My name is Alan and I will be a contributing author to this blog. My background is in mathematics and computer science. I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics and a minor in Computer Science from Duke University in 2011, and beginning in the fall of 2011 I will be a graduate student in the EECS department at MIT. My primary areas of interest in mathematics are combinatorics and commutative algebra, and my primary areas of interest in computer science are algorithms, complexity theory, and artificial intelligence.

My academic homepage can be found here.


This blog serves a dual purpose. First, it is an attempt to write about technical topics in a super-accessible way so that any interested, educated layman will be able to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of the subjects. Often, readers pick up a technical book, say, a book on algebraic topology, only to put it back down after quickly drowning in waves of symbols and equations. Our goal is to provide a bridge. We want to provide friendly, gentle introductions to various topics we find interesting, so that anyone without a specific background may also enjoy the topic and find it equally interesting. To be honest, we hate getting bogged down in equations just as much as anyone else, but it’s the underlying idea which pulls us in. For those of you who don’t have the time or patience to dig through the symbols and equations or take tons of classes in mathematics to get to the underlying idea, this blog is for you.

The second purpose of this blog is to help the writers. Clear writing goes hand-in-hand with clear understanding. By writing about technical topics in such a way that a layman can understand them, we help ourselves understand the topics better. Often, one gains a better grasp of something by internalizing it as intuition. Once this intuition exists, one no longer needs to waste time re-deriving the underlying facts anymore and can move on to pondering more complex problems.

In terms of content, we currently have writers with backgrounds in mathematics and computer science, so naturally the posts starting out will be on topics in these fields. However, our hope is that we can pull in more writers who have backgrounds in other technical fields as well, such as physics, economics, statistics, etc. The goal of this blog is to raise interest and appreciation in the underlying ideas in technical fields which might otherwise go unnoticed. The reader we have in mind is a curious, high school- or college-educated individual who wishes to learn more about these technical fields but does not have the time to peruse tomes and textbooks in order to do so. Of course, we will not be a substitute for formal education; our goal is only to provide that bridge so that the reader may cross it if he or she so chooses.