Credits and bibliography

What I've written in my assorted pages comes out of my head, with occasional reference to external sources. These are sometimes my notes from classes at school or lectures at university, sometimes books and sometimes web pages. I'd like some more of the last to which to point, by the way.

What's in my head can to some degree be traced to what I was taught, what I've read and what other folk have said to me along the way: but much of what's in my head is what my head made out of what was previously in it. I keep doing that, and I don't keep very good track of where ideas come from: I just play with the available ideas. Consequently, I make no claims of originality – even if I do happen to be the first to have presented some particular idea, I built it out of pieces of other folk's ideas.


My perception of how I have come to know and understand the things I suppose I do begins (though it does not end) with what I've heard by word of mouth. The foundation of that is what my teachers and lecturers told me (I have copious notes, and understand them: but my mind (like, now, my website) contains its own digest of what I learned). I have been remembered (thanks, Nigel Hubbard ;^) for interrupting my teachers (and lecturers): and my interruptions have generally been my best attempt at checking that I really have understood the ramifications of what's been said. By that means I got more mileage out of my teachers – though it exasperated some.

When the teacher really didn't understand the subject he'd introduced, such questioning at least ensured that I and my classmates knew we had to learn the lesson ourselves. Ben Slocock had read The Text (blessed is the text, for it is available even to the badly-taught) before-times and understood it to some degree: by addressing himself to my tiresome questions he unknotted what he did not understand until he did; and either in the process or thereafter explained the matter (revised) until we mutually trusted that we had no further objections of significance. Leaving the class to do that doesn't count as teaching – but a class which manages to do it has learned much by doing it. Giving Ben and I the chance to learn that for ourselves was one of the better things that teacher did for us: we had other teachers who did better, but that one lesson – well, we'd never have learned it otherwise. The same story also leaves at least one fellow pupil among the credits – Ben taught me my first lesson in partial differentiation, and no-one since has taught it me better (at least not until I set out to teach myself ;^)

I think there was a lecturer who reminded me of the same lesson, but I'll not try to remember. Another taught me a subtler lesson – he knew he couldn't teach, but holding the kind of post he did, as a researcher, meant having to lecture; which meant he lectured the (actually rather important) course that was so unglamorous that no-one wanted to teach it. He didn't want to lecture any of the other courses either, though: so he got that one; and did a creditable job, given his talents. The bureaucracy forces another decent soul to do a job he knows he does poorly. At least his notes are thorough: I'm confident he told us a clear enough story that I can work out what it means if I must.

Like my teachers, my lecturers taught me much (including some under the heading of manners). I may eventually get round to transcribing some of the lecture notes I took: if I do, I'll add links to them here, so that I can use those as targets of bibliographic links from elsewhere. For now, here's some highlights of who I've learned from the most:


I also read books (but, like Casius, see few plays) some of which have influenced me. Some entries may have incomplete data … and most of the books I've read haven't made it onto this list because I haven't referred to them from elsewhere on this website.

On Numbers and Games
John Horton Conway

(I am not worthy … JHC is also due credit for opening my eyes to linear algebra; he was one of my lecturers)

Synthetic Differential Geometry
Anders Kock, Cambridge University Press 1981 (London Mathematical Society Lecture Notes Series 51 ISSN 0076-0552), ISBN 0 521 24138 3.

An exploration of how to describe differentiation constructively, avoiding the challenge-response protocol that makes proofs about the orthodox limit process depend on use of reductio ad absurdum and other non-constructivist reasoning. Not for the faint of heart: after a pleasantly clear start, it dives into category-theoretic reasoning of great sophistication. Conversely, very rewarding for the reader willing and able to keep up with that reasoning. (According to a note in my present copy, it is my second; I'm not sure what happened to the first, but the fact that I chose to replace it says something either about my sanity or about its worth.)

The Principles of Quantum Mechanics
P.A.M. Dirac

(The International Series of Monographs on Physics; 27). I have a fourth edition copy, from Oxford Science Publications, a 1996 reprint. Does as good a job as I've seen of explaining QM. A major source, as far as I'm concerned: e.g. on the Poisson bracket.

Physics from Fisher Information, A Unification
B. Roy Frieden

(1998, CUP, ISBN: 0 521 63167 X hardback). Read Feb '99, interesting, mixed feelings about it.

Good and real: demystifying paradoxes from physics to ethics
Gary L. Drescher

(2006, The MIT Press, ISBN 978-0-262-04233-8). Read first half of 2016, on loan from Alexey Feldgendler. The central theme of a choice-supporting sense of would – narrower than correlation but broader than causation – provides a thought-provoking perspective on (among other things) why altruism makes sense.

Book of Data

(Chemistry, Physical Science, Physics), Nuffield Advanced Science (ISBN 0 582 82672 1, published 1972, 4th impression 1977). Used as source for values of universal constants, etc., but since superseded (to some degree) by …

Tables of physical and chemical constants
Kaye & Laby

Tim lent me (1999/Spring) a copy of the fifteenth edition (1986). Widely respected – and justly so.

On many pages I've used links to Wikipedia articles. Readers should bear in mind that I haven't always read these, even if I have they may have changed since last I read them and they are, in any case, of variable quality. I use them mostly for the sake of an adequately neutral source where links mostly don't break too often and, when they do, I can usually find a replacement without too much work. While I do applaud the Wikipedia project, both in its aims and its execution thereof, this should not be regarded as an unequivocal endorsement of it as a source; I provide such links simply to give the reader an easy way to garner more details than I've chosen to write. For a proper understanding of any topic, be sure to look at more than one source and think critically !

Things to read

For want of anywhere more apt to record them, there follow details of things I've been advised to read but have yet to get round to.

A Categorical Programming Language

Tatsuya Hagino's thesis (University of Edinburgh, Department of Computer Science; CST-47-87, a.k.a. ECS-LFCS-87-38). Has a chapter on categorical specification.

The Laplacian on a Riemannian Manifold

Steve Rosenberg (CUP), ISBN 0 521 46831 0.

The Humane Interface: New Directions for Designing Interactive Systems

Jef Raskin, ISBN 0-201-37937-6, copyright 2000.

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