Alex Nelson (DOB 19 March 1988 wink wink), hailing from La Crescenta (by LA), is a physics major at UC Davis who does too much math. He has been described as "crazy" not only by his math professor (Dr. Shapiro) but also by a large majority of those in his physics section and lab (the latter was when they heard him complain about doing a math problem that took 13 hours straight, though Nelson says in his defense it was Quantum Field Theory and "it was a bitch of a problem"). Alex thinks of himself as "lazy", preferring to sleep for hours instead of going to class (if only he wouldn't fail).

Boring Facts About Me

  • Year: Fourth Year
  • Major: (Theoretical) Physics, More specifically: Quantum Gravity, General Relativity, Topos in Relational Quantum Theory, Quantum Field Theory, and lazy ways to get the same answer in all these fields.
  • Title: Hobo Extraordinaire, although he sometimes adds "Crazy" to it just to spite some of his professors and fellow students. This title originates from the fact that UC Davis did not give him housing and up until about one week prior to the start of school it looked as though Alex would be a hobo.
  • Current Endeavor: Category theory and applications to theoretical physics (viz. measurement process in quantum theory)
  • See Also: Mathematical Structuralism.

Fun Facts About Me

  • Blames poor driving and everything else bad in Davis on other freshmen (chiefly the ones who are Chavs and Essex Girls).
  • Apparently uses British slang (sometimes).
  • He has a sweet tooth for anything chocolate.
  • Loves Coffee.
  • Has studied independently for two years at Caltech ("the California Institute of Technology") but rarely boasts it. He admits when asked that he read everything he could get his hands on and studied it religiously.
  • Hates philosophers who are back seat drivers to science and physics, and hates mathematical-philosophers.
  • Is interested in research in the fields of quantum gravity and the roles of topos in relational quantum theory (the former is what caused his math professor to call Alex crazy).
  • Has a messy house and an even messier kitchen table (technical papers and books left open, notes thrown around, etc.). Has the cleanest damn house you'll ever see...
  • Has become more and more prejudiced against String Theorists (due to their incorrect quantization of gravity; he believes the metric tensor needs to be quantized, not the linear approximation of the field equation) and prefers Loop Quantum Gravity (though he does not think that LQG is flawless either).
  • Can play both the violin and viola, and can pretend to play the piano.
  • Although he can't do open heart surgery or brain surgery, he does consider all forms of biology either unscientific or an extension of chemistry or physics.
  • Alex Loves Monty Python yet ironically has no sense of humor.
  • Has a fear of dentists, who he sees as "sadistic, greedy bastards" on the grounds that dentists will always tell you that you have a cavity (regardless of whether you actually do or not) and not give you adequate Novocaine.
  • Is ashamed that there is a Nobel Prize for Economics, since Economists don't have a "fucking clue what reality is or how to investigate it". He cites Sraffa's criticism of Neoclassical economics and points out that it can be used on any school that incorporates marginalism.
  • Doesn't want to be a millionaire (he'd lose his title if he did).
  • Is well read in heterodox economics, and knows a deal of the orthodoxy.
  • If you haven't realized this far by reading this profile, Alex rambles along quite a bit in a variety of different subjects.
  • He can program in: ARM and SPARC assembly, C, C++, C#, D, Fortran (both 77 and 95), Haskell, Java, Javascript, Lisp/Scheme, Lua, Matlab, Pascal, Perl (ugh), Python, TeX, and some BASIC.
  • On occasions, he shaves ice.
  • He is better at analysis than applied math for some strange reason (largely because the analysis he's learning is applicable to the physics he's looking at).
  • Has a huge library of technical books and technical papers ranging in a variety of subjects, from Economics to Math to Computer Science (!) to Physics.
  • He's the file system chief, technical document-er, and debugger for the Brainix Operating System, a hobby Operating System.
  • You can see him wandering around campus dazed in dress shirt and tie during the hot days, and with a suit jacket during the colder days.


If you want to reach, annoy, or give a math problem to Alex, you can contact him at [email protected]. He'll be sure not to check his email.

Alternatively, you can reach him via his AIM screen name Schrodigner (as in the yanqui pronounciation of the name of the infamous quantum physicist).

Rumor has it he has a cell phone, though he rarely uses it.

Where I've Been, Where I'm Going

I've attended several technical conferences and I'll attend a few more. I've been to Seattle, Washington, to attend the first D programming language conference (August 22nd to the 25th I was in Seattle). I was staying in the Panama Hotel, which was constructed some time in the early 1900s. Being cheap, I stayed in an economy room. It was 6 feet by 8 feet. I'm roughly 6 feet tall, and had to sleep diagonally in the bed. (It felt like a prison cell actually...)

I went to Nottingham in the Summer of 2008 to attend the Quantum Geometry and Quantum Gravity 2 conference (QG squared).

I have been to Loops 09 in Beijing China, which is during 1 August 2009 to 8 August 2009. It'll cover all the loopy fun in canonical approaches to quantum gravity.

I also attended "Algebra and Topology in Interaction" Conference from September 11 to 13, 2009, in honor of Dr. Fuchs' Birthday.

If there is a second D programming language conference, I will go to it too (perhaps even present something on file systems there!). That's my dorky academic life thus far.


I can drive tractors, specifically the John Deere 2010, the New Holland T710, among others.


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2006-11-04 12:56:42   Economics is cool because it allows human behavior in aggregate to be mathematically predictable. —NickSchmalenberger

  • The problem with that is that human behavior is never mathematically predictable; it's subjective, which kind of definitionally prevents it from being measurable. Economics, mind you, is not the study of human behavior in aggregate (look to the sociologist for that); it's the study of the production and distribution of commodities through various modes of production. Economists however go through a longwinded, roundabout way to argue that it is something entirely different, dealing with human behavior reacting to scarcities and overcoming said scarcities. Well that's not entirely true, since if people are "rationally self interested" i.e. wanting to maximize utility, and the diminishing marginal utility is inversely related to quantity, then the point at which a consumer that's rationally self interested will not get any marginal utility from the next commodity consumed is at the infinitieth commodity. So that means a rationally self interested consumer would want to consume an infinite quantity of commodities, and the rationally self interested producer would want to produce an infinite quantity of commodities to maximize his profit (this is moving the system into equilibrium microeconomically). The problem is that neither consumers want to consume nor do producers produce an infinite quantity of commodities; something is wrong with the marginalist paradigm. Yet Economists are willing to put their heads in the dirt and pretend otherwise. They, economists, are thus failures as scientists and, if you are fortunate to meet one then you'll know, they are also failures as humans. -Alex

2007-05-05 19:42:59   I'd love to see you do 1000 iterations of Euler's method by hand. :-P —WilliamLewis

2008-03-27 09:26:48   Dude, computers ftw. —WilliamLewis

2008-12-15 21:48:29   Heh heh I like that you trash talk C++ for being bloated but then seem to enjoy D. Not that it isn't a good language, but it is more "bloated." —GregRobinson

  • Depends on if you're talking about the spec being bloated (in which case C++ is much more complex and seemly arbitrary than D), or the language efficiency (in which case it's really a matter of how well your compiler is written and how well the language can be optimized at compile time. That's debatable, as although D took that into account, C++ compilers are damn good these days). It is illuminating to read through the quite excellent series of articles written during the development of both languages that were published in Dr. Dobbs Journal. They have different underlying thoughts about what they were doing as the languages were conceived and implemented. —Evan 'JabberWokky' Edwards, who prefers C and/or the nice high level scripting languages popular these days.