I’ve been snowed under with work recently. Marking eats up huge portions of the week leaving precious little time for the standard DPhil work, let alone blogging. This post will probably be written in chunks, with a few bits added each day. It will be a very utilitarian keyword-style post describing the last three weeks, recorded in roughly chronological order. Sorry for taking so long!

Abstract: Just another slapdash agglomeration of short anecdotes to catch back up to speed.


Riemann Mapping Theorem: I encountered the Riemann mapping theorem in complex analysis again, having seen it a couple of years ago. A generalised version of this essentially states that any open simply-connected domain (ie a domain with no holes) in the complex plane is ‘the same’ as either the complex sphere (C + infinity), the complex plane, or the unit disk. The result itself is incredibly deep and beautiful, but the reason I included this as a potentially fun fact was that Riemann didn’t actually successfully prove this theorem, despite the name. He provided a flawed proof that was based off what is known as Dirichlet’s principle (an assumption that you could always solve a certain physical problem which turned out to not always be true).

‘Abe’ from Charles: My supervisor (owner of usually very proper English) finally got around to calling me Abe (in an email) instead of, ahem, Abraham.

Photo Booth ft. Chipperu: I will describe this by typing out the correspondence between Josh and I.

Josh: So yesterday in London I ummed and ahhhed all day about whether I wanted to get a photo in a red phonebooth. Like is it too cliched? etc. By dusk, I decided just to do the photo. And after seeing dozens throughout the day, the one I chose to enter featured a human turd which I accidentally stepped directly on top of 😥

Abe: HAHAJAOQKALQLSNSJPQKJ NO WAY. Your friend took it for you? How did you know it was human?

Josh: Yep. And also a picture of the offending excrement… Sometimes you can just tell. And also it had a napkin on top of it, hiding it.

Cambridge: I went to Cambridge for the first time, to play a BUCS table tennis team match. We lost (several extremely close matches that could have gone either way), though I was able to win all my matches, which was encouraging. Perhaps I am not as washed up as I feared. There was a Chinese restaurant called Seven Days that provided an amazing meal. Running against every Chinese stereotype possible, the owner gave me a 10 pound note in change after I’d given a 20 to pay for 11. I was shocked, but the owner merely smiled and nodded. I have never before been given a tip by the restaurant, I guess I’m just an amazing customer. I’ll put it down to my dashing good looks, magnetic charisma, charming voice, and scruffy awful awful awful awful hair.

Contradiction Sign: Different mathematicians like to use different symbols for ‘contradiction’. There’s the lightning bolt arrow, the two head-to-head opposing arrows, the double-lined cross, the cross with dots, or just the words “contradiction”. My favourite one now though, freshly encountered, is “?!”. Just ?! ?! ?! ?!

Hilary’s Expressions: My class tutor Hilary has some amazing expressions she often uses relating to the assignments she sets. Here are her words in quotations and their associated meanings:

“Don’t make a big song and dance about it.” – Don’t give tedious explanations for simple things that only require a remark (e.g. proving something is a subspace).

“Don’t reinvent the wheel.” – Use theorems and results instead of reverting back to first principles (e.g. proving separability).

“I should eat some humble pie.” – Sorry for some incorrect wording that confused everybody.

However, my favourite quote from Hilary isn’t so much an expression but an analogy. She was explaining how when bounding a quantity, you must check both the upper and lower bounds (or bound the absolute value). Failing to do so was, in her words, like “meticulously locking and checking the front door, and then leaving the back door wide open for the burglar.”

Meeting with David: I had my first meeting with David as my supervisor. We went over the things I had read and possible pathways. We discussed how a DPhil is generally done, and any advice he had, as well as how co-supervision would work. Essentially, on top of my weekly meetings with Charles, I would meet with David every month or two. There is a possibility of more contact with David, especially if my research leads into his area (e.g. asymptotics of semigroups). Overall it was just a very pleasant time, reassuring, interesting, and exciting.

Desiring God: Here is a quote in the footnotes from Desiring God (by John Piper) that I found quite eye-opening. “It is worth musing over the implications that the Holy Spirit is the divine Workman who gives us a new heart of faith and is Himself the personification of the joy that the Father and the Son have in each other. We might say the change that must occur in the human heart to make saving faith possible is permeation by the Holy Spirit, which is nothing less than a permeation by the very joy that God the Father and God the Son have in each other’s beauty. In other words, the taste for God that begets saving faith is God’s very taste for Himself, imparted to us in measure by the Holy Spirit.” I found this very helpful in understanding the role the Spirit plays in our salvation.

London Mathematical Society: “Established in 1865 for the promotion and extension of mathematics.” Oxford offered to pay for associate membership of the LMS for DPhil students, and so of course I took the chance. I registered to attend my first LMS meeting in London (held on the 11th of November), but in the registration process, the administration made a mistake and mixed me up with someone else. Several days later, I got an email saying that my proposed talk had been accepted and asking for the abstract and slides. I proceeded to freak out and replied with an SOS email stating in no uncertain terms that I had never, to my knowledge, asked to give a talk. I literally would have had nothing to talk about. The entire talk would have consisted of me waving a white flag, or (thanks Josh) “throwing towels left, right, and centre.” I was very much relieved when the admin replied assuring me it had been a mistake. The actual event was interesting, though we heard essentially the same talk about asymptotic approximation three times that day. One of the speakers who was chosen as a ‘warm-up speaker’ for the following professor who was to give the Naylor Lecture referred to the coming talk by saying “there is one who comes after me…” (John the Baptist). It was a bit intimidating, being surrounded by some of the UK’s most accomplished mathematician. The crowning moment must have been when I met Sir Timothy Gowers (Fields medallist), obtained his signature in my Rudin, took a selfie, and shook his hand. Fun fact about Sir Tim, he once underwent a catheter ablation after doing a mathematical risk-benefit analysis. There was also a minute of silence that was held during one of the talks for remembrance day. A bell rang at 11:00 am and the speaker paused mid sentence.

Stokes: During the LMS meeting, one of the speakers mentioned a letter from Stokes to his fiancée where he talked about being puzzled by what is now known as Stokes phenomenon. It was rather cute, so I’ll include it here:

“When the cat’s away the mice may play. You are the cat and I am the poor little mouse. I have been doing what I guess you won’t let me do when we are married, sitting up till 3 o’clock in the morning fighting hard against a mathematical difficulty. Some years ago I attacked an integral of Airy’s, and after a severe trial reduced it to a readily calculable form. But there was one difficulty about it which, though I tried till I almost made myself ill, I could not get over, and at last I had to give it up and profess myself unable to master it. I took it up again a few days ago, and after a two or three days’ fight, the last of which I sat up till 3, I at last mastered it. I don’t say you won’t let me work at such things, but you will keep me to more regular hours. A little out of the way now and then does not signify, but there should not be too much of it. It is not the mere sitting up but the hard thinking combined with it…”

Lion King: After the LMS meeting, I met up with Christine, met her friends at UCL, and then watched Lion King the Musical. It was amazing! One complaint was that the audience was a lot ruder than back at home. There were people chatting during the show at times, but the worst of all was when people joined in the singing. There were some guys next to me that constantly sang along. I DIDN’T PAY MONEY TO LISTEN TO YOUR CRAPPY ATTEMPTS AT KARAOKE, GET OUT. A bunch of losers, no less. Nonetheless, the time with Christine was extremely enjoyable.

Cat: I made an appointment to meet Cat at 10 am during my stay in London. She turned up at 11 am. She will say this wasn’t the full story, but basically she had to shout lunch because of that. We went shopping after, and I bought a jacket and some sweaters/jumpers, including a failed attempt to locate the H&M where I had previously seen the sweater I liked. Seriously, there were four H&Ms around Oxford Street (in London) and at the end we just gave up. Cat also got me the most atrocious looking “Merry Crustmas” sweater for my birthday, cheers.

Gloves: Civilisation has taken great strides in science and technology! I got 1 pound gloves from Primark that allow you to use your touch screen. Humanity, you amaze me (and let’s forget how amazing touch screens themselves are for a moment…).

Audrey: My friend Audrey, who I met during my ANU days is on exchange to Copenhagen. She visiting Oxford for a day, and we met up and had a fun chat. It was almost amusing how many friends from all around Australia I was seeing (Audrey – Canberra, Cat – Melbourne, Christine – Sydney) who were in Europe for a short trip.

Analytic Topology: Our lecturer Rolf mentioned how some phenomenon in the field of topology caused “the death of trees” or “the cutting down of forests”, which I thought was an amusing way of saying that a lot of research was done in that area. Something else I found funny that lecture was when he gave the explicit construction of the Stone-Cech compactification in terms of a space of continuous functions. He said, “I’m giving this to you, but don’t use it. It’s not helpful. In fact, it is very dangerous.” It was like he was revealing to us a secret weapon that could destroy the universe if used incorrectly. Well, a useless secret weapon…

Hebrews 9:5: During Thesis (postgrad Bible study at St Ebbes), we came across Hebrews 9:5, which says, “Above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail.” I thought it was funny how the author essentially did an “ain’t nobody got time for dat” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6gLMSf4afzo&ab_channel=superfiskHT).

Singing: I went to Andi’s place again and we sang songs. This was the second time now, and according to Andi, when you do something twice, it becomes ‘a thing’. What’s more, Lino joined us, so perhaps this will indeed be the start to something exciting with the more the merrier (to a certain extent).

Harry Potter Studio Tour: Finally can say BEEN THERE DONE THAT. I went with Cat, and it was incredibly fun and eye-opening. It certainly made watching the movies (on the bus back) a different but no less magical experience. We kind of goofed up by spending way too much in the “intermission” cafe (butterbeer). We thought it was the end of the tour, but there was actually still a third to go, which sadly (as it was the best part yet) we had to rush through. Oh well, at least we realised in time.

It’s late now, as you can probably tell by the decreasing quality of entries. I shall leave you with a verse that I really like.

“The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come.’ … And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.” – Revelation 22:17.