How can you burn down a house by making toast?


I wouldn’t have thought it possible until yesterday, but my mother got dangerously close to doing just that. The burglar/fire alarm (which I thought and still do think is absolutely useless in the 5th safest city in the US) went off repeatedly, and I thought people were testing it. After about ten minutes of loud noises, I went inside and saw a lot of smoke. Then my mother said: “I just burned some toast. Would you like to see what carbon looks like?” Of course, the police and fire departments called our house repeatedly to see if anyone was still alive.

I got new math books yesterday. I now I have three books on the Riemann Hypothesis that I shouldn’t be touching until I finish Calculus on Manifolds, but there’s no way that’s going to happen. But I have successfully completed my reading of chapter one of Calculus on Manifolds, and the other four seem to have something to do with calculus, so maybe I’ll actually be able to get through it. I have to read it aloud if I want to have a chance at understanding it. Thus I try to read it when no one else is listening, which usually means 1 AM, when no one else in my house is awake.

The rest of my family is going away tomorrow, so perhaps I’ll actually get some peace and quiet around here. My uncle is coming to look after me, since my parents think I can’t take care of myself. But at least he’ll have more respect for me than my mother and sister do.

I’ll now read either Karl Sabbagh’s book on the Riemann Hypothesis, which contains no math unfortunately, or Calculus on Manifolds, which has lots of math. It depends how ambitious I feel.

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About Simon

Hi. I'm Simon Rubinstein-Salzedo. I'm a mathematics postdoc at Dartmouth College. I'm also a musician; I play piano and cello, and I also sometimes compose music and study musicology. I also like to play chess and write calligraphy. This blog is a catalogue of some of my thoughts. I write them down so that I understand them better. But sometimes other people find them interesting as well, so I happily share them with my small corner of the world.
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7 Responses to How can you burn down a house by making toast?

  1. mathfanatic says:

    Two Similar Stories…
    Hehe. I’ve burned toast before, while my mom and dad and brother were away somewhere. I stop to check my e-mail or something – only gone for a minute – and when I get back, the toast is on fire. So I leave the door closed and let it burn, turn on the smoke fan thing, open all the windows, pray that the smoke alarm won’t go off, and it eventually got better. But there was a darn lot of smoke for what it was. Needless to say, we got a new toaster (my parents think that the old one gave off a lot of sparks, causing the fire) and I ate untoasted bread that day.
    Setting the house on fire reminds me of a story. My history teacher, who was a volunteer firefighter when he was younger, told us a story of a woman who decided to cook an egg in the microwave, so she put it in a container of water and set the microwave for 3 minutes.
    Unfortunately, she pressed an extra ‘0’ at the end, and then went off to do something. Half an hour later, the thing finally buzzes, and the lady – unaware that she’s let the thing run for half an hour, for some reason – opens the microwave door…
    Well, apparently the egg caught on fire, but it ran low on oxygen (microwaves don’t let in much) and so the fire was really small. When she opened the door, fireball goes out the microwave, crisps her head, and sets the house on fire.
    Now, I’m not sure if this is true, since my teacher HAS told lies before (like the time he brought his friend to school and claimed he was his brother), but it’s interesting to note that I told this story to my mom in the kitchen while meanwhile, my dad had decided to cook an egg the very same way. I was just getting to the part where the lady died when the egg exploded, sending water up the microwave (frying the circuits, apparently), out the cracks in the door, scaring everyone, and making a huge mess. Wow.

  2. blenrock says:

    I have to read it aloud if I want to have a chance at understanding it.
    Does that really work for you? The only time I’ve ever tried that is for studying things that require a ton of memorization – vocab lists, occasionally biology, history. Maybe I’ll give it a shot some time. My roommates are going to love me…

    • Simon says:

      It works for me because if I read it aloud I don’t skip over anything, which causes me not to understand it properly. I read it very slowly, and I read equations in very odd ways, so you probably wouldn’t want to listen to me reading this stuff aloud. Then again, I usually do math aloud when I’m solving fairly difficult problems.

  3. ywalme says:

    The first chapter of the Spivak is essential to the rest of it. And don’t, if you value your immortal soul (or just the deepest understanding of the most beautiful theorem in calculus), skimp on spending lots of time making sure you really understand chapter 4 in all its fullness. Stokes’ theorem as presented in chapter 5 is bloody gorgeous, and it’s a horrible waste not to have it hit you the first time you read it simply because you stinted chapter 4.

  4. intrepia says:

    I find it usually helps to read aloud if I’m tired or can’t concentrate, but then sometimes I start tuning myself out…

  5. Anonymous says:

    Zeta Function books
    [From Domenic Denicola, an ARML person]
    What books on the Zeta Function did you get? Analytical number theory absolutely fascinates me…
    I am almost done with Prime Obsession by John Derbyshire, which seems like a great introduction for my lowly pre-calculus mind (I am a sophomore entering Calculus AB this year, although I have become rather familiar with the concepts of analytical and differential calculus through my independent reading).
    I also have what is apparently the classic text on the subject, Reimman’s Zeta Function by H. M. Edwards. This looks like a lot of fun, but I really need to understand integral calculus and/or complex analysis better before I can get into it. Right now my understanding basically has to with with area under curves, without really getting why n! would equal ∫e-xxn dx from 0 to infinity. I kind of feel this way with most of the books in my two-shelf library, especially those dealing with analytical number theory/complex analysis: if I could just grasp integration, everything would be so much happier. I suppose I really should get back into Hardy’s A Course in Pure Mathematics, as I stopped when “big-O notation” confused me to death at the end of the chapter on “limits of functions of a continuous variable.” Now that Derbyshire’s book has clarified that for me…

    • Simon says:

      Re: Zeta Function books
      I bought the three new books on the Riemann Hypothesis. I finished Sabbagh, and I’m halfway through Derbyshire. I also have Edwards and Titchmarsh. Titchmarsh is probably a bit too hard for me at the time being, but hopefully in a year or so, I’ll be able to understand much more of it.
      How did you find out about my LiveJournal, by the way?

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