Friday, June 17, 2005


Learning has many facets, more than a diamond.

Yesterday the university library set up a trial period for the online version of the Oxford English Dictionary. I had been discussing the software package Grokker with a colleague earlier in the day and decided to see what the OED had for the word grok. Perfect. The first use of the word was in the science fiction novel Stranger in a Strange Land, which I read forty years ago, and which I still remember. I have just realized that my primary Learning goal is to grok calculus.

I then tried looking up google in the OED. I was surprised that it was not there. There was reference to an arcane cricket term, but nothing on the search engine or using it.

Now to close the circle by looking up calculus. This is getting scary. The first use of the word calculus, meaning computation or calculation, in English was in 1684 by a person by the name of Burnet. The modern meaning as a branch of mathematics was first noted in 1702 when Ralphson published a mathematical dictionary and compared Newton's fluxion's with Leibnitz's differential calculus.

One, me in particular, should look up at least one word in the OED every day. I am optimistic that the library will decide to obtain a regular subscription that would give all students and faculty online access.


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