Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Fourier transforms - more than meets the eye!

My plan to be fascinated by everything is progressing well, my young apprentice. Four hours of lectures this morning back to back actually turned out to be quite interesting. I didn't start daydreaming at all, nor did I have to buy any items of dubious nutritional value to get me through it.

There was a lecture on braaaaaain anatomy, another on how pain and other sensation yoick their way up your spinal cord and into the brain (fact: pain does the big switcheroo and travels up the other side of the spinal cord to other sensations), a lecture on epilepsy including a simulated grand mal seizure sans bladder emptying by the lecturer, and a lecture all about pain which included a free bonus supersize upgrade to an ideological rant from the lecturer comparing euthanasia to Nazi death camps. That last bit was a shame because it marred an otherwise really interesting lecture. I was going to argue the point with him but meh, it was lunchtime.

There were a couple of moments of even greater excitement though. During the lecture on epilepsy, shortly after being told of the hallucinatory states that can be induced by focal epilepsy, I heard a disembodied voice call out, "Testing testing! Testing testing!" I thought that perhaps I was experiencing a Visitation, but it turns out that everyone else could hear it too. I think someone in the next lecture theatre over had their radio mic on the wrong channel.

The second moment was only exciting for me though - the epilepsy guy started talking about Fourier transforms! My honours project and several years of postgraduate research used Fourier transforms (and other more arcane tools) extensively, so I listened attentively, hoping to catch the lecturer in a mis-statement, enabling me to ask a "clarifying" question, correct him and thus display my intellectual mojo so that my Esteemed Colleagues might Esteem me back a little. But he didn't say anything wrong so I couldn't. Oh, I suppose I could have pointed out that his so-called Fourier transform was actually a discrete Fourier transform since it wasn't defined on a continuous aperiodic time series.

But let's face it - I would have looked like a dick if I'd said that.

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