Calculus Made Easy

My way of taking a break from the … everything of everything has been to try my hand at an updated edition of Silvanus P. Thompson’s classic text, Calculus Made Easy (1914). The book deserves its reputation and holds up quite well overall; I have seen folks who aren’t at all “math people” be charmed by his writing style. However, it is outdated in places, with the occasional antiquated turn of phrase or poorly-aged example. Fortunately, Project Gutenberg has a transcribed version including a ZIP file of the LaTeX source code and auxiliary files. So, I went for a minimal update, fixing the archaisms that pose noticeable stumbling blocks. The result is now available as a PDF document and as source code.

The one thing in Thompson’s presentation that I didn’t particularly like is how he introduces derivatives of trig functions. It presumes that the reader has a lot of trig identities in their back pocket, and it makes a simplification that is hard to justify without going into limits, a topic that Thompson doesn’t explicitly teach. I’ve tried my hand at a replacement that appeals to the way he does teach.

Further modifications may come as people apprise me of all the things I missed. I do wish to keep it short and sweet, rather than adding multiple new chapters.

In Re Vopson’s “Mass-Energy-Information Equivalence” and “Infodynamics”

Time was, when I saw nonsensical pseudo-physics getting uncritical media boosts, I would write blog posts about it. Now, I see “A New Law of Physics Could Support the Idea We’re Living In a Simulation” and just go, “Shut up, fuck you.” I wasted more than enough of my short time on this Earth reading incoherent self-indulgence to see if there was something, anything under the clickbait, and in my professional opinion, the guy who wrote his thesis on a bathroom wall, starting with “Love is blind” and concluding with “Ray Charles is God”, made a better contribution in every respect.

As I have written before, it is very difficult to provide substantive criticism of a “theory” that has no substance. I could point to individual things that make no sense, but the people who care don’t need my help, and the people who don’t won’t be convinced by anything I say. (“I asked ChatGPT to summarize the paper, and I found the results quite inspirational!”) I could try to provide a little media literacy, like feel free to ignore any science “news” that’s just a press release from the guy who made it up. But again, if you’re thirsty for something else, that will hardly satisfy. (“Reality is all on the blockchain, buy GameStop!”)