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computability theory

As promised in this thread, here are a few thoughts on my experiences with computability theory. For reference, you can go to the course description to get an idea of the subject matter.

I struggled through this class when I took it as an undergrad. There was added disappointment because I had spent the previous summer trying to preview the subject matter. (One of the books I used was Hofstadter's Gödel, Escher, Bach, which I was told some years later is not the best source of information on this subject to develop intuition, even though some people find it entertaining. I discovered another book, Harel's Algorithmics, which was much more helpful, about six years later.)

Unfortunately, I have to continue this entry later. But one thing I noticed is that this class covers different material than when I took it. There is no mention at all of context-free grammars or languages, which I found odd, because it is useful for the compiler class.


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Nov. 13th, 2003 02:34 pm (UTC)
So, like I was saying yesterday, I found this course difficult. I couldn't absorb the concepts very well, despite spending a lot of time reading the textbooks, working practice problems. I even went to the professor and TA when I couldn't figure out some things. They were very helpful, but a bit puzzled that I didn't seem to be catching on.

It's possible that I didn't have the right prerequisites. This class was (and is) jointly offered by the math department. People in the applied math track take combinatorics and discrete math, which are helpful for this class. But when I asked the professor about it before the class started, he said that there was no formal requirement except being able to do proofs.

Another issue I used to run into was that sometimes, my proofs were correct, but I didn't realize it, so I would obsess over them trying to make sure I didn't make reasoning errors. At other times, my proofs were incorrect, because I had made reasoning errors, but wasn't aware of them. This used to annoy one of my study partners, who seemed to grasp the material more quickly than I did. (I was a bit attracted to her, which complicated matters a bit.) Another guy who used to study with us sometimes also grasped the material more quickly than I did. However, he told me that he had a lot of trouble with the signals and systems class. That was actually one of my favorite classes. He explained to me some of what had given him problems, but unfortunately, I don't remember what he said.

For me, the most difficult part of that class was the labs. FYI, this class has changed somewhat also; they use MATLAB for their labs, whereas we built actual electronic circuits and had to analyze the waveforms on oscilloscopes. (That's so 80s, I know.)

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