate just went up as I was typing that). Or even if there's not such a general alternate path, there are still so many different possibilities for arriving at an answer in more specific cases. I feel like this also has applications for life when two people approach the same problem in such different ways.
  4. With many thanks to my amazing older sister, I discovered that math is indeed poetry. Specifically, it can be limericks.
  5. In the '90s, an experiment was performed which found out that water exposed to either positive words, music, or prayers forms beautiful crystals, and conversely forms more deformed crystals when exposed to negative words and music. I think it's amazing how much our environment responds to the lightness or darkness present in us. Also, it's good to note that if even water has such a strong response to positivity and negativity, how much more sentient beings must. It also makes me wonder how much better people would act if others trusted them to be good. 
  6. So I'm taking a yoga class this semester (one of the best decisions of my life), and last week we went over some of the yoga sutras (which are basically principles to live by). Anyways, one of the sutras is aparigraha, or not seeking after that which isn't yours/non-covetousness. When I heard it, I thought of it as referring not only to physical possessions, but also other people's attributes. Think of how much happier we would be if every time someone else did something well, we weren't immediately jealous of their accomplishment, but were able to be genuinely happy for them. 
  7. From a conversation with Q (Alta's fiancee), I learned that one of the main reasons English has such a large cross-over with French, despite technically being a Germanic language is due to William the Conqueror. When he conquered England, he established Old Norman (or Old Northern French) as the primary language, particularly for the upper class. So basically everyone in England was speaking a version of French for a couple hundred years, and that's why so many of our modern words are French cognates.

As far as things I'm excited to learn about go, ACME is fairly high on that list. Every time I think about entering into the Junior core this fall, there's a part of me that fills with nervous dread (am I actually up to this?), while the rest of me is nigh giddy with the prospect of learning all that math. Also, I'm excited about all the things I'm sure I'll learn that will be unexpected gifts in my life.

Thanks again for asking this!

~Anathema