My weblog ELECTRON BLUE, which concentrated on science and mathematics, ran from 2004-2008. It is no longer being updated. My current blog, which is more art-related, is here.

Wed, 10 Mar, 2004

Trigonometric Identities, take 3

The Barron's text with the "Ruritanian" fantasy characters, titled "Trigonometry: The Easy Way," was anything but the "easy way." I have found it unhelpful on so many occasions that I have put it away, at least for now. I'm now working again with the Schaum's Outline book on trigonometry, which I referred to some time ago as the "Red Spine Book." This book's section on Trigonometric Identities contains lots of helpful, if pedantic, information on how to work these increasingly baroque statements, and also many "worked-out" problems showing the steps on how they were done. Even so, some of Schaum's identities need further working-out in order to see (for instance) just how you get from secant to tangent, and cosecant to tangent.

I am determined to learn to work with these identities, and their subsequent double-angle versions, and with trigonometric equations. Pedantic is good for me. I find that I can learn anything, as long as I take it in small enough steps. This is pre-calculus work and it's essential before I go forward. Calculus is daunting. Whenever I talk about math with someone who is otherwise well-educated, I hear a similar story: "I did well in algebra and geometry and even trigonometry, but once I tried calculus, I just gave up and dropped out. It was like hitting a wall and I couldn't go any further." I am still hoping to get to calculus sometime this year, and I wonder what I will do when I encounter this fearsome barrier.

I must admit that my difficulties with trigonometry have recently caused me some unhappy moments, and I wondered to myself and others why I was doing this whole math and science project. It's been three and a half years since Fermilab and I haven't gotten to calculus yet, and am still working on Newton's laws and other simple classical mechanics. And yet I keep going, slow as I am. Why? I went back to the section that stumped me, even though I should have just let it go for a while. I had to do it. Sometimes my drive to do this surprises even myself.

I'm working on a "mission statement" about my math and physics learning project. With it will be a series of reasons why I continue to do this. Some of them will be Wrong Reasons, some of them will be Right Reasons. There will also be Non Reasons, which are just as important.

Correction on info about Leonard Mlodinow

In my review of Mlodinow's book, I stated that M. was an "editor" for Scholastic Books. In fact, he was in charge of media research and development for Scholastic, investigating things like e-books, broadband internet, wireless transmission. He may not be doing that now, but that's what he was doing in 2001. I found an interesting, though not too recent, interview with him at this site.

Posted at 3:11 am | link


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