We are in a new year! Praise be to God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ for carrying each of us through such a trying year. I pray that everybody reading this might be reassured and revitalized by God’s hand through the Holy Spirit and that all may find life in His name. I pray equally that not only every individual, but also society at large might feel Your healing power.
At the end of such a painful year, I feel this only appropriate. We need so much healing. One of my many hopes with this blog is to put a drop into the bucket of healing. To see why, recall that I am both a scientist (a mathematician, to be specific) and a Christian. So, I find myself in a position to help rectify divisions between Christians and non-Christians, and even more specifically between Christians and scientists. I am also an educator – I currently teach calculus and hope to teach far more over the years – and I aim to educate other Christians (and non-Christians) in topics that touch on mathematics and Christianity.
In light of this, I want to continually receive feedback and input on what I am doing. As we are beginning a new year – which is in fact approximately one year since I began writing on this blog in earnest – I want to put forward my goals for the year and give my readers an opportunity to give me feedback on my plans. My post will proceed as follows. I will first list a couple major life events over the past year. I will then briefly summarize those writing projects on which I have already begun writing. I will then move on to topics that I hope to be writing about over the next year. After the post is done, I sincerely hope that all my readers will tell me which of these projects they are most or least excited about, and I hope to receive input about other writing directions I might possibly go as well.
Work Life: COVID has had the impacts on me that I imagine it has on all academics over the past nine months. Namely, I have had drastically less one-on-one interaction with my professors and fellow graduate students. For me personally, this has made being productive much harder. While I know that many have been able to leverage the quarantine into focused study on singular topics and high productivity, my experience has been different. I have ADHD, and the lack of interpersonal interactions/stimulation during quarantine has had a negative impact on my general efficiency and ability to focus. Listening to and delivering online lectures was quite difficult, as has maintaining enough focus to do productive research. I have been able to do some research on the odd values of Fourier coefficients of modular forms and on arithmetic statistics of partitions, but I feel like I could’ve been much more productive working in person. Sadly, that’s not how things were. But I hope that going forward I will never take for granted the benefit to me psychologically of working in a “workplace environment.”
Personal Life: The other major update, from just a few weeks ago now, is that I am engaged to be married to the love of my life. I proposed to my fiancée Kara on December 19th of 2020, and I am so thrilled that she said yes. I have spent the past couple of weeks doing a lot of wedding planning – we have chosen a date and venue, formed a preliminary budget, chosen the groomsman and bridesmaids, and done a lot of the work towards choosing a honeymoon and our first apartment. It has been a thrill and a large drain on my time, although I do not mean this in a bad way. Her emotional support keeps me going in my worst moments and she brings me back to Christ when I am struggling. I am so thankful for her and our upcoming wedding in July, as well for the rest of my life with her.
Current Writing Projects
I’ve been writing on this blog now since December 2019 (13 months ago) and have written around 80 posts for the blog. Some of these have been more or less isolated, but many of these have also been very interconnected. In fact, the main body of what I’ve written thus far has been designed to not only stand on its own, but also to fit together with other posts. I focus here on those larger bodies of related posts.
Critical Thinking Toolkit: This series has been going for quite a while, and consists of points that are important for thinking carefully about anything at all in life – I think that up until this moment none of them have only to do with religion, although I’ve used examples pertaining to religion as I’ve seen fit. These posts will continue, but will likely slow down within the next few months. I will also eventually put up a database post where I provide links to every database post I have made so far, organized into useful categories that share similarities.
Explaining Calculus: I’m probably somewhere between halfway and a third of the way done with this project now. My goal here has been to explain as much of what mathematicians call “calculus” to an audience that is not very mathematically inclined. There have been times I’ve indulged in some more detailed bits of mathematics, but I’ve tried to explain those more slowly than would normally be done. I’ve also not really emphasized actually teaching the reader to do calculus themselves – rather, I’ve been focusing on explaining the sorts of things that calculus does. I have provided examples that the careful reader (or the reader who already knows calculus) should be able to follow, but even if these are not understood, the goal of gaining a sort of rough ‘big-picture’ of what this calculus thing is all about should still be achieved.
There are three major ‘sections’ within the Explaining Calculus series – the topics of which would be called derivatives, integrals, and infinite series. I’ve been explaining derivatives so far, and am nearly done with that section of the series. After that segment, I will move on to integrals, then infinite series, and hopefully explain those well. I expect that this series will probably be completely done by the end of 2021.
Future Writing Projects
I do this blog partly because I love writing, but also because I want to help others learn. Because of that, I think frequently about what the best topics I can write about would be. These can end up shifting over time, but for now here is what I am expecting to be my major new writing projects in 2021.
Book and Article Summaries: This is the most significant of my future projects, the one I’d like to devote the most time to. I’ve only done one of these so far – namely my summary of Eugene Wigner’s article, which is entitled The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences. This is an academic article – that is, this article is printed in a professional academic journal and is intended to experts in the relevant fields (which in this case are mathematics and physics, with implications in philosophy and theology). Ever since I started the blog, I’ve wanted to do things like this. As it turns out, these kinds of posts take a long time to prepare. The commentary part is fairly easy, but it takes a lot of time to do the best I can to correctly represent the original author of the article. In the case of my summary of Wigner’s article, Wigner is an atheistic physicist and I am a Christian mathematician – so we come from different perspectives. I did the best I knew how to keep my own perspective on his writing separate from his own writing, and to nonetheless include my own thoughts on his writing in the post via a section that followed the summary portion.
I would like to do many more of these this year. This may end up meaning that I can’t do as many posts this year, we will see how this works out. But of the 40 books I’ve read in 2020, I’d like to write summaries of probably 10 or so of them – in addition to similar summaries of academic articles. These range from writings of G.H. Hardy to Thomas Nagel to William Lane Craig to Alvin Plantinga. I’d like to do a lot here – hopefully this will be possible without any massive gaps in my posting schedule.
Intro to Philosophy of Religion: I’ve done some isolated posts to this effect in the past, and I’d now like to give this topic a more organized approach. I would like to take all the time I’ve spent learning about how modern philosophers are talking about religious issues and to put that in an easier to read format than is often presented. I’d also like to defend a particular argument for God’s existence, which forms a sort of subset of this series of posts that I’d like to explain below. I’d also like to do deeper dives into particular subjects within philosophy of religion. The first of these will be what is known as the Kalam Cosmological Argument, which (basically) reasons from the beginning of the universe a finite time ago (aka the Big Bang) that very likely God exists. Lots more needs to be said here – that will have to wait until a later time.
Explaining Set Theory: This one likely won’t come for a long time – or at least won’t come full force for a long time. This is my intended follow-up for the Explaining Calculus series. Set theory is another branch of mathematics, one that is more abstract. This will be very different from the calculus series. Set theory is, as the mathematician would say, more fundamental than calculus. What the mathematician means by this is similar to what we might mean when we say that learning to read is the fundamental task of all literature. Basically, set theory is very often the ‘language’ in which the other areas of mathematics are expressed. Set theory is a sort of ‘grammar’ for mathematics – in set theory we learn about such basic things as thinking of objects as ‘part of a whole’, how to relate things to each other in an organized manner (aka the function), and how to count things – even infinite things! Set theory also comes up a lot in philosophical circles because of the many curious paradoxical situations we find ourselves in as we dive deep into that world. In this series, my hope is to boil everything down enough that, even though you might not know how to do any set theory on your own, hopefully you can become increasingly able to understand that language.
Viewership of the Blog from Around the World!
That’s all for my major planned future topics for writing. It’s been a good first year – in fact this is a good time to point out that it has been just over a year since I’ve been writing on this blog publicly. I’m incredibly thankful for all of those who have been reading – it has been really gratifying for me and I hope it has been helpful in some way for you.
As a way to show my appreciation and excitement for continuing my writing, I wanted to give an overview of some of the viewership statistics that I can see as the owner of the website. I can see things like the number of pages that have been viewed, the number of times people have opened the website (i.e. if you open my main page, then read three articles, that only counts as opening my website once), and I can even see which countries have people who read the blog and which posts are the most popular. I currently sit at about 2,300 total views, representing more than 50 different countries – which I find amazing and humbling. Thank you to everyone who has been a reader of the blog!
So thank you to everyone who has been a reader – I hope you all have learned something and enjoyed doing so!
Also, I want my writing to be enjoyable to everyone. So, even though I’ve listed what my plans are for 2021, I want to know what people who are actually reading what I write want to see. Let me know in the comments if you have topics that you want me to write about!