Monday, January 12, 2015

Why Thomas Jefferson ditched his newspaper subscriptions in favor of Newton, Euclid, Tacitus and Thucydides

I don't use Twitter for my own commentary but maintain an account with which to follow others. One feed I enjoy immensely is "On This Day in Math," which today brought us this tidbit: "1812 Thomas Jefferson writes [to] John Adams 'I have given up newspapers in exchange for Tacitus and Thucydides, for Newton and Euclid;...'" Oh, to be afforded such a luxury! For now, though, your correspondent regrettably must remain ensconced in daily affairs.

Still, to honor TJ's late-in-life liberation from what must have been a life-long newspaper addiction, those of you who have too long neglected your Newton and Euclid ought to add to their new year's resolutions spending spare time watching Vi Hart videos (and rewatching them, perhaps with assistance from Sal Khan, till you thoroughly understand them). I had occasion over the summer to spend time re-upping my basic geometry and trig skills and looking at the material as an adult with an eye toward utility on my own projects. That turned out to be an entirely different and far more productive experience than slogging through geometry and trig texts in high school.