My Crazy Summer Project: La Magie des Maths de Prépa

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Science4All hasn’t had a new article for a while. But don’t worry. This is absolutely not because I’ve given up on popularization. Quite the opposite actually.

As my PhD thesis is nearly ready to be submitted, I’ve taken advantage of the free time I now have this summer to start a new crazy summer project. Roughly, I’m realizing a video documentary on undergrad mathematics in two 60-minute parts. It’s been a great run so far. I hope the video to be finished and uploaded on Youtube next September-October (around the time I’ll hopefully become a PhD graduate).

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Unfortunately for English-speakers though, the documentary will be in French. The reasons for that are multiple. But mainly, it is for business reasons. Namely, undergrad mathematics play a central role in the French education system and the prestige of its most elitist so-called “Grandes Écoles”.

More precisely, after high school, instead of attending universities, great students who want to do engineering or business enroll in so-called “Classes Préparatoires”, where they are given math-intensive training for two years (along with some physics or History/geography/literature). They then take a handful of national ranking exams. Depending on the rankings to these exams, students are then assigned their “Grandes Écoles”. Importantly, all along their careers, the label of their “Grande École” will stick to their resumes and decide (most of) their opportunities.

ecoles

In this context, the mathematics of the “Classe Préparatoires” has a mystic, brutal and scary image in the eyes of all students and their parents. They fear it in a similar way that Middle Age knights feared black magic. Their lives seem to depend on this mystical potion.

This is why I think they’ll be interested in a video documentary that unveils the workings of this mystical potion and that demystifies the black magic that it seems to rely on. In particular, I intend to teach viewers my magical formula to face the seemingly elusive yet brutal mathematics that they’ll face.

What’s this magical formula? Make it simple. Make it cool.

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Inkscape on Mac

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If you’re a Science4All reader, you might wonder how I did the (beautiful :P) figures of the articles. The answer is: Inkscape. Inkscape is a brilliant vectorial drawing software. It’s a like a high quality version of Microsoft Paint. It’s easy to use, and yet, you can be very accurate in your drawings. Plus, using extensions like textext, you can easily include LaTeX formula.

So far though, Inkscape was only available on Mac through X11 architectures like XQuartz. This has several annoying drawbacks. Yet, today, I’ve found out that a native version has come out! I’ve been using it a little bit and it appears to be working very well! Here’s a download page:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/n2l4nvht8umf83m/Inkscape-r0.48.4-r9943-10.8%2B-x86_64_RC5.dmg

You can follow instructions of Nicolas’ PhD blog: 

https://nicolasamiot.wordpress.com/2013/07/25/inkscape-textext-on-mac-os-x-mountain-lion/

I’ve actually had troubles installing EggBot, so my textext extension is not working, but I can drag and drop LaTeX formulas from LaTeXiT, and that’s good enough!

If you want beautiful figures (especially for math!), I strongly recommend you to go with Inkscape!