Archive for August, 2011

Algebra for Colleges and Schools

August 24, 2011 Leave a comment

After some contemplating I decided to look for a new book to learn algebra. While Algebra Demystified is a perfectly good book to learn from, I felt that it lacked a certain something. It just did not have the depth I was looking for. Perhaps I will return to this book afterwards as a quick refresher.

After a very brief look around the internet, I got hit with literally thousands of different books covering all levels of algebra. Trying to sift through them to find the best of the lot is like looking for a blue needle in a stack of slightly lighter blue needles. So I started to hit the forums as it appears to be a common question among budding learners; “What is the best maths book for ___?”. A few were mentioned here and there, so I looked them up on, checked out the reviews and sample pages. None of them offered what I was looking for unfortunately.

During one of my many random browsing sessions (which had nothing to do with anything math or physics related) I stumbled upon a gem. A fantastic math book called Algebra for Colleges and Schools written by H. S. Hall and S. R. Knight. Although it was originally written in the 1840’s (although it has had many revisions) it is still a great math book, as lets face it, math has not changed all that much in over 1000 years. Also, because it is so old, it has lost its copyright and has entered public domain. Meaning I may share it with you (I have also attached the answer booklet. The answers seem to match although I am not 100% sure that it is the correct answer book).

As you will come to see, this book covers a lot, unlike many modern books. Not only that, it appears to teach in a fashion that is much more easily absorbed and understood while not dumbing down the content.

Algebra for Colleges and Schools [1918]
Answers to Algebra for Colleges and Schools [1898]

I have not actually started this book as yet (and I will not be able to tomorrow as my grandmother is coming over for her birthday) but from Friday I will be able to give a much more in-depth report.


Comet C/2010 X1 Elenin

August 22, 2011 Leave a comment

For those astronomy lovers out there:

Soon you will be able to see a comet with a fantastic 3,000,000 km long tail!
The long-period comet, named Elenin (discovered by Russian amateur astronomer Leonid Elenin), should soon (October 16th being closest to Earth @ ±34,980,000 km or 0.2338 AU) be visible to those of you with telescopes (as even at its brightest, will be barely visible to the human eye). Travelling at a whopping 86,000 km/h and measuring in at ±3-4 km across.

I will unfortunately not have a telescope before this event occurs (I was planning on buying a moderately priced one that I can connect my DSLR camera to, but cash is tight for me right now) but if anyone out there that reads this blog does have a telescope or will be able to snap a few photographs, please send them to me and I will add them to my blog for others to see and marvel at 😉


Some diagrams from other websites:

Mmm… It’s a pickle alright!

August 19, 2011 Leave a comment

I have had to move my study time to the library recently due to the distractions at home. Unfortunately the library closes early on Mondays, all day on Wednesdays, hosts a housing benefit meeting on Fridays (making it hard to concentrate with crying babies) and, the cherry on the cake, is also closed all day on Sundays. The next library that is closest to me is more than double the distance, making it pretty much unpractical.

I am however starting to relearn how to wake up early (8:00am haha) so that I can get to the library earlier and hence get more hours of study (just so you know, I currently wake up at around 9:15am but only get to the library at 12:30pm). But this is a work in progress that I plan to be putting in full effect within the next week.

So all this leaves me in a bit of a bind. I struggle to study at home, and I only really get the library to study for a whopping three days of the week. What to do with the remaining four days? Where can I go that has a nice desk, adequate lighting and most importantly a studious atmosphere?


I decided to wait till Friday to post this, as I wished to first examine Fridays before deeming them as unusable. So far (I am writing this in the library) it is almost no different from other days of the week. Fantastic. So I now can claim I have four days of the week for library study.

I have also had insomnia for the last few days, making it harder to achieve my 7:30am wake up (I changed it so that I wake during a REM cycle making it easier to wake up) goal. But I have done some research into sleep in general and will try out a new method to ensure a better night sleep, which in turn will help me wake earlier and easier. If my method works, i’ll post it here for all.

Revision Pack Arrives

August 14, 2011 Leave a comment

Well, a few days ago I received my MST121 revision pack in the post. I was thrilled as it was nice and chunky, just how mail should be 🙂

The Pack contains the main revision book (which is also available on the Open University website in your personal student section in PDF format, along with other learning material), a TMA (Tutor Marked Assignment) and CMA (Computer Marked Assignment. They are the initial “practice” ones and do not count toward your final mark) and a little instruction / information booklet.

The revision book itself is 169 pages and covers:

  • Numbers (Factors, Powers/Indices, Roots, etc.)
  • Measures (Units, Formulas)
  • Basic Figures (Triangles, Rectangles, etc.)
  • Coordinates and Lines (Cartesian Coordinates)
  • Algebra
  • Trigonometry
  • Graphs and Functions
  • Geometry

And of course contains a solutions part at the back of the book.

Other than that, not a lot new has happened unfortunately. I am also struggling to get the hours to study, so I am a fair bit behind where I should be. I have only covered Numbers, Measures and Algebra (Still not finished Algebra fully) from the other book I was learning from.

What the Frak

August 6, 2011 Leave a comment

Well, installing Scientific Linux was a little let-down.

First it installed all groovy, but had no NTFS-3G pre-installed (the way you can read and write to NTFS partitions in Linux). But a quick search and I saw that the Scientific Linux LiveCD did have it included. Downloaded it and installed it and my MBR (master boot record) got trashed and GRUB just plain stopped working.

Long and painful story short, I formatted and am now using a fresh Windows 7 32bit and Ubuntu 10.10 32bit install and they are running lovely (although the windows installer for Ubuntu seems to only grant you 30GB space, meaning I cannot make it my primary OS. If anyone knows how to increase this limit, let me know).

No new news with The Open University, other than they resent me the registration pack again for some reason. At least I have a backup copy I guess

Scientific Linux

August 4, 2011 Leave a comment

Decided that it was far past time that I should set myself free from the iron fist grip of Microsoft’s Windows and Apple’s Mac OS X.

It came to me after I realised that I do not actually use much operating specific software. Nothing that hasn’t been made for linux too (obviously except for games and a few very rare Windows or Apple specific ones anyway).

So after this revelation I decided to try Ubuntu, the defacto Linux distribution. I didn’t like it one bit. This new “Unity” makes the OS (operating system) look immensely cheap and tacky. Not to mention it is also insanely buggy. So, I uninstalled and went back to the beginning looking for another Linux-based operating system that suited my taste and needs better.

Then I came across Scientific Linux, who Fermilab and CERN have created and use (It is pretty much Red Hat Enterprise Linux with a few modifications to better suit scientific needs). While at the present time I am not sure how the more advanced features will come in handy, I know they will in my future while doing my Masters and PhD (I read that students do find it useful). So I am busy installing the minimum version to give it a quick test-drive.

Should it work fine I will make the switch, even though I am a Linux novice (I believe learning Linux and making it my default OS will help me in the long run).

Also, I would like to add that Firefox 4/5 (pretty much the same thing) are also quite rubbish. I had to revert back to v3.6.8 as most of the useful features vanished (along with my respect for the company). I am guessing this has something to do with Google Chrome, as Mozilla has copied everything they do. Thankfully, the latest Scientific Linux 6.1 comes bundled with this older and better version of firefox (although if you disagree with me and like the new version, you can always upgrade it).

Join the Owsla… I mean OUSBA

August 1, 2011 Leave a comment

Just for those few to whom this may help (might also save you a few phone calls):

If you get your registration pack sent to you via post, and you decide that you will take the OUSBA (The Open University Student Budget Account) payment option you will find no place to enter your debit/credit card details. This is because you send it off, they open the OUSBA account and then send a confirmation post along with some sheets where you can fill those card details in.

For those of you who do not know what OUSBA is, it is like The Open University’s own bank. They will pay your fees fully, then you either pay them back fully before your course(s) start or monthly. Now I am usually against monthly, as you end up paying a lot more than you would otherwise. However OUSBA actually do not charge that much at all! Making it a very attractive option for those who can’t pay it off in a single lump sum.

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