So once again I’ve been thinking about Leibniz.
I never stop thinking about Leibniz, really, but sometimes I blog about it.
Anyway, I wonder what Leibniz’ thoughts would be on the internet. I suspect he would absolutely love the idea of it—free exchange of ideas, thoughts, opinions, and knowledge—but I wonder if he’d find it a distraction to our ability to create and come up with new ideas/knowledge or if he’d see it as something that fosters creativity and the cultivation of knowledge.
I think it goes both ways, but I do think that overall, the internet leads people to waste more time. I know that’s certainly the case for me and for a lot of other people I talk to, and I suspect that it’s worse for people who have had the internet (as we know it today—fast, huge, and accessible almost anywhere) around for their whole lives.
I just wonder how he would see it.
I also wonder if he would get super into things like Reddit or memes or YouTube. Maybe he’d end up getting a bit addicted to the internet like everyone else, haha.
I wanted to put this in a separate blog post from the previous one. I’ve already talked about what teaching this calculus class means to me “personally.” I suspect you know what I’m going to talk about in this one.
As I’m sure you are all painfully aware, I really, really like Leibniz. I don’t know what it is about him and his ideas and him as a person (from what I can determine from bios and descriptions of him), but I just…connect with him. I of course am not comparing my meager intellect or impact to his; I just feel like he needs to mean something to me, if that makes any sort of non-creepy-history-stalker sense. I’ve joked in the past that such a connection might be due to a surplus of Leibniz atoms in my body…it may be the case, who knows. The universe is weird.
A while back, I wondered what it would be like if I were to get a chance to teach calculus, never actually believing that I would ever get the opportunity.
But now I’m going to be teaching calculus, and I’m trying to wrap my head around just how much that means to me.
It’s a connection to Leibniz. It’s a pretty loose one, and it’s one hundreds of thousands of calc teachers share, but it’s a connection.
I mean, calculus was something that he helped to develop, refine, and bring to the public. He had a very direct hand in this incredibly useful, powerful mathematical study. The fact that I get to have even just a very small role in the passing on of the knowledge of calculus to others is just…it’s so cool. It’s so amazing. It means so much to me.
Like, come on. If someone has a historical figure as someone they greatly admire, how often do they get to directly help pass on that historical figure’s ideas, inventions, influence, etc. to future generations?
It’s an honor. It really is.
And I don’t care how corny that sounds. It’s how I feel.
Leibniz is my dude, and I am damn proud to be given the opportunity to help teach others about calculus.
Anyway, one series of designs he does is called “Monsters of Grok” which is where he takes a band’s logo design and uses it for a name of some influential thinker from history. See David Hume (Daft Punk), Descartes (Deadmau5), and Quine (Queen) as examples.
I have been waiting forever for him to do one for Leibniz. I even got on the mailing list to be notified if/when such a design was produced.
And lo! In my inbox this morning? “Your Amorphia Apparel request is fulfilled.”
Bought it. Eagerly awaiting it. Excited.
Edit: Calgary, why does your one and only Fed-Ex place have to be on the freaking moon?
Edit 2: IT’S EVEN BETTER IN PERSON OMFG
So every time I’m in a grocery store, I think a lot about Leibniz.
“But Claudia,” you say, “you think a lot about Leibniz wherever you are.”
But grocery stores, man. These things did not exist back in his time. I always wonder what his reaction would be when stepping into one for the first time. I’m sure shock would be one of his more prominent emotions.
But what else?
Would he be curious as to how we have been able to amass such a large quantity of food in one building? Where did it all come from and how did it all get here? Do all of these things grow in this area? Why are there so many foods in boxes and packages?
Would he be excited? There’s so much variety! What the hell is a papaya? What the hell is M&Ms? Refrigeration??
Would he be in awe? How much food is in this building?! WHAT DO YOU MEAN THERE ARE FORTY MORE OF THESE TYPES OF STORES IN THE CITY?!!?
Would he be concerned? Do you ever worry about running out of food? Are there enough resources to continue to produce at this level? How much waste do grocery stores produce?
Leibniz is the type of guy, in my opinion, who would have all of these thoughts and would try to find answers as he happily ran around the store, opening packages he wasn’t supposed to open, eating random vegetables and snacks and whatnot, and going into places he wasn’t supposed to go, like the deli or the bakery.
I just…I think about Leibniz a lot.
Especially in grocery stores.
So this guy, 3Blue1Brown, posts all sorts of math-related videos on YouTube. His series “Essence of Calculus” is really interesting and a good way to get into calc if you’re interested in it but you don’t know quite where to start (or if it’s been a while since you’ve learned it).
Callooh callay, it’s Leibniz Day!
I will never stop loving this man. I will never stop complaining about how unknown he is. His genius is underappreciated and that is upsetting to me.
So today, celebrate him! I know I will.
How is it that I just now found this video??? ? ? ? ?
For those of you who don’t have time to watch it, it’s a dude gushing about Leibniz for SIXTY FIVE MINUTES.
I don’t know how YouTube hasn’t taken this down yet. I mean, it is porn, after all.
Edit: OH FUCK
S E R I E S
Especially when I walk. I think about Leibniz a lot while I’m walking.
And especially on days like this—the 301st anniversary of his death. The world lost an incredible human being that day.
What I wouldn’t give to meet him, you know? To just see him, even. Just be in the same time and place together. Maybe as he’s tinkering with his stepped reckoner. Or working out the beginnings of his calculus. Or just sitting and thinking.
I’ve mentioned this before on this blog and I know it sounds creepy/crazy/WTF-ish, but I just feel like I have a connection with him somehow. I’m not saying I’m anywhere near him when it comes to his genius/innovativeness/amazingness or anything like that. I just feel…connected. Somehow.
I dunno. Maybe I have more than my fair share of Leibniz atoms in me, who knows.
IT’S LEIBNIZ DAY!!
It’s also Canada’s 150th birthday, but Leibniz day takes precedence for me. The guy invented calculus, yo. Would Canada even exist without calculus?
I GUESS WE’LL NEVER KNOW, WILL WE
(Sorry, I’m hyper.)
I also did a 30-mile walk this afternoon/evening. It took me 6 hours and 18 minutes, but I kept a pace of 4.77 MPH despite it being obscenely hot and then obscenely thunderstormy. My feet/legs didn’t feel any worse than they do after a typical 15-mile walk, so hey, that’s cool. I’mma try it again on Monday.
(I spent most of my walk thinking about Leibniz, not gonna lie.)
I WANT TEN
I am So. Goddamn. Sad. I hate the end of the year/beginning of the year. It always makes me very depressed no matter what the circumstances.
On the plus side, though, look at this manlicious thing I get to stare at above my computer desk now.
IT’S LEIBNIZ DAY, MOTHERFUCKERS!
Love, love, love.
It’s too bad I feel like an absolute worthless bag of trash today. Leibniz day is a day to be happy.
BOOSH boosh BOOSH boosh BOOSH I’m gonna go cry for a little while.
Today I had to go invigilate a MATH 277 final as part of my TA requirements (we each have to invigilate/proctor two final exams; sometimes we get ones we’ve actually been TAs for and sometimes we don’t. This was a case of the latter). It turns out that MATT 277 is University of Calgary’s version of MATH 275, or multivariate calculus. The test involved about 20 or so questions.
Our job as TAs, apart from making everybody sign in on the little attendance sheet, was mainly to just walk around in order to discourage cheating and to help anybody out who raised their hand.
So let me just quickly set the scene for you: a large gym full of 250+ students, a 2-hour exam, and lots and lots of calculus.
I bet you can guess what I was thinking about.
I was thinking about Leibniz!
I was wondering, as I walked down the aisles of seats, watching students write the elongated “s” for integration and the dx/dy (or variations of that) for differentiation, what Leibniz would think if he saw a roomful of people, in 2016, still using some of his original symbols. Like, how ridiculous is that? Calculus has been studied, expanded upon, and extended to a ton of different fields/uses since it was first developed, but we’re still using some of Leibniz’ original symbols.
And what would he think about calculus being taught as basically standard curriculum at universities? What would he think about the tons of different uses of calculus today?
I know I kind of talked about this in a previous post, but I actually think about this quite a bit. Especially today.
Yay calculus! Yay Leibniz!
DAMN STRAIGHT HE WOULD.
Man, I’d get a study group together right away. And by “study group” I mean “just Leibniz and me, somewhere quiet where he can do his genius stuff and I can guard him ‘cause he’s precious.”
I can’t help it, I’m obsessive. Seriously, if I was ever given the option to, say, time travel back to any year (and location) of my choice, I would with zero hesitation pick something involving Leibniz.
Witness the signing of the Declaration of Independence?
See man first create fire?
Observe the dinosaurs?
On occasion (read: every day), I find myself wondering what Leibniz would think of our modern world nowadays. Like, if we were somehow to manage to bring him back to life at age 40 or so and got someone (read: me) to show him around and calm him down when all the new stuff freaked him out, I wonder what he would really think of things.
- What would he think of modern calculators? His Stepped Reckoner weighed like 80 pounds and could only add, subtract, multiply, and divide. I can buy a palm-sized calculator from the dollar store that can compute any given square root in about the time it takes to blink. And what would he do with a graphing calculator?
- On the larger scale, what would he think of computers? He may have not come up with the original idea for binary, but he certainly refined it enough so that it could be easy to understand and use. Would he be surprised at how far we’ve come technology-wise just based on binary, or would that be something he may have anticipated?
- And what would he think about technology in general? Like, I’m sure if we just recreated 40-year-old Leibniz and dropped him into the modern world, he’d likely be VERY freaked out, but barring that—say we were able to calm him down and explain things to him—what would he think of our technology now? I’d bet he’d want to deconstruct EVERYTHING to see how it all works, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he just came up with a few improvements off the top of his head. ‘Cause, you know, Leibniz.
- How would he feel about the fact that now, in 2015, we still use several of his original symbols in calculus? If I were to show him a college calculus textbook, flip to the first section on integration, and point to his elongated “s” symbol, what would his reaction be? Would he think the textbook was from some previous century? Would he realize that the time he spent thoughtfully considering appropriate and intuitive symbols to describe math was not wasted? I wonder if he’d approve or disapprove of the modern calculus textbook in general.
- WHAT WOULD HE THINK ABOUT GLASSES? The poor guy was ridiculously near-sighted by the time he was about 20. Reading and writing must have been quite difficult for him. A good pair of specs would allow him to see clearly, both near and far. I wonder what his reaction to that would be.
- What would he think about his Wikipedia page, or any other brief history of his life/accomplishments? Would he feel proud seeing the long list of accomplishments that he’d achieved during his life? Would he wish he’d had more time to do more things? (Probably.) I wonder if he’d be happy with how people see him nowadays and/or how they interpret his philosophical contributions and his general view of the world.
Interesting things to think about. I also like the idea of him impulsively shunning the fashion of his day in favor of some outfit he saw at H&M or something. He’d go running through the store towards it, shedding clothes and knocking over all the displays along the way.
Everyone else: Leibniz, no!
Me: Leibniz, yes.
You know what the only downside is to LeibnizFest?* Reading the last chapter of that Antognazza biography.
Man, is it sad.
Leibniz did not have a very good time at the end of his life. “Leibniz’s last years were marred by frustration and loneliness,” is the first sentence of that last chapter, and unfortunately it is a very fitting first sentence. First, he’d outlived almost everyone he’d ever communicated with (most of them died in the 1690’s; Leibniz lived until 1716) and thus had very few people to communicate with. Second, he was still trying to recover his reputation after the whole calculus debate with Newton (and actually, I shouldn’t say “after” yet because Newton and his cronies (mostly his cronies) dragged that thing out well past Leibniz’ death). Third, he wanted desperately to keep traveling, but injury, poor health, and prior obligations basically forced him to stay put for a good several years. A quote of his from the bio: “I am shut in my room working and I hardly ever leave it.” This is coming from a man who took on innumerable projects just so that he’d have the excuse to travel and converse with people of different backgrounds and skills, so it’s super sad. And then, of course, there’s the fact that he basically died alone and was given very little recognition for his accomplishments until well after his death.
It’s heartbreaking to me to hear all the crappy things that happened to him in the last five or so years of his life. Someone with such a great mind, such compassion, and such good spirit deserved something better at the end.
UGH IT JUST MAKES ME UPSET, OKAY?
To end LeibnizFest on a lighter note, have a look at this Leibniz-centric website that has pretty much everything you could ever want on the amazing polymath. I have it bookmarked. I visit it a few times a week.
It’s a healthy obsession.
Anyway. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, LEIBNIZ!
*I’m totally calling mid-June to mid-July LeibnizFest now; it’s gone beyond just celebrating on his birthday, let’s be honest.
Yes, I’m going to read this every June/July until I die.
No, I don’t think that’s a sign of an unhealthy obsession.
Also, I posted this awhile back, but I’m going to post it again because it’s a really good discussion of a good amount of Leibniz’ philosophical viewpoints.
This is by far the best thing I’ve ever found on Tumblr (source).
How to draw Leibniz:
Guess whose birthday* it is today?
Hint 1: He was a Swiss mathematician born in 1667
Hint 2: He tutored l’Hopital in mathematics
Hint 3: Most of his family members were mathematicians as well
It’s JOHANN BERNOULLI!
So why is he awesome?
Not only did he tutor l’Hopital—which eventually led to l’Hopital publishing the first formal book on calculus**–but he also tutored Euler when Euler was young. In fact, he was the one who convinced Euler’s father that he had the makings of a great mathematician, thus steering him away from a life of a pastor.
For a majority of his life, he was in a highly competitive relationship with his equally mathematically talented brother, Jakob. When his brother died of tuberculosis, Bernoulli’s jealousy actually shifted to his son (another mathematician!) and they had a few good disputes about who came up with what papers and ideas.
One super awesome thing about Bernoulli, though, was that he was one of the few who stayed on Leibniz’ side of the whole calculus dispute with Newton. He showed his support by demonstrating several problems that could be solved using Leibniz’ methods, but not Newton’s. Go Bernoulli!
*He was born on July 27th by old style dates; by new style, he was born on August 6th.
**The book was basically all of Bernoulli’s teachings written up formally, which ticked Bernoulli off quite a bit even though l’Hopital mentioned him in the book.
Yaaaaaaaaay, best day of the year!
Today is Gottfried Leibniz’ 348th birthday, yo.
As I mentioned a week or so ago, I’m re-reading this fantastic bio of him ‘cause it’s important. I know I do this a lot, but let me reiterate just one huge reason why this man is so damn awesome, since it IS his birthday, after all:
Leibniz’ formal schooling was severely lacking any rigorous mathematical training. It focused mainly on Latin, theology, and philosophy. However, due to (among other things) having access to his father’s extensive library, Leibniz developed a curiosity toward mathematics and taught himself quite a bit. However, he was still lacking a lot of knowledge once he got out of school. Here’s an excerpt from the bio regarding his visit to Paris, which was practically the center of all things intellectual in the European continent at the time:
“[In Paris] Leibniz was made painfully aware of the limitations of his mathematical preparation and of his lack of up-to-date knowledge of work in the field; and this soon led to the further realization that, in order to carry his plans forward, he would first need to forge himself new tools. … Thankfully, Leibniz was nothing if not a quick learner: by the end of his Parisian sojourn, in fact, the self-confessed mathematical apprentice had invented the infinitesimal calculus.”
So it took him approximately TEN FREAKING YEARS to go from practically a math novice to inventor of calculus.
That’s so freaking ridiculous.
Happy birthday, Leibniz, you amazing dude. <3