Path lifting lemma and fundamental group of circle

I’ve been reading some algebraic topology lately. It is horrendously abstract, at least for me at my current stage. Nonetheless, I’ve managed to make a little progress. On that, I’ll say that the path lifting lemma, a beautiful fundamental result in the field, makes more sense to me now at the formal level, where as perceived by me right now, the difficulty lies largely in the formalisms.

Path lifting lemma:    Let p : \tilde{X} \to X be a covering projection and \gamma : [0,1] \to X be a path such that for some x_0 \in X and \tilde{x} \in \tilde{X}, Continue reading “Path lifting lemma and fundamental group of circle”

Advertisements

Oleg

Oleg is one of my ubermensch Soviet (and also part Jewish) friends. He has placed at (or at least near) the top on the most elite of math contests. He is now a math PhD student with an advisor even crazier than he is, who he says sometimes makes him feel bad, because he has done too little math research wise. However, this persona alone is not that rare. Oleg’s sheer impressiveness largely stems from that on top of this, he is a terrific athlete, extremely buff and coordinated, enough that he can do handstand pushups, to the extent that he regards such as routine. Yes, it is routine for a guy contending for a spot on a legit gymnastics team, but you wouldn’t expect this from a math nerd huh?

Continue reading “Oleg”

主义

昨天在网上碰到了一个有趣的视频,标题为“My Life, My China – I am a Communist Party member 被打上标签的人”。此内容我就不在这里谈了,读者可以自己看此十分钟以下的视频。里面人所表达的想法和个人经历给我留下了深刻的感受,也在我心目中启发了一定的反思。

Continue reading “主义”

More mathematical struggles

Math is hard. It wrecks my self-esteem, and at times, it makes me feel an utter loser, who simply isn’t smart enough, who is a league if not multiple away from the big name mathematicians, who come up with much if not most of the most original results in mathematics. There are times when the formalism within the mathematics looks, perhaps superficially out of lack of perception no the part of its viewer, so excruciatingly complex and dry, and that one is inclined to simply go: this is too hard, give up. I’ve felt that, and I think just about everyone, no matter how smart, has, to some extent. Over time, I’ve come to realize that the dirty details tend to be a natural product of a few main ideas behind the proof, and once such ideas as grasped, every detail can easily be seen to have its rightful place within the entire construction. There was a time when I felt demoralized or slightly baffled upon seeing this answer of Ron Maimon that can totally come across as intellectually too presumptuous, from a guy too smart who never had to struggle like all us ordinary folks, from a guy who takes for granted as routine what is a slog for most, without being metacognitively aware enough to appreciate that he is of a totally different beast. In this, stood out the following quote:

You need to learn to “unpack” proofs into the construction that is involved, to know what the proof is saying really. It is no good to memorize the proof, you need to understand the construction, and this will motivate the proof.

Continue reading “More mathematical struggles”

冬奥会

今天网上搜奖牌榜预测,从而得知了Lindsay Vonn,因为那里的视频竟然有这位美国滑雪运动员为禁俄罗斯之决定张正嘴。好奇这种运动员的背景的我扫了扫此维基百科页,看到这位挪威裔姑娘出生于冬天满雪盖地的Minnesota,两岁就开始滑雪,并且在这方面有曾经赢过junior title的父亲的强烈鞭策。不用说,滑雪是有钱人的运动,所需要的设施是必可避免的昂贵,加上又有受伤的风险,想起前几年赛车手Michael Schumacher滑雪时头撞上了石头,导致达到长期不省人事的重伤,现在基本处于永久脑损伤状态。就是在美国,也有人笑话加以藐视的把冬奥会当做一个rich white person的聚会。

Continue reading “冬奥会”

More on Asian admissions

Yesterday, I met this kid who just entered UC Berkeley for undergraduate. I had known him when I was a kid through friends of parents, though of course, when you’re a kid that kind of age gap disallows much meaningful social interaction. I vividly remember senior year of high school in my Spanish class, we were in the school library computer lab doing some project with a partner, and on the front page of the school district, there was news that this kid won a state math competition. I immediately said to my partner: “I know that kid!” And yesterday, he told me that he made AIME in 8th grade, and also later the USAJMO, which shows that he is highly gifted, perhaps more so than I am.

Continue reading “More on Asian admissions”

Censorship in America

I’ve had the pleasure of reading the comments on Disqus of Bob Sykes, a baby boomer who, according to himself, has been an engineering professor for 37 years, at OSU if I remember correctly. He comments mostly on military technology, China, North Korea, race relations in America, and other political issues both internal and external to America. You can tell easily that he has some rather “radical” views. Like, he believes in segregation, to the extent that he thinks we should have segregated colleges. Now is he actually serious or is he employing the humor of hyperbole. He will also say:

Face the facts: the Anthem, Pledge, Flag, Declaration and Constitution are WASP male symbols. Blacks, Jews, Asians and Mexicans are not and cannot be Americans. America is and always will be WASP country.

I for the most part agree with what he says, when taken less literally and with some de-magnifications perhaps. He’s also pretty fucking funny. (If not, I wouldn’t be reading him ;))

I did see this morning this comment of his:

For almost a generation, Chinese students have dominated enrollments in our major STEM departments. They are an absolute majority of the students enrolled in most STEM programs today, especially mathematics and computers, engineering, physics and chemistry. And that is true even of our most elite STEM schools like MIT.

This has been a nearly zero-cost endeavor for the Chinese. At any decent STEM program all (as in ALL) of the graduate students are supported by the research programs they work for. That includes tuition, fees and a comfortable stipend. Support for graduate students is what distinguishes good graduate program from a mediocre one. The good ones have ample externally funded research programs; the mediocre ones don’t.

This investment shows up in many areas. China can put men into space; we can’t. China has many more super computers than we do, and they have the fastest supercomputers. Those machines are entirely home grown, from the chips to the operating systems. China also has the largest and most diverse manufacturing sector in the world and the largest infrastructure sector. Its nearest rival in terms of manufacturing diversity (but not size) is Russia. If China does succeed in integrating Eurasia into one economy, they will be the de facto world hegemon, and we will be a region power.

And I drafted and submitted a response:

You seem to overestimate China and Chinese in STEM a bit, though surely, the American mainstream tends to downgrade it. I know and talk with a guy, a very talented MIT student, who thinks rather lowly of China. Pollution, human rights, very few top mathematicians and scientists, yada yada yada. It is surely the case that even now most of the very elite STEM people of Chinese descent are in America, working in American universities or benefiting the American economy massively in American companies. It also does appear that at the highest levels, Chinese are still very underrepresented in many fields.

America is still quite a ways ahead in terms of sophistication of technology. You say China’s supercomputers are homegrown entirely, including the chips, but China’s best chip, the Loongson, is still far from the level that Intel has. Also, China has been struggling to manufacture high quality jet engines, which it has to buy from Russia, and in that, America, with Pratt and Whitney, is a generation ahead. These are examples of the most difficult technologies where China is still quite behind.

In a field I’m more familiar with, computer science, there’s no way China is anywhere close overall. See http://dubfuture.blogspot.c…. Almost all the important and foundational software systems, from the widely used programming languages, to Linux, to distributed systems, to git, have been developed in the West, and China is merely using them. I don’t see many Chinese, including those in America, creating complex, widely used open source tools yet.

China also is nowhere near competitive in the global automobile market.

So, too many glaring weaknesses. In China, people see themselves as scientifically and technologically behind, though that’s been changing. They even believe to a non-negligible extent that the Chinese education and system is ill for creativity, which seems to me way overblown, which the American mainstream promulgates, as did the professor who wrote the essay linked above.

I’ve gone through all my schooling in America, and I read Chinese online regularly, so I know a bit about China including its education and STEM, and this gives me an unusual double lens. I honestly think that American STEM education up to the undergrad level is a complete joke, and I realized this on a gradual basis. I eventually realized, starting from high school, that I had to learn on my own, as the school system by itself produces people who are not at all competitive. The American high school and college admissions system and even college is full of inane, time-wasting artificial nonsense. It has much to do with that the fact that students are simply too dumb nowadays, without selection at the high school level, which is done in most other advanced countries, including China, including Germany. There is also a ton of ideological BS within the American system, one that prides itself in vacuous democracy and freedom of speech; I’ve gone through American English and history classes to know the nightmare.

I do think though that in America, there is a sizable contingent who manage to really excel in spite of this morass, through independent learning and research, and by the graduate level, the American system is for the most part top notch. At the very top, the non-Chinese still have an edge, and that arguably extends to the younger generation as well.

By the way, how much discrimination do you see against Chinese in hard STEM fields (that does not include biology, in which it most certainly does exist). A friend of mine, a pure American, suspects that there is some pro-Jewish bias in academia right now in America, and that even in something like math, those mainland Chinese have to be better than those Jews to obtain equivalent positions. It’s hard to say. It does seem that Jews produce the most revolutionary thinkers and scientists if you look at the giants of math and theoretical physics. On the other hand, within the younger generation, Chinese are dominating the contests and Olympiads, which are 100% objective, fair contests. One ought to remember that in the older generation, China was quite poor and the Chinese came as immigrants with no money in a very foreign culture, a stark contrast to what the Jews, who are basically white European, have experienced. I’ve seen many very intelligent Jews say complete nonsense about China, more or less echoing the braindead mainstream American media, and I’ll go as far as to say that the Chinese cognitive elite does appear to be far less “full of shit.” It could be that the older generation of Chinese, to the extent that it underperformed, did so mostly out of discrimination and/or lack of resources and opportunity, or it could be that there is a relative dearth of Chinese talent wise at the very highest (say +4, +5 sigma) levels. We’ll see.

And Disqus marked it as spam!

Was it the Disqus system itself or was it some moderator of whatever forum this was, who decided that my writing was too un-PC to be publicized?

Japan

I watched part of this documentary on Japan in WWII. It is a very high quality one, with many personal remembrances of various Japan individuals, from high-ranking politicians and military men to schoolchildren, on their experience spoken in Japanese accented English. (No film experience on my part, but I can most certainly guess that many if not most of those were acted as opposed to real.) I believe it depicted rather realistically the Japanese perspective of the war.

Many individual Chinese openly express detest of Japan for obvious reasons, and in China, it is in some sense taught that Japan is pure evil. Kids will believe that. As one matures, one can of course develop a more realistic and less emotional perspective on the matter. Of course, there are many in China with family members who were killed or suffered tremendously under Japan, which has the most barbaric military culture of any country in the world, and thus, the reaction to Japan is bound to be traumatic and emotional, especially for the older folks.

I actually know little about Japan and am eager to learn more. I’ve never been there, aside from the Narita airport, which doesn’t count. I am increasingly impressed by Japan, by its ability particularly in science and technology. There is the popular stereotype (in China as well) that Japanese are uncreative copycats (they stole Chinese characters) and later they modernized learning from the West, but such is obviously not so given the plethora of original, and in some cases groundbreaking, creations by Japan since they have been an advanced country, which one can put as the 1930s. The masses see directly Japanese cameras and cars, and also their anime, and the elite intelligentsia are well aware of their contributions to pure science (on that, Japan has won sizable chunk of the Nobel prizes since 2000).

Japan modernized very rapidly and successfully with the help of the West. At that time, which was second half of 19th century, it was clear that the West was leagues ahead, having developed modern science, and later modern, industrial technology. By then, not surprisingly, Japan was obsessed with learning from the West (seeing what the defeated and colonized non-Western people of the world, especially China, were suffering), and initially, for good reason, Japanese were not sure they could ever compete with Westerners. As they made progress, doubts on that gradually dispersed, and expectedly, Japan defeated China in 1895, which devastated the Chinese national psyche much more so than did the repeated losses to the Western powers did, on the basis that China historically had always seen Japan as this puny country much as its vassal, which had relied on her as its cultural mother. Needless to say, Japan became the undisputed king of Asia after that, taking over both Taiwan and Korea. Japan experienced a tremendous boost in international status and confidence in itself when it prevailed in the Russo-Japanese War in 1905, against a white, Western power, which was a huge deal at the time when white supremacy was the norm, for good reasons. That also inspired greatly the so called colonized and subjugated colored peoples of the world.

Nonetheless, the Western powers refused to treat Japan as an equal. From my limited knowledge, they made it such that Japan, despite being the victor, did not get very favorable peace terms. The same was in the aftermath of WWI. Japan was obviously resentful that the West treated it as inferior despite all the evidence that Japan was as advanced and competent as the West was, and perhaps more so in some respects. I still recall reading in this silly American grade school textbook: “Japan beat the Europeans at their own game.” So, Japan, very naturally, viewed WWII as a necessity to further prove and assert itself, and justified it on the basis of liberating Asia from Western colonialism and domination. Even though Japan lost that war, it had demonstrated itself more than formidable in cases such as the Battle of Singapore, fighting a fully modern war centered on Navy and Air Force that they lost largely owing to lack of resources and men, such that the West could not but recognize it, despite their being foreign and a latecomer.

Again, post-war, Japan stunned the world with their “economic miracle” that is well represented by the pervasion of its cars and electronics through global (that includes first-class, Western) markets, and it is regarded by many in the West familiar with it, such as Jared Taylor, as one of the best run places on earth. There was some panic in the 1980s in America pertaining to that.

It is apparent that now, Japan, as impressive as it is, has peaked, having endured a so-called Lost Decade and faced competition against its high-tech products from South Korea and now China that cut away some of its market share, further contributing to their decline in economic growth. Still, in absolute terms, it is without doubt that Japan is very high up.

We all know in WWII, Japan easily took over China’s cities with modern against primitive, and it could not win the war against China mainly due to the vast size, as well as the geographic barriers, of mainland China, coupled with their being outnumbered. It was impossible to Japan to control the smaller, rural areas in China, where there was of course a popular anti-Japan resistance. I find it rather ironic that it was China, as weak and backwards as it was, managed to fight America to a stalemate, winning the North Korean side of the war, only 6 years after the end of WWII, when there were still like a million Japanese soldiers in China. That war though, in stark contrast to Japan vs America in WWII, was mainly a land one, one where numbers and human fighting ability mattered more and military technology less. Owing to that, China faced a very different and much fiercer international discrimination and obstacle than Japan had, but it was able to triumph through it miraculously, and that was a much more of a miracle than the Japanese post-war economic miracle. In 1964, China became the first Asian nuclear power. Though at that time, China was still for the most part behind technologically, it is fair to call that the point when China reclaimed its position as the leader of Asia from Japan. China is obviously much more of a threat to the West given its size, not possessed by Japan, as well as its having had its formative years modernization wise entirely in defiance of the West under an economic embargo, after the US was forced to officially treat it as an equal in the Korean Armistice Agreement. China is much indebted to the Soviet Union, which suffered a very sad, tragic demise and further economic disintegration by taking ridiculous advice of Western leaders eager to ruin it, for the generous aid it provided to China in the 1950s, the decade when the critical foundation of modern China was built. Though there was a Sino-Soviet split, with the two in direct conflict a decade later, the immense contribution of the Soviet Union to China’s current success was a decisive factor and cannot be overstated. I believe that the ties between China and Russia are so strong and friendly today largely due to this, which the Chinese people remember well.

Though primarily an (autistic) math nerd, I do take a casual interest in power politics, as you can tell, and I have developed somewhat of a cynical attitude towards it. It is perhaps deep embedded in our human DNA for powerful groups and tribes to want to rule the world. You can see this with the (rather rogue, and also getting outdated) attitude that the American neocons and British empire nostalgists (for lack of a better word) towards international affairs. They are stupid and let their own exceptionalism delude themselves such that they demand the entirely unreasonable and refuse to give credit, in an utterly egregious way, to those they don’t like. For example, they won’t acknowledge, far from it, that it was mostly the USSR who defeated Hitler, which is obvious. They, being as powerful as they were, could sort of get away it, but now that time is past, with the rise and catching up of the rest of the world, China in particular. We all know that powerful individuals or nations generally don’t get along well and exhibit mutual distrust. It’s not uncommon for the most powerful to use a less threatening competitor against its primary competitor, and such is natural behavior. However, the US and the British do it too nastily without shame, and spread the most ridiculous propaganda that is patently false, not respecting history at all. There is also the entitlement to trample and enslave the weak without any reservation whatsoever that is patently manifested in that elite ruling class today. Take a look at the following picture, of Kate Middleton (with Prince William) in Tuvalu, which I will let speak for itself.

Kate-Middleton-carried-elevated-chair-upon-arrived

We all know that it is a human tendency for the rich and powerful to oppress and exploit the poor and marginalized, as has happened throughout history, just about everywhere. Aspiration for status is in our genes, and any social group operates on a hierarchy in some form or another. There will always be winners and losers, superiors and inferiors. But, this could be done in a more benign way than what is reflected in the above photo, which shows devoid of virtue the Anglo elites in the global “leadership” position they cling onto today, in desperation.

Innate mathematical ability

This morning I had the great pleasure of reading an article on LessWrong on innate ability by Jonah Sinick. Jonah has been one of my greatest influences and inspirations, having interacted with him substantially. He is unusual in one of the best ways possible. I would not be surprised if he goes on to do something extraordinary.

When I catch up with Jonah, I like to talk with him about math, mathematicians, and IQ, which happens to be what that article of his on LessWrong is about. 😉 That article resonates with me deeply because I myself had similar experiences as he did. It is hypothesized by me that I was also twice exceptional, albeit in different ways, with its effects compounded by my unusual background, all of which mediocrities within the American public school system are not good at dealing with in an effectual way.

This writing of Jonah has brought forth reflections in my own mind with regard to mathematical ability, development, and style. I’ll say that as a little kid under 6, I was very good at arithmetic and even engaged in it obsessively. However, by age 8, after two years of adjusting to life in America starting off not knowing a word of English, I had forgotten most of that. I was known to be good at math among the normal normal students; of course, that doesn’t mean much. In grade school, I was not terribly interested in math or anything academic; I was more interested in playing and watching sports, particularly basketball and baseball.

I didn’t have any mathematical enrichment outside of school other than this silly after school math olympiad program. Nonetheless, I managed to test into two year accelerated math once I reached junior high, not that it means anything. In junior high, we were doing this stupid “core math” with graphing calculators and “experiments.” I didn’t realize that I was actually a joke at math until I failed miserably at the state mathcounts contest, having not prepared for it, unlike all those other tiger mommed Asian kids, who to me seemed way beyond me at that time. It only occurred to me that I might have some real talent for math when I made the AIME in 10th grade, taking the AMCs for the first time, being one of four in my high school of about 2000 to do so. I thought it was fun solving some of those math contest problems, which were more g-loaded, with an emphasis on the pattern recognition side.

It was after that I started to read up on the history of mathematics and mathematicians. I taught myself some calculus and was fascinated by it, not that I understood it very well. But I could easily sense that this was much more significant than many of those contrived contest problems, and soon, I began to lose interest in the contest stuff. It was also after that that I learned about proving things, which the American public school math doesn’t teach. I finally realized what mathematics is really about.

Like Jonah, I had some difficulties with careless errors and mental organization. I don’t think my raw intellectual horsepower was very high back in high school, but fortunately, it has improved substantially since then that it is for the most part no longer the major impediment.

I took calculus officially in 11th grade, and it was a breeze for me. I could easily compute the areas and volumes and such but the entire time, I felt quite dissatisfied, because I could not actually understand that stuff at a rigorous, theoretical level as I poured through our textbook that went up to vector calculus during lecture, which was rather inane, expected if one considers the mismatch between cognitive threshold relative to the distribution of ability of the students. I knew from reading online the rich world of math far beyond what we were covering, most of which I was not intellectually mature enough to access at that time. However, I vividly remember during summer after 11th grade, while attending a math summer program, I was able to comfortably write out the delta epsilon definition of limit with understanding of why it was reasonably defined that way. Still, I would say I was still quite weak in terms of both my mathematical maturity and overall intellectual ability. There were too many things I wasn’t aware of, including the g factor, that I easily would have been had I been higher in verbal ability, which would have enabled me to read, absorb, and internalize information much more rapidly and broadly. In contrast, Jonah had discovered independently, or so he says, the lack of free will at the age of 7!

I made some incremental advances in my math knowledge from reading and thinking outside of school the next year. As for contest math, I almost made the USAMO. Though I had improved, I was still not terribly quick and careful with solving contest style problems and doing computations. I think close to graduation, I also solved some Putnam problems.

Only in undergrad did I learn real math more seriously, but even there, nothing too advanced. US undergrad is a joke, and I also was one, just to a lesser extent than most of my “peers.” Almost certainly, Jonah, based on he’s told me, had gained much deeper and broader knowledge at the same stage, from the reading works of giants like Euler and Riemann.

I’ve noticed how there are a lot of Chinese-(American) kids really into those high school math contests, and they now also dominate USAMO and Putnam (though careful, as in the latter, there you’ve got some of Chinese internationals drawn from the elite from China). I will say that at the lower levels, many of those kids have some pretty low taste and an inability to think outside the system that would enable them to discover the existence of real math, as opposed to this artificial math game that they enjoy playing or are pressured to doing so for college. Though those contests have a high pattern recognition component to them, there is not really much depth or substantial math knowledge. It is also my belief, with reference to Jonah’s article, that math contests are mostly M loaded while real math is more V loaded. So this behavior is consistent with the lopsidedness in favor of M and perhaps also short term working memory of Chinese students. It has also been Jonah’s belief that controlling for g, these contests select for low taste and value judgement, and I surely identify with that perspective. So maybe college admissions are somewhat fair to assess an Asian penalty?

Of the thesis of Jonah’s article, a representative figure is Terry Tao. There, Jonah also pointed out that Tao’s research in math is more concrete and problem solving oriented by pure math standards, in line with what appears to be the same lopsided (modulo the absolute level, as Terry is a far far outlier) cognitive profile of his based on testing at age 9 and 10. Again, people enjoy what they are best at, and though, Terry Tao is almost certainly at least +3 sigma at verbal, he is far more rare, at least +5 sigma, a real übermensch, in the (in some sense dual) pattern recognition component, which means he leans towards the areas of math more loaded on the latter. I have heard the saying that even other Fields medalists are intimidated by Terry Tao. The breadth and volume and technical power of his work is almost unrivaled and otherworldly. The media makes it seem like Terry is a league above even the other Fields medalists. However, Jonah seems to believe that the deepest and most leading of mathematicians are the ones who are more theory builders, who create through leaps of insight and synthesis new fields and directions that keep mathematicians busy for decades, and even centuries. That would be say Grothendieck or SS Chern, and an ability that is more loaded on verbal ability, crudely speaking. Again, I have felt the same. This might explain why the advantage of Chinese students is not anywhere near as pronounced in math research as in contests, and why some people say that generally speaking, the Chinese mathematicians are more problem solving and technical than theoretical, more analysis than algebra. Likewise, we can predict the opposite for Jews who are skewed in favor of verbal. A corollary of this would be that the Jews produce the deepest thinkers, adjusted somewhat for population, which is almost certainly the case, if you look at the giants of mathematics and theoretical physics.

I’ll conclude with the following remark. I used to revere somewhat those who placed very highly on those contests, until I realized that many of them are actually somewhat weak in terms of deep understanding and thinking at a more theoretical level. Yes, I have met MOSPers who got destroyed by real math and who are not very intellectually versatile, with glaring weaknesses; I was quite surprised initially that even I seemed to be smarter if not a lot than some of them. Once upon a time, I couldn’t understand those who appeared very strong at real math (and often also science and/or engineering and/or humanities) who struggled with more concrete math and/or contest-style problem solving, like Jonah, who has written on LessWrong of his difficulties with accuracy on the trivial math SAT. I’ve met this other guy, who I thought was an idiot for being unable to perform simple computations, who is leagues beyond me in the most abstract of math, who writes prolifically about partially V-loaded areas of math like model theory. Now, the more metacognitive me has awakened to the reality that I may never by deficit of my neurobiology be able to fathom and experience what they’re capable of. After all, there are plenty I am almost certain are and are essentially doomed to be very delusional by nature relative to me, and since I’m at the far tail but not quite so much, there are bound to be people who view me the same. I can only hope that I can become more like them through some combination of exposure and organic neurobiological growth, but I as a realist will not deem that very likely.