Friday, May 27, 2016

The Man Who Knew Infinity

I generally avoid movies about mathematicians, or mathematics.

I didn't watch Beautiful Mind, or even the Imitation game. Often, popular depiction of mathematics and mathematicians runs as far away from the actual mathematics as possible, and concocts all kinds of strange stories to make a human-relatable tale.

Not that there's anything wrong with that, but it defeats the point of talking about mathematics in the first place, by signalling it as something less interesting.

So I was very worried about going to see The Man Who Knew Infinity, about Srinivas Ramanujan and his collaboration with G. H. Hardy. In addition to all of the above, watching movies about India in the time of the British Raj still sets my teeth on edge.

To cut a long story short, I was happy to be proven completely wrong. TMWKI is a powerful and moving depiction of someone who actually deserves the title of genius. The movie focuses mostly on the time that Ramanujan spent at Cambridge during World War I working with Hardy. There are long conversations about the nature of intuition and proof that any mathematician will find exquisitely familar, and even an attempt to explain the partition function. The math on the boards is not hokey at all (I noticed that Manjul Bhargava was an advisor on the show).

You get a sense of a real tussle between minds: even though the actual discussions of math were only hinted at, the way Hardy and Ramaujan (and Littlewood) interact is very realistic. The larger context of the war, the insular environment of Cambridge, and the overt racism of the British during that period are all signalled without being overbearing, and the focus remains on the almost mystical nature of Ramanujan's insights and the struggle of a lifelong atheist who finally discovers something to believe in.

It took my breath away. Literally. Well done.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Google Recruiter Survey: Tell us what you think!

(ed: I can't believe it's been almost three months since I posted. Maintaining two blogs and twitter is more work than one might think)

  Thank you for applying to recruit me to Google. I'm continuously working to provide a great experience to my recruiters throughout the hiring process, so I greatly value any feedback you’re willing to share about your experience—both what’s going well and what needs work.

Please share your feedback through my recruiter experience survey, which will be open from now through Monday, May 44. The survey should take less than 15 seconds to complete, and you can skip over any questions you prefer not to answer. Please keep in mind that your responses are not confidential, and will be used for humor improvements—not in decisions as to who I choose to allow to recruit me.

I absolutely do not love chatting with recruiters, though I sometimes receive more emails than I can respond to and have to prioritize questions regarding technical difficulties. Below are a few of my most frequently asked questions (FAQs) that may provide the answer you need.

Thank you for your time and have a great day,

Suresh, Suresh Venkatasubramanian Recruitment Experience Team.

I never received feedback on my recruitment email - can you give me feedback?

I'm pretty limited on what I have access to within your recruiter profile (to ensure that my brain doesn't melt). I don't particularly mind you feeling confused about the outcome. Therefore, I suggest reaching out to your friends and family  if you have specific questions regarding your attempt to  recruit me at Google.

I’d like to provide more input on your process - should I email that over?
Please use the open ended comments at the end of the survey to leave any anecdotal feedback or additional thoughts. It's in the handy box titled /dev/null. This ensures your thoughts are not saved as I ignore aggregate feedback to share with my internet following.


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