I haven’t written much in a couple of weeks, and it’s because I’m studying a lot in addition to making headway on my dissertation proposal. This summer, in addition to the proposal, I’m trying very hard to erase some of my deficits in the mathematical arena. Darwin wrote, in his autobiography:

I attempted mathematics, and even went during the summer of 1828 with a private tutor (a very dull man) to Barmouth, but I got on very slowly. The work was repugnant to me, chiefly from my not being able to see any meaning in the early steps of algebra. This impatience was very foolish, and in after years I have deeply regretted that I did not proceed far enough at least to understand something of the great leading principles of mathematics, for men thus endowed seem to have an extra sense.

Precisely. Studying the evolution of culture and cultural behavior, from a modern Darwinian perspective, is inherently a mathematical business. Change is modeled as shifts in the frequencies of behaviors or traits, rather than outright transformations. And this means that calculus, linear algebra, differential equations, and stochastic processes are critical tools. Just as you wouldn’t hire a carpenter that knew how to build a cabinet, but didn’t have the tools to do the work, it’s hard to be an active researcher in this field and not have the right tools.

So I’m reviewing, practicing, and going further than my previous education in math, and I’m enjoying it thoroughly. I find that I’m one of those people that needs a purpose and a reason to learn things like the more abstract bits of math, and once I have a good reason, it seems to go smoothly. But it’s also time-consuming, and it keeps me from writing more. I thought I’d explain in case y’all wondered why I’ve been quieter than usual.