Thursday, March 29, 2012

I started doing exercises on the Khan Academy about 8 months ago as a way of taking my mind of crazymaking things I can do nothing about.  I now have 1,755,000 exercise points and loose change; this gives some idea of how crazy I would have been if I had not been working out fiddly little exercises in kinematics and such.  I feel a bit guilty about this, because I could long since have gone past the mathematics I already know by watching videos. The problem is, though, that I hate videos as an instructional tool, and the whole point, after all, was to soothe the savage breast.

The other day, though, I succumbed to the gamification which some see as a flaw in the enterprise. At the time I had every badge it was possible to win without watching a video.  There are many more badges, but these all require watching videos, and I do so LOATHE videos.  Still, I thought I would look at the list of videos and see if there was anything I could bear to watch.  And what should I see but a whole slew of videos on Laplace Transforms!  Something I had never covered in the days when I was studying mathematics!

I should say at once that I had no idea at this point what a Laplace Transform actually was.  The appeal of the topic was simply the name "Laplace Transform."  For reasons that I can't defend, mathematics appeals to what I suppose boils down to a love of kit.  Glamorous names are good, as is some novel sort of notation.  (The Laplace Transform, of course, offers both.)   So I watched 6 or 7 videos, racking up several badges in the process - but the fact is, I really don't like videos.

It was at this point that the policy of giving house room to unread books came into its own.  Back in 1997 I would appear to have bought a book on differential equations under the impression that I would quickly be reading up on differential equations.  (Readers familiar with my publishing career will, I hope, not hold it against me if this optimism was unfounded.)  Now, though,  I pulled the book off my shelf and found a whole chapter on the Laplace Transform!  A chapter which I did find much easier to follow than the video, though without the video it might have gone unread for further countless years. 

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