Rohit's Realm

// / archive / 2010 / 02 / 20 / nightmares-from-the-past

February 20, 2010

Nightmares from the Past

Earlier this week, I awoke with a start in the middle of the night. My heart was pounding and I was drenched in sweat. 3:28 am. The low rumbling of the heater pumping dry air masked the sound of the occasional car driving by on the streets below. The diffuse light from the buildings nearby, distorted by the half closed blinds, cast oddly familiar shadows on the walls of my apartment. Nightmare? If so, I could not remember it. But there was an uncomfortable feeling of dread pervading my thoughts. I lay still, trying to discern the sensation. What was it? What was bothering me? After several seconds, the cobwebs cleared and my mind focused on the subject of discomfort: why did e = cos(θ) + j*sin(θ)?1 I could not remember! And that is when I knew. After all these years, I had finally totally lost my mind.

Now, if there has been any sort of constant in my life over the past eight odd years I have written for this blog—besides amorphous rage and soul-crushing existential angst, of course—it has been an inexplicable commitment to unsustainable workloads. Actually, that's not even quite right: this foolhardy and self-destructive compulsion has a much longer history than this blog (on which, we shall not dwell). And while I have long wondered both why I do this to myself, and to what end, ultimately those are philosophical, not practical, concerns. To this point, I had never particularly had reason to suspect that such behavior might have a real effect (except the occasional flirtations with insanity).

But unprovoked and wholly inexplicably nightmares about complex analysis? Those present a different sort of concern entirely, and certainly not a philosophical one. What could have possibly made me think about Euler's formula? A nightmare about law I could understand; math, not so much. Am I cracking up? Have the years of pushing the limits of tolerance for pain finally come back to haunt me? How does one even know when one has lost one's mind? Does my life still exist on the real axis, or merely the imaginary one? (Why hasn't someone killed me yet for the monstrosity of the previous question?)

When I woke up the next morning, still bothered by my experience the previous night, I immediately opened up a book on signal processing. Did I really not understand Euler's formula? The information in the book was almost incomprehensible—it had been seven years since I had done this sort of math. But as I made my way through first the Taylor series derivation and then the differential equation proof, things began to come back to me. Of course it made sense! How could I have doubted it? Why, moreover, would I have had a dream about it?

At the end of the day, maybe I can just chalk this up to a particularly stressful quarter and its concomitant anxiety. With five classes, a couple workshops, and soul-crushing journal work to boot, I have not gotten much sleep in the past few weeks. (Preparation for life as a lawyer? Perish the thought!) Who knows what drew my subconscious mind to a formula I had not thought about in years; and frankly, I do not really want to think about it too much for fear of what I might discover. As long as these crazy late night thoughts are a temporary phenomenon, it cannot matter much, right?

Perhaps, but what if it's not a temporal thing? Though light is now at the end of the tunnel on law school, the worst, I fear, is yet to come. A lot has to happen before I am finally free from my self-imposed misery this year.2 And realistically, knowing myself, it will only get worse, not better from here on out. If there's anything that has been demonstrated over the years, I really do not know how to stop overloading myself.

The question that remains, then, is what will finally push me over the edge? Euler's formula was a valiant attempt by my subconscious, but ultimately, I thwarted the attempt. Who knows, however, what horrible nerdiness from the past lurks in the darkness that is my mind, waiting—just waiting—to deliver the final blow. Wolff-Kishner? Poisson distributions? If I was a betting man (I use that term loosely), I would put my money on metal oxide semiconductor physics. I always hated that shit.

^ 1 This is, of course, Euler's formula. In keeping with electrical engineering convention, I have used j rather than i to represent the imaginary unit (since i(t) represents current).
^ 2 At least, the law school part of it. Only more drastic measures would solve the problem entirely.


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