About

About:

My name is Nicholas “Saij”  Horton, and I’m a graduate student in mathematics at Portland State University. My areas of study are Quantum Game theory and Mathematical Modeling in the Behavioral Sciences including Biological Evolution, Economics, and Political Science.

Outside of Math, my science interests are in Theoretic Biology, Exercise Science, Systems Science, Bayesian Statistics, and anything at all to do with Dinosaurs. I know nothing about Engineering or Physics, despite what people assume about us math folks, and I couldn’t fix a toilet if my life depended on it.

When I’m not mathing (the active verb meaning “doing mathematics”, pronounced   meiTHiN, like “bathing”), I work as a weightlifting and sports performance coach.  I compete as an Olympic Weightlifter, just did my first Highland Games contest, and am working at getting into Track and Field.

My first major in college was in Music, and while at that time I studied classical guitar, I have since switched to soul and R&B.

I am a big believer in “pop” science writing. I’m a relatively well educated guy, but the shear number and complexity of fields increases every day. I can’t keep up with my curiosity. I NEED others to help explain to me what is interesting about their topic in a way that I can actually digest (see my blogroll for great writers I read all the time like Edward Carson and John Hawks). Blogs have become a wonderful medium for exactly that, but with a relaxed and informal vibe that I dig.

But, in the end of course, this IS a blog, so don’t be surprised by totally random posts about the Incredible Hulk or Star Trek!

I also blog at:

The Iron Samurai, which is a blog about Olympic Weightlifting, sports performance, and a bit of Sumo.

Here’s me at the Portland Highland Games:

nick_rock-press

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5 responses to “About

  1. This guy sounds de’lishious! Check out his music site too! I think its alterside.com

  2. I feel compelled to congratulate you for an amazing blog site. Your wit, knowledge and intelligence breathes life into so many topics – congrats! The world is lucky to have your contribution and especially those of us in Portland. 🙂

    Congrats…

  3. Love your blog and podcasts — really! they’re fantastic! — but man, you really further the stereotype of the ultra-smart math guy who doesn’t get humanities, arts, or language.

    “shear number” —> sheer number
    “Keith Schreiner who’s other work” —> whose other work
    “infinite number of Nick’s” —> of Nicks

  4. I’m glad you dig my stuff so far. And, oh man, them’s the least of my spelling and grammar “mistakes”.

    But, seeing as how we math folk can’t resist further categorization and explanation, I’ll try to clarify what you said a bit, and put my own spin on it. It’s just too fun not to!

    I’d be wary of lumping the Arts or the Humanities in with language when you’re talking specifically about spelling and grammar. Neither spelling nor grammar are essential parts of either the Arts or the other Humanities. (I say ‘essential’ because if we found misspellings in a work of art that was otherwise great, it wouldn’t detract from it significantly. A case in point is Shakespeare who was totally free with both spelling and grammar and we don’t get down on him for it.) Art is primarily about emotions, not the craft of creation. And the Humanities, such as history, are about ideas, not the intricate nature of the conveyance of those ideas. Yes, spelling/grammar are important. But, not essential.

    Spelling is an arbitrary construct that is not congruent with the language itself. That is, the spelling (especially in English) of a word often doesn’t represent the word itself as clearly as it should. A good example is the word “grotesque”. The “que” at the end is ridiculous. But, we’re stuck with it as a holdover of history. A better spelling would be “grotesk” or even better “growtesk” so that “grow” coincides with how it is spelled on its own, considering that it is sounded out the same in both words.

    In fact, there are separate parts of the brain that deal with written vs oral language processing. This means that ones understanding of language is not directly dependent on their being able to spell correctly.

    And of course, “correct” in both spelling and grammar is something man made and artificial.

    When people say that mathematics is a language, they mean the written part. And that is true to some degree, but it is a much better written one. Every symbol in math is clearly defined, and consistent. This is only because it was designed. Natural language evolved, and like all things that evolve, it is messy to say the least.

    I, like many other math folk, have had a (somewhat childish, I admit) tendency to “blow off” any work at learning the rules because of the arbitrary nature of them. Written English is a bad system. Sure, I like the theory of language development (because evolution of systems is cool), but I have a hard time caring about pleasing the “powers that be” who decide what is and isn’t a “proper” spelling of word.

    If “ain’t” is in the dictionary, it’s a word – officially. But, does that mean before it made the dictionary, it wasn’t a word? I don’t think so. It very much was a word, because people understood it when they heard it. It was a sound that conveyed meaning = word.

    The downsides of such an attitude as mine are obvious: it can sometimes be jarring to be reading along and hit on a misspelled word; bad grammar/spelling can make you seem dumber than you are; and in the worst cases, a misspelling can convey a different meaning than you’d intended; oh, and teachers will lower your grade.

    But, all of that aside, I’ve never been too concerned that my meaning was lost beyond recognition. Most people are both forgiving and able to figure it out in context. Nor do I suffer from a need to prove how smart I am. (In fact, I kinda like undercutting myself and playin’ the fool. I relate more to surfer-dudes than to academics.)

    Hmm … I rambled longer than expected. I guess that means I should just write a full-on post about the subject of spelling/grammar and its relation to knowledge and language.

    But, you’re right, I suck at spelling, and ain’t so hot at grammar. If it weren’t for a spell-checker, I’d be worse (which means that I AM worse, you just aren’t seeing it!)

    And lastly, as for the stereotype of a math guy not “getting” the Arts, that is very funny to me. I say it’s funny because I never was the kid people pigeon-holed as a future math guy. I failed nearly ALL of my math classes when I was a kid (along with everything else). What I excelled at … was art and music. Those are the fields teachers were convinced I was going to go in to. Art was all I cared about.

    My mother is a college art professor, and I spent my childhood drawing nearly every day (as well as painting and printmaking). I was obsessed with theater in high school, and spent tons of my time acting and reading plays. I sang in choir, I learned to play multiple instruments, and eventually went to college to study music (which I did for 2 years).

    By all accounts, I was an artist, not a budding mathematician. When I went back to school at 26 years old, people were blown away that I was going into mathematics. It seemed out of left field. Sure, I always showed an aptitude for it. But, I didn’t show an interest in anything but the arts for 26 years.

    I never intended to end up a “math guy”. It just sort of happened. As John Lennon said, “Life is what happens when you’re making other plans.” Watch out, you never know. You just might end up a Mathematician, too!

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