On finite automaton and apple pancakes.

Posted on February 12th, 2010 by

It has now been almost a month since I first arrived in Budapest and I was beginning to wonder if BSM actually stood for Budapest Semesters in Munching rather than Mathematics. Until this week, the most math that Melissa, Rachel, and I had done since getting here was converting Forint to dollars and trying to figure out how to cook using grams rather than tablespoons. It seems that a large amount of our time is instead consumed by eating. We’ve eaten Hungarian food, Jewish food, Mexican food, Turkish food, Indian food, and good old American food. We’ve cooked oatmeal raisin cookies, ratatouille, copious amounts of cornbread, potato dishes, grilled cheese, and apple pancakes. The market is one of our favorite places right along side Café Csiga (goulash!!) and Kőleves (900 Ft set lunch menus!!). We know that something labeled “Vaj” isn’t necessarily 100% real butter, we’ve accepted that Nutella is much more economical, albeit less satisfying, than the ridiculously expensive peanut butter, and we have come to terms with the fact that 90% of the Hungarian words we know somehow relate to food. So you can imagine my surprise when this past Monday rolled around and I found myself smack in the middle of an abstract algebra class learning how to construct a group from a ring. Apparently we are here to do math… interesting…

This whole week has been kind of crazy because I (like everyone else in the program) have been attending more than my fair share of classes since we can go to whatever we want for the first three weeks preceding registration. Some of the classes were decent, while others I couldn’t wait to get out of and never look back [*cough* mathematical problem solving (aka competition math) *cough*]. And then on Wednesday morning, I fell in love with a class called Theory of Computing. [Leave it to me to pick the class that is for my computer science minor rather than my math major to be my favorite.] The course, from what I understand, basically deals with the mathematical theory and logic behind computer science. [[Here’s where I go off on a math tangent. Consider yourself warned.]] These first two days we constructed Finite Automaton, which are theoretical “machines” that reject or accept input based on given constraints… Yea, it’s kind of hard to explain, but I find it fascinating. My favorite idea so far is the non-deterministic finite automaton. These machines allow for more freedom in design and also have a way to add the element of choice to the mix. So when you are looking at whether or not the machine accepts a specific input, you have to look at all possible output from that input because at every point that allows for choice, there’s more than one way for the input to terminate. It’s kind of like the idea that multiple futures exist in parallel with one another and that the choices we make determine which path we take. So yea, that’s Theory of Computing in a poorly-explained nutshell. I’m really excited about it.

As of right now, I am taking Theory of Computing, Combinatorics, Topology, and Abstract Algebra. It’s possible that this could shift around a little bit because I’m going to sit in on Functional Analysis next week, which I heard is pretty good, and I also might add a non-math course to that list.

And now that I have paid my respects to mathematics, recommence Budapest Semesters in Munching!

P.S. http://smittenkitchen.com/2008/11/apple-pancakes/ (Sooo delicious!! I recommend adding some cinnamon to the recipe and letting them sit over night to make them more apple-y.)


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