Monday, April 14, 2008

ABD: Borders and Sticks

Tucson, Arizona. Pardon the self indulgent post, but a certain blogger is pleased to announce his doctoral committee passed him on the oral exam and endorsed his research proposal. Naturally they grilled me proper. The last time I was here occurred in 1993 in mathematics.


Back then, I studied probability theory as the values shrink to the border between possible and impossible. Convention says that non-zero implies possibility. I can call a coin toss and have the predicted event occur. People win the lottery (odds usually 150-250 million to one).

I am asking whether two distinct events can co-exist: 1) the prediction, and 2) the event predicted. The lottery shows at 250 million to one, the answer is yes. The odds against everything happening tomorrow as they will are beyond comprehension. That they will occur is beyond dispute. Can the prediction in fact exist? If not, where is the border? The framing twists the semantics of possibility in rich and fascinating ways.

The most traumatic and psychologically challenging event of my life (so far) occurred at a different border regarding a wager with extreme probabilities. The experience involved unspeakable terror where one's psyche is pure fear, not even having thoughts.

Twenty years later in 1993, I met the other side of the stick, and she asked me to give her a word. I did, and she returned it to me. I quit the math program at once.

No sticks this time. The hat, ass, farm, and overcoat have been tossed over the wall. Now the dissertation afterburners fire.


Blogger Daniel R. Patterson said...

Congrats, Matt.

4/14/2008 4:25 PM  
Blogger Sirocco said...


4/14/2008 5:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

congrats Matt...oh...not throwing a damp cloth here, but did you know that 50% that make it to the ABD stage...stay there???? Not because of ability, but because it is hard to finish, self motivate, etc. Yes, after all that work, and getting that close, they don't finish.

You can do it! Turn that ABD into a PHD.

Congrats again!

4/14/2008 5:33 PM  
Blogger Liza said...

Congratulations, X4mr.

4/14/2008 6:16 PM  
Blogger Policon said...

Way to go Matt. What a great place to focus.

4/14/2008 7:29 PM  
Blogger x4mr said...

Thanks, all.

4/15/2008 9:01 AM  

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