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Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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Vincent A. '17

Feb 5 2017

Stories from High School

Posted in: Miscellaneous

Every day, we began in the same place. The bathroom, where we reluctantly washed off the vestiges of sleep at 5 A.M., and prepared for the day. We had bathrooms on every floor of the dorm building, and they all looked the same. Long, white corridors—white tiles, white ceilings, white walls, white fluorescent lights—facing six bathroom stalls. The first six people to wake up filled the stalls, and from them, a queue emerged. We went to the bathroom on our floor, found the guy at the end of the shortest queue, and mumbled to him, “After you”, a way of securing our spot. When it was our turn, we hopped into the stall, emerging about five minutes later (take any longer, and we would pound the door, threatening to drag you out naked). Unlike most other boarding schools in the country, the system of stalls meant we thankfully (mostly) never saw each other naked.

**
Invariably, each morning, we went from the bathrooms to the dining hall.

It was a single large hall on the top floor... read the post »

Discussion

Jan 30 2017

Unity

Posted in: Miscellaneous, International Applicants, Life & Culture

Some lessons, we learn by virtue of way of life. They’re the kind of lessons that unfold not from pulpits or pedestals, but emerge from the simplicity of daily routine, implicit enough to be anything but noteworthy.

Grades seven to twelve of my education in Nigeria were spent in a boarding school in the country’s capital. Mirroring Nigeria’s religious demographic, we were roughly equal proportions Christian and Muslim. Each day, the Muslim students and staff would gather under the roof of a building opposite our hostels and classes for prayer. And each Sunday, the Christian students would turn one of the classrooms into a makeshift church, often headed by our religious studies teacher.

For these six years in a cozy but fenced-off location, our lives were defined by boarding school routine. Early morning wakeups led to grumbling sounds and shuffling feet; a reluctant shower was followed by breakfast (the opinion of the quality of our dining hall varied, depending on who you asked... read the post »

Discussion

Jan 22 2017

Anatomy of a Problem, Part 2

Posted in: Academics & Research

A cornerstone of 6.046, MIT’s infamous algorithms class, is navigating around a variety of limitations (algorithm runtime, computer memory, accuracy) and understanding the compromises settled for in attaining this workaround. As a simple example, if I gave you a very long list of numbers (2,3,9,15,...) and told you to find their sum, you might store all the numbers in memory and then add them up. But if available memory was limited, so that you could see the stream of numbers you needed to sum up one at a time, but couldn’t possibly store them all, you would need a different tactic. In fact, you’d only need to keep track of one thing, the running sum, which you update with each additional number you see from the stream. With a list of numbers like 2,3,9,15…, the running sum starts out at 0. You see 2, so you update the running sum to 2. Then you see 3, so you update the running sum to 2 + 3 = 5. Then you see 9, so you update the running sum to 5 + 9 = 14, and so on. In this way, you... read the post »

Discussion

Jan 22 2017

Anatomy of a Problem, Part 1

Posted in: Academics & Research

6.046, Design and Analysis of Algorithms, is one of the most challenging classes I’ve ever taken. It’s a natural followup to MIT’s Introduction to Algorithms class, and dives into the heart of designing and understanding often complicated solutions to important computational problems, especially in the context of limited resources. Limited memory, limited processing power, limited running time, limited accuracy.

As a simple example, which we'll come back to in a followup piece, suppose I gave you a list of numbers in some random order (say 3, 19, 2, 17, 14, 4) and I wanted you to sort it (so you would return 2, 3, 4, 14, 17,19), your ability to do this would depend on being able to directly compare 2 numbers and say things like “2 is smaller than 3” or “2 is smaller than 4”. What if your 2-number comparator was broken? What if you were saddled with a mental comparator that says “X is smaller than Y” and is accurate only 80% of the time? 6.046 is the kind of class that teaches you... read the post »

Discussion

Jan 15 2017

The Life Rationing Problem

Posted in: Miscellaneous

Introduction: Keeping up with political news this month has, paradoxically, become a rather depressing pastime of mine. Sometimes, it's fun to vanish into a world somewhat tangential to reality, somewhat well-defined, somewhat abstract, and entirely distracting. This is a more fleshed out version of a powerpoint literary presentation I gave at Alpha Delta Phi a while ago. So without further ado (keeping in mind that this is all very theoretical and somewhat subjective), let's dive in, shall we?

We will examine scenarios in which some life must be lost, (a more specific case of the general rationing problem in which some people must lose out on what is being rationed) and will argue for how to resolve the life allocation problem ethically. In particular, we will argue that there is likely no rigorous moral principle that completely solves the problem, but that we can strongly depend on the moral measure of intuition to arrive at a solution.

 

Careful Formulation
To begin, we... read the post »

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