There’s hope for you yet

Tatami Galaxy is tied with Ping Pong: The Animation for my favorite anime of all time, and this “simulator” that my good friend jonman over at Fine Whining and Breathing came up with captures a lot of what the story is trying to tell. If you’ve ever had a time of your life that you spent in constant regret, agonizing over what you could have done differently to make things better, check this out and brace for impact.

Tatami Galaxy Simulator 2016

1. Listen to this song in the background.

2. Read this extract:

MC: “I feel like something went awry with my life.”

Master: “Your life has not yet begun. You are spending overtime inside of your mother’s belly.”

MC: “It’s not that bad. I successfully obtained a life that people would be jealous of. But something is missing. Is this really it? There’s got to be some more meaningful life out there…More rose-colored, more sparkling! There might have been some college life with not a single dark cloud that would have satisfied me!”

Master: “What’s the matter? Are you half-asleep?”

MC: “I got to where I am by believing in my own potential! I’m not sure I’m saying it right…But why does my heart feel so cold? Maybe there’s a choice I should have made that would have led to some other possibility? Maybe the choices I made in my first year were wrong!”

Master: “You cannot use the word ‘possibility’ without limitations. Can you become a bunny girl? Can you become a pilot? Can you become a famous singer, or a superhero who saves the world with his powers?”

MC: “No, I can’t.”

Master: “Perhaps you could. But if you keep focusing your gaze on that which is unrealistic, you never will. The root of all your evil is in always relying on one of your other possibilities to get your wish. You must accept that you are the person here, now, and that you cannot become anymore else other than that person. There is no way that you can lead some worthwhile college life and feel satisfied. I guarantee it, so have confidence! There is no such thing as a rose-colored campus life, because there is nothing rose-colored in this world. Everything is all a bunch of colors mixed up, you see.”

King Disaster’s Math Manifesto

King Disaster’s Math Manifesto

This summer, rather than selling my soul to some corporate overlord and grinding myself into the dirt to make some big bucks working on Wall Street, I chose to stay at my college and do some academic research. I was assigned a mentor and we worked together to simulate the kind of project that one would take on in grad school or as a post doc. Eventually, we settled on the topic of random polytopes. Essentially, that means that you pick a bunch of points in \mathbb{R}^d, take their convex hull, and see what happens. The results are the 11+ page pdf I linked at the top of this post.

I can’t say I was thrilled with the project. Due to a couple of unfortunate lapses in communication, I got stuck with a topic which I did not find particularly interesting. (From what I gathered, the program administrators did not tell my mentor about my research preferences, nor did they inform him that he was supposed to do most of the legwork getting background material and a well-defined question prepared.) We also spent a large chunk of our time just doing background reading, finding what seemed like a feasible question, and then realizing that someone had already solved it in greater generality. When we finally did reach questions which had not been exhaustively answered, they were, simply put, way too hard to answer, especially within the span of five weeks. As a result, the paper I produced is purely expository. I am of the opinion that it brings some clarity and intuitive understanding to the results which we survey, but I suppose I’m biased.

Despite all this, I certainly enjoyed myself more than I have at any other job/internship. I think that research may be a good fit for me, if I can just find a field which intrigues me enough. I think perhaps a *slightly* more applicable area of math–for instance, theoretical statistics or random matrix theory–is more my speed. Even though I find answering abstract questions rewarding, if I’m going to devote as much time and energy to a project as I did to this one, I’d like a compelling reason to plod forward when the going gets tough. As I’ve heard on many occasions, perseverance is far more critical to research than sudden miraculous inspiration.

Overall, I think it was a positive experience. I got some more practice writing a technical paper, at the very worst, and I did learn about some pretty interesting stuff. (See the part in the paper about affine perimeter, and the part about making a convex chain in a triangle.) I think I’d like to give it another try moving forward, and next time I’ll do a better job of picking a damn project.

Putnam 2009-A1

I was about to go to sleep, but I haven’t posted in a while and this one is quick. I don’t think I have anything very insightful to say about how I came across this solution, since it came to me without much fiddling around. So, rather than trying and failing to give a good explanation, I’ll just leave a hint. The full solution will be included with my next post.

2009-A1. Let f be a real-valued function on the plane such that for every square ABCD in the plane, f(A) + f(B) + f(C) + f(D) = 0. Does it follow that f(P) = 0 for all points P in the plane?

Good luck!

Good luck!

Putnam 2013-A1

2013-A1. Recall that a regular icosahedron is a convex polyhedron having 12 vertices and 20 faces; the faces are congruent equilateral triangles. On each face of a regular icosahedron is written a nonnegative integer such that the sum of all 20 integers is 39. Show that there are two faces that share a vertex and have the same integer written on them.

 Obvious first step: what the hell does an icosahedron look like? Well, it looks like this:

Icosahedron

Also known as a d20. Nerd.

For any of you nerds that have played DnD before, this is a d20. Hope that helps.We’re looking for things that share a vertex, so we should probably look for things which share a vertex. We can see from the picture that about each vertex, there are five equilateral triangles, so we want to show that two of these have the same number. 

How can we do that? It seems hard to pin down one specific number that would have to occur twice. For instance, we can make 19 faces 2 and 1 face 1, or we could make 13 faces 3. In the first case, some 2’s will be touching, but in the second case, some 3’s will be touching. This is probably not going to work.

If we can’t prove what we want directly, we’ll have to try and prove it indirectly. That is, we’ll assume that the statement is false and find a contradiction. When is the statement false? Well, each of the 5 faces about each vertex must be different. Again, this statement by itself doesn’t help us a whole lot, because there a lot of nonnegative integers to choose from. So we look back at the problem statement for guidance. The fact that the sum of the faces must be 39 narrows our choices down a lot.

39 is not a particularly large number, not when we have 20 faces to consider AND the smallest number we can put on a face is 0. The average number on a face must be less than 2. This doesn’t give us a lot of wiggle room, so let’s see if we can find our contradiction here. We want to make our numbers as small as possible. If all the numbers about each vertex are different, that means that the smallest they can be is the integers 0, 1, 2, 3, and 4. Those add up to 10, so at best we can have a sum of 10 about each vertex. Great! If we can decompose the icosahedron into 4 set of these bad boys, we’ll be done, because then our sum is 40 which is too big.

…unfortunately, a quick glance at the picture above and a little experimentation will quickly show that this can’t be done. But we shouldn’t scrap this idea yet, because it seems like it’s going somewhere. The problem is that we can’t look at a bunch of these other things without having them overlap, in which case we’re overcounting some faces and not counting others at all. Instead of trying to pick some subset of these 5 faces around 1 vertex, let’s consider all of them instead. By the symmetry of the icosahedron, we’ll be overcounting each face the same amount of times.

We get one set of 5 faces around a vertex for each vertex, so there are 12 of them. If each has 0, 1, …,4 around it, that means the sum around each of these is 10, so the sum of all of them is 120. Note that all we’re doing is adding the value of a face each time it occurs in one of these sets of 5. That happens every time a vertex of the face is the center of a set of 5, which will happen once for each of its vertices. Since each face has three vertices, that means we’re adding each face to the total 3 times, so in total we end up with 3 times the sum of all the faces. Thus 3 * (sum of the faces) = 120, so the sum of the faces is 40. Last I checked, that’s greater than 39.

What does this all mean? Remember, what we just did was create the absolute smallest sum of all the faces when no two faces with a shared vertex have the same number on them. This lower bound ends up being greater than the sum which we know that the faces have, so it can’t be done! This means that our assumption must have been invalid, i.e. it’s not possible that there are 5 different numbers for each set of 5 faces around a vertex. So there exists some set of 5 about a vertex with the same number. These share a vertex, so we’re done.

I like this problem because a) it’s cool, and b) it shows that you shouldn’t always give up on an approach that seems promising at the first sign of trouble. Sometimes you just need make a few tiny adjustments to find yourself at the answer.

I’m a dirty liar

I hate to admit it, but it’s true. Why? Because I misleadingly stated that this blog contained math and shit, but so far it’s only shit. I am truly sorry.

Starting today, however, I’m going to try and make an honest man of myself. Every day (hopefully, but not likely), I’ll try to solve at least three interesting problems, and post my solutions on here. Most of these problems will have solutions that you can just look up, so in order to make myself marginally useful, I will include not only my solutions but also how I came by these solutions. I personally find this much more informative and helpful than reading a beautiful, elegant solution which appears to be conjured out of nowhere and which I never would have known how to come by on my own. Posting will also hopefully give me a better way to keep track of my progress, and maybe motivate me to actually keep working. Anyway, we’ll start off simple. I’m going to go through these “easy problems” first.

2014-A1. Prove that every nonzero coefficient of the Taylor series of (1-x+x^2)e^x about x = 0 is a rational number whose numerator (in lowest terms) is either 1 or a prime number.

It’s going to be hard to make any progress on this without knowing the Taylor series in question, so we should get that sorted out first. I’m not sure how much rigor the Putnam requires, but regardless I’m not going to prove that the Taylor series of the product is the product of the individual Taylor series. It’s not very hard and it’s more trouble to write out than it’s worth. Anyway, we compute the product:

(1-x+x^2)e^x = (1-x+x^2)\sum_{n=0}^\infty \frac{x^n}{n!} = \sum_{n=0}^\infty \frac{x^n-x^{n+1}+x^{n+2}}{n!}

We want to simplify things a little bit, so we group like terms. The x^n term is going to involve (n-2)! so we will have to separate the constant and linear terms. We get

= 1 + \sum_{n=2}^\infty \left(\frac{1}{n!}-\frac{1}{(n-1)!}+\frac{1}{(n-2)!}\right)x^n

Putting these three fractions over a common denominator, we see that the nth coefficient is

\frac{1-2n+n^2}{n!} = \frac{(n-1)^2}{n!} = \frac{n-1}{n(n-2)!}

for n > 2. (The coefficients of the constant and linear terms both meet the conditions so we don’t need to worry about them.)

At this point, I got a little caught up. We’re trying to prove something for all positive integers, and we have a formula to work with, so my first thought was to try induction. I monkeyed around for the bit:

Induction disaster

Yikes.

Maybe someone else can drag something useful out of this, but I can’t. So I abandoned this approach and started looking for another angle.

We want our numerator to be a prime or 1, so we should try to take advantage of the fact that the factorial in the denominator should cancel most of the factors in the numerator. We’ll proceed by casework.

1. n-1 is prime. There’s nothing to cancel it in the denominator, but we’re done anyway.

2. n-1 is composite. This actually breaks down into two sub-cases:

  • If n-1=pq, where p and q are distinct integers both greater than 1, then they will both be found in the product (n-2)!, and so the numerator will be 1 when reduced to lowest terms.
  • n-1=p^2 for some prime p. This is the only case where a composite number can’t be written as above. We’re okay in this case too, though, because one of the p factors will be canceled by (n-2)! and our numerator is prime.

This concludes the proof. Not a very hard problem, but for me it was a good exercise in knowing when to give up on an approach and try something new.

Some clarification

Some clarification

A friend and I were talking about my B Gata H Kei review, and he pointed out that I didn’t address a large part of the story, specifically Yamada and Kosuda’s interaction with the Kanejou siblings. To be honest, I thought that the post was dragging on, so I decided to not address it and hope that none of my 0 readers would notice. Alas, my prayers were left unanswered, my hopes dashed by jonman‘s sharp eye.

Anyway: I was wrong to suggest that there is nothing more than raging hormones between Yamada and Kosuda. There is plenty of evidence that suggests otherwise, primarily in the form of the Kanejou family. Kanejou Kyoka is a smokin’ hot transfer student who vies with Yamada for the position of “biggest bitch alive” “queen of the school.” In order to assert her dominance, Kyoka decides to try and steal Yamada’s boyfriend. If Kosuda were really just looking for a wet hole to fill, he probably would have fallen for her seduction and tried to bone her while the two alone in her room.  Similarly, Kyoka’s brother Keiichi—an extremely attractive Harvard Business School student—takes a liking to Yamada and asks her to be his girlfriend. Even after she learns that he is a virgin (one of the most important qualifications for her boyfriend), she still turns him down in favor of Kosuda. It’s plausible that Kosuda rejected Kyoka on a purely physical basis. Maybe he just finds Yamada more attractive. It seems unlikely; after all, a boob in hand is worth two in the bush. (xDDD) Regardless, there isn’t a chance in hell that Yamada would have turned down Keiichi if the only thing she had on her mind was getting her freak on. Clearly there’s something more going on here.

What the hell is my gripe, then, you ask? Sure, it’s out of wedlock, but my centuries-old puritanical fundamentalism and I can eat shit, right? They’re in love, nothing wrong with some dirty dirty sex, yeah?

This brings us to my main issue with the show. If I were just watching some horny, pea-brained teenagers trying to get it in, that wouldn’t have been so bad. That’s pure degeneracy, and it’s here to stay. I’ve been mostly desensitized. What bothers me is that Yamada and Kosuda—and society as a whole—have managed to defile love itself. The situation at hand is a double edged sword. On one hand, I’m glad to see that it’s still hard for us to divorce love and lust entirely. The downside of that, of course, is that as sex becomes more cheap and meaningless, one of two things will necessarily happen. One possibility is that we sever the connection between love and sex. If we do this, we lose an incredibly powerful means of expressing a critical—perhaps the most critical—emotion.  If we can’t separate the two, then the corruption will continue to spread, eventually engulfing love itself. This seems to be where Yamada and Kosuda are taking things. Their love was born of degeneracy (their desire to fuck each other without an emotional attachment) and breeds even more degeneracy (their even stronger desire to fuck each other overshadowing their emotional connection). What’s worse, these days, their story passes as “sweet” and “cute.” We’ve grown so accustomed to the filth that we dwell in that B Gata H Kei seems downright adorable in comparison. And that makes me sad.

B Gata H Kei: Moral Degeneracy in Modern Society

B Gata H Kei: Moral Degeneracy in Modern Society

WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS

Kids these days fuck each other’s brains out without a second thought. You social “progressives” are doing a great job tearing down all of those ridiculous social constructs, those bastions of intolerance and the patriarchy and whatever other asinine buzzwords you want to include. I concede that I can’t think of a purely rational, irrefutable reason for my convictions about sexual morality. I can’t think of a purely rational reason that murder is bad, either, but I won’t have any problem convincing anyone but a psychopath of that fact. Society’s set of moral axioms is shrinking. People are still willing to accept that hurting others for no reason is bad, but the number who will accept that fidelity and self-control are inherently worthwhile dwindles. You know what else is shrinking? The distinction between society and a collection of horny apes, that’s what.

As a beta piece of shit, I have a prepared reaction to seeing such outrageous violations of my deepest convictions happen all around me, all the time, even by people who I hold in high regard and care for a great deal. I envision that my unshakable morals endow me with legendary might, and I vanquish the darkness which threatens to overtake me in a blaze of holy, righteous fire. I emerge from the epic battle victorious, and all is right with the world.

This process takes about a day and is usually completely internal, though it sometimes manifests itself as a surge of energy and a strong desire to visit the iron temple. It’s a great way to set PR’s, but the most important effect is that I am left too mentally exhausted to care about the atrocities that threw me into my fit in the first place. I can return my values to their proper place: a doormat to be stepped on by modern morality, a worthless, obsolete piece of trash. And I return to my proper place, laughing off the offenses and taking it all like the bitch I am.

Fortunately, the cycle of rage and resignation was confined to real life, something which I have no trouble avoiding. I never would have done anything about it if it ended there, but you faggots took it one step too far:

You fucked with my anime.

I didn’t suddenly discover the existence of ecchi or the like. As a matter of fact, for all my ravings about moral degeneracy, I enjoy a good harem anime just as much as the next bitter, lonely asshole, and my guilty pleasure is actually what led me to B Gata H Kei. I was expecting another run-of-the-mill school romance, devoid of anything deeper than that feel when no gf and chock full of fan service. What I got was far, far more sinister.

Now, there’s everything wrong with ass ‘n’ titties, but unfortunately I have a working cock and balls and only a finite amount of self-restraint. The idea is to defuse the urge to procreate in the least destructive way possible, and if that happens to be looking at panty shots of cartoon characters, so be it. Is it hypocritical? Of course, but I’m aware of that and I take the guilt as the price of my crime. Where B Gata H Kei went wrong was in trying to teach me a lesson instead of just showing me boobies.

The story centers on a sex-crazed high school girl, Yamada. She is a virgin whose greatest desire in life is to become a dirty, worthless stank-slut, and she has the looks to do it. Apparently she has a pretty nasty vag, though, and she’s worried that someone experienced in devaluing what ought to be a meaningful, sacred act having sex will laugh at and embarrass her. So, in an effort to gain some experience herself, and maybe get over her fear that her meat wallet is gross, she pursues the most average, unremarkable guy she can get her hands on. Enter Kosuda, another virgin who fits the qualifications to the letter.

For a while, the show is harmless and actually pretty funny. Yamada tsun tsun~’s Kosuda hard, creating plenty of entertaining misunderstandings and tension, and exposing her vain, self-centered, insecure personality. Not one to break away from the male stereotype, Kosuda plays an excellent dick-guided monkey, pursuing Yamada purely out of physical attraction. He seems somewhat aware of this; at one point, while the two are on a date, he wonders whether he actually likes Yamada or not. Just when I was worried that a good message would come out of this garbage, Yamada goes in for the kiss and all of Kosuda’s moral qualms evaporate in an instant.

As the show progresses, Yamada discovers—rather unwillingly—that she has developed feelings for Kosuda. I won’t call bullshit on this, because the guy actually does have admirable qualities. In typical anime fashion, he is genuinely caring and sensitive. We see multiple instances of his helping out strangers, and it seems like another big turn-on for Yamada is Kosuda’s photography. They visit a nature park together, and while she is busy worrying about her own appearance and getting laid, Kosuda manages to capture the beauty and serenity of the scene is his pictures. Later, while on a camping trip, Yamada discovers Kosuda taking pictures of the stars, which he says he was taking in order to show her. Huge panty dropper right there. Good work Kosuda, you’re not total garbage.

…kind of. Actually, Kosuda is the one I’m going to call bullshit on. For all his qualities, he has a huge flaw, one which most people would call “being male.” Kosuda is a (mostly) great guy. Yamada is a steaming pile. She certainly changes throughout the show, particularly in that she recognizes Kosuda’s worth. (We’ll come back to this in a moment.) But she grows from a huge piece of shit into a slightly less huge piece of shit. She does nothing for Kosuda but torture him mentally. Time after time, she sends him mixed signals, talks down to him, and generally acts like a grade-A bitch. From Kosuda’s perspective, there is no good reason to like her, other than her physical attractiveness. He was close to figuring that out, too, until the promise of taking that sweet ass to pound town led him astray.

If you take a narrow and superficial view of the show, it seems to be sending a positive message. Specifically, if you just consider Yamada’s side of the story and take her actions at face value, B Gata H Kei appears to be saying, in the words of a friend, that “lust and love are entangled completely.” Yamada thought that she could go around getting stuffed by anything that moved, but she wasn’t able to get anywhere close to the horizontal mambo without first having feelings for Kosuda. Similarly, Kosuda did not commit himself to trying to plow that pussy until after he confesses his “love” for Yamada.

I take a more pessimistic, but I think more realistic, view of the story. In considering Kosuda’s case, the most important thing to keep in mind is chronology. His timeline is as follows:

  1. Find Yamada physically attractive.
  2. Go on date(s) with Yamada, doubt whether he actually likes her.
  3. French that bitch, physical contact puts lust for Yamada into overdrive.
  4. Realize he “likes” Yamada. Note that the only change from 2 to 4 is that she has made it clear that she wants the dick.
  5. Try to put it in. New Year’s wish is likely that he can put it in.

Yamada’s timeline has a slightly better trajectory:

  1. Want to be a nasty slut.
  2. Start interacting with Kosuda solely to fuck him.
  3. Unable to get laid despite many brazen attempts.
  4. Develop feelings for Kosuda.
  5. Get much closer to being railed.
  6. New Year’s wish is likely that she’ll get railed.

Here we have two different cases, with two (seemingly) opposite moral trajectories, and yet they both point to the same thing. For Kosuda, it isn’t love which motivates his lust, but the other way around. He starts to “like” Yamada when it becomes apparently that their relationship will bring him carnal pleasure. He doesn’t learn anything meaningful about Yamada that could have made this change, precisely because there’s nothing there for him to learn. She is shallow and vain, and though she is innocent for the time being, it’s clear from the direction that their relationship is headed that that won’t last for long. The fact that Kosuda justifies his lust might point to a desire for something nobler. But whether he’s doing it consciously or not, Kosuda’s timeline shows that he’s really just making excuses for himself.

Yamada’s story gets closer to sending a positive moral message, but chokes in the very last part of the last episode. Approximately four hours after almost getting fucked, realizing that it’s wrong to rush things because it devalues the emotional component of the act, and saying that she and Kosuda should take it slow, Yamada and Kosuda meet again. I really thought that I had a shot at a good end here, but instead, B Gata H Kei gave me a sobering slap in the face. After a tense few seconds, Yamada and Kosuda both proclaim that they want to have sex. From Kosuda, this isn’t a surprise any more. All hope was lost for him after their first kiss. The bigger disappointment was that, in spite of her recognition that there is value in slowing things down, Yamada’s desire for that fat D won out in the end. She confirms this in the last scene of the show. At a local shrine—a holy place—the two place base desires above true love, both wishing that they will be able to have sex in the coming year.

A thin layer of this “faux love,” and true love taking a back seat to libido. B Gata H Kei doesn’t show an inextricable connection between love and lust. Rather, it reveals how pathetic the excuses and facades we are willing to accept have become, how far we’ve fallen.

That got way too heavy at the end. We lighthearted now.