The simplistic beauty of a quaternion fractal...

Friday, May 17, 2013

Final Reflection

      I have to say that the process of writing this paper was one of the most amazing academic experiences I've ever had. It feels great to finally be able to present this finished paper in the context of this blog. On the first day of class, when I learned that we would be discussing the projects in class in the context of "the ghost", I must say, I was a bit disappointed at first. I've never been a big fan of traditional ghost stories nor ever found them to be that scary. When the the professor asked us to write about a ghost story that we knew, the only thing that came to me mind was the 1995 Japanese anime film, "Ghost in the Shell". I remember chuckling to myself as I turned it in, wondering about the relevance that film might have to a class like this. I was pretty skeptical about how much I would get out of this class. That was until we watched a YouTube clip for homework of the French philosopher, Jacques Derrida, talk about the ghost in a metaphorical sense. After watching that clip a couple times, something clicked inside my head and I became very excited to explore the limits of this metaphor.
      When it came time to pick a topic for the research paper that was to become the final project for this class, I all of the sudden remembered the word quaternion. The idea of a somewhat forgotten form of math all of the sudden seemed to fit into this idea of the ghost as a metaphor. However, I quickly lost sight of that thought as a began to drown in my research, struggling to narrow down an area of focus as the complexity of the situation hit me. What were quaternions any way? Who still used them? Why were they so forgotten? Did they have any physical significance? I began to question my ability to follow through with the scope of this project and considered turning my focus to research modern shamanism instead.
      When I caught wind of the Nature letters, I finally felt like I could see where I might go with this project. I became intrigued at the historical aspect to the unfolding story infront of me. I was ammused by the debate that was going on in the pages i was reading, and even more intrigued when I discovered instances of the debate still carrying on today.I began to see I broader context of the scientific process at work and understand how I might use this debate to discuss the process of how we know what we think we know.
      My biggest challange was figuring out a way to deal with the mathematical jargon surrounding this topic in a way that wouldn't lose the average reader. I found that just saying the word "quaternion" freaked some people out. Then the situation would get worse when I tried to explain what little I knew about them. I my first draft I used all sorts of technical terms with out giving a thought at trying to define them. When we had a group conference to peer review or drafts, the feed back I recieved confirmed my fears about this "jargon" trap. This debate I was reading about in the Nature letters gave me a way out of this trap.
      All in all, when it really came down to pulling it all together, I was really surprised at how the whole thing just flowed out of me and fit together so nicely. I really feel like a learned a lot about what the scientific process is really like out there in the "real world" and am finding myself anxious to get my PhD. in physics and get out ther and do some research of my own!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Reflections on Audiance, Research and Process.

            In deciding to write about a subject pertaining to mathematics, one of my biggest challenges is learning how to write for a large audience while commutating mathematical concepts without loss of understanding for the reader. This was one of the biggest criticisms I received in a group conference used to discuss research papers. In my latest draft I rearranged many paragraphs and spent a little bit longer describing quaternions and how they relate to three dimensional space. I have also tried to cut out some of the more complicated language. This is a difficult task in discussing quaternions and I have found this to be a good exercise for me. It has forced me to really think about how to be concise and simple.
            My research for this paper has taken me places that I did not expect. I started out wanting to talk about the physical significance and or meaning of quaternions. In on reflective blog post I asked the questions, “Why did vector analysis win out of quaternion algebra? Does the quaternion algebra system represent some fundamental aspect of reality, or is it just a mathematical trick? Could reexamining quaternion algebra lead to a better understanding of a unified field theory? I feel that all of these questions pose similar problems of being two broad”. My research in the begging was focused more on recent theories in physics where quaternions were used. As I researched further, I became aware of a debate that had been going on for a long time of the use of quaternions. Thoughts about my research question turned to this debate. What it came time to post an entry on a primary research proposal, I posted this, “I plan to go through and analyzing the debate of the use of quaternions in math and physics in letters to Nature from the years 1880-1900. From the little of research I’ve done so far there seems to have been a heated debate that took place during these years concerning the use of quaternions. It is interesting to me that people feel so strongly one way or the other”. This process has been rather fun and interesting for me.

Further Reflections on Revision

      With the feed back that I recieved, and with what I already felt, I need to the information I have better in order to be able to cite ideas with in the paper. I have already ordered more books and articles from the library to asist my scourse as well as found specific passages to support some passages that needed citing. I also need to continue to follow through with the thought process of the paper and further anylze and discuss the debate both historically and presently and tie them together within the light of how knowlege and the science of gaining knowlegde evolve and what and who influences this process.
      Two of goals that were highlighted on my feed back were:
1.Understand and avoid plagerism or the appearance if plagerims and cite research in the established documentation style.
2.Grapple and analyze complex, nuanced arguments and texts.
I think that knowlege and awareness of these two goals can bee seen in the first paragraph. From here I think it is all about puting the rest of what I have researched down in writing (and making sure everything is properlty cited in the process) and tying the whole thing together conceptualy at the end.

...Here there be Quaternions...

...Here there be Quaternions...
The plaque from the bridge where Sir William Rowan Hamilton first discovered Quaternions.