Monday, December 27, 2004

Know Thyself

Knowing oneself is very important, not only in mathematics but in life. Knowing one's character is very important, for you will see your strengths and weaknesses.

In mathematics or physics your weaknesses usually expose themselves as lack of mastery, lack of attention to detail, lack of consistency, pushing a problem through even though you know you missed or passed over a critical detail, etc. Sometimes one's weakness only shows up under certain conditions like a quiz or a test.

If you can identify your weakness try to turn it into strength by constantly training yourself in activities that involve your weakness somehow, push yourself to overcome your weakness everyday until you gradually turn it into strength. If its test taking take a test everyday and time yourself until you not only get all the questions correct but you feel comfortable with test taking.

One's weaknesses have the tendency to show up in the most inopportune time, and if one doesn't do something to deal with them they may become a barrier to one's progress.

John G.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

The Movie Hero

If you haven't seen the movie "Hero" here is a little summary:

"In a distant war torn land, a ruthless emperor is rising to power with an iron fist and his massive armies. To control everything, he will stop at nothing. International action star Jet Li is a fearless warrior with no name on a mission of revenge for the massacre of his people"

There is one scene in the movie when "Jet Li" is about to fight an opponent. Before they fight both "Jet Li" and his opponent visualize the entire fight, they close their eyes and go through every move and every countermove their opponent will make.

This is the type of visualization we should strive for when solving problems, we should be able to visualize the solution from start to finish in our minds.

There are other things we can learn from the movie, training techniques at first we imitate our teacher, then we practice perfectly, then we can employ the techinques in actual problem solving situations.

John G.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Supplements for your brain!!

Last Friday (Dec 3,2004), on ABC (I think it was 20/20) there was an interview with Victor Conte. Conte is the CEO of Balco, the company that supposedly gave steroids to famous world-class athletes like Marion Jones, Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi, and others. What is interesting is that during the interview he revealed that by using his chemical enhancement program coupled with a rigorous training regimen he took average athletes and made them into the best athletes in the world.

I do not endorse what Balco did, it was wrong not only because using steroids gives you an unfair advantage, but also because using steroids is bad for your body in the long run.

20/20 showed how nearly all of the athletes mentioned above broke world records after they had worked with Conte. Conte revealed some details of his chemical enhancement program; calendars indicating what substances to take on a day to day basis and revealing details of the substances used and why. What was most impressive was that he had "project world record" where he took an average sprinter and made him into the fastest sprinter in the world.

Many would say that using steroids is akin to using a cheat sheet on a test, but this is not a valid analogy. Steroids enhance your body's ability to perform; you do not have to rely on machinery outside of your body. Using a cheat sheet is more analogous to attaching a motor to move your legs faster. Using Steroids is unfair to those honest athletes who don't want to use them.

Though many of these athletes had preexisting talent and ability many of them where simply average in their sport. Not only that, they where most likely competing against others who had more ability and also used steroids. So steroids alone don't guarantee you will be the best, you need a well-designed training regimen as well.

I asked myself could something similar be applied to standardized tests??? Could one design a program to take an average person with average "abilities" and make them score in the 99th percentile on the SAT or GRE, without cheating?? This will basically guarantee your entrance into any university you want. It would be beneficial to research safe and legal substances that increase our ability to think and perform coupled with a training regimen. We can plan our day to day activities to increase our ability to solve problems and decrease the time spent on solving problems.

We can learn much from Balco, that sometimes what seems impossible is possible.

John G.