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# My journey on Brilliant and a thank you.

Today, I feel like talking about my crazy journey on brilliant. So I thought I'd share this note with everyone on Brilliant. And get ready, cuz this is a long one. Probably the most text on any brilliant post ever.

Starting from the very beginning, here is how I found Brilliant: My parents are crazy about the "no phone at the dinner table" rule. But they never complained when I did my homework at the table. So just this year, around my 15th birthday (ignore my profile age I'm not 19) because of my interest in math, I would create some hard problems and do them at the table. However, this presented two problems: A: is it even solvable (by someone with my skill or even twice as much, which at the time I thought was impossible), B. Once I solve it, how will I know if I was right?

So I decided to google "hard math problems." I found this web site talking about some genius kids that solved some unbelievably hard problems. I was wowed but skeptical, not believing that a 12 year old could solve such problems. I realized that there were some smart kids out there, but I still thought that there were maybe... I don't know, like, 1000 people smarter than me my age. Little did I know that I was missing a couple zeroes at the end of the number. I read up on the kids

At the end of the page, there was a link to join brilliant.org... and that's where my journey begins.

I remember solving my first problem, it was lvl 1 so it was quite easy, I started off doing lvl 1 and 2 Alg, Number theory, and geom problems, my favorite subjects. Then came the level three problems. I could solve about 1 out of every 20.

I solved one level 4 problem (not sure what the rating is now, but it was lvl 4 at the time). And I was ecstatic. I couldn't believe that I had solved for the remainder when $$1^3+2^2+3^3...+2007^3$$ was divided by 5. I added my pic to the solvers box, checked the solution... And realized that I had done the problem ENTIRELY WRONG. I had gotten the answer out of sheer dumb luck (there is a 1/5 chance of getting it anyway).

But anyway, I remember every time I clicked the "previous solvers box" I would see that triangle with a smiley face in it every time (Daniel's old profile picture). A kid a year younger than me was solving problems 5 times harder than the ones that I could solve. Out of sheer stupidity and arrogance, I thought to my self, "boy, what a nerd, he must not have a life except for a math." I didn't realize how wrong I was. He was just a normal kid like me who happened to have an unbelievable knack for solving math problems. But then there was the fat cat, the chalk board, Sauske Uchiha (not sure which one from Naruto) the cactus, the Fish, the horse, the fancy K, the bubble or galaxy (not sure).............and doge (how could I forget this one). All these savants who were younger than me or around my age but had abilities that were years beyond mine.

My self esteem plummeted. I was very, very humbled. In years past, my mathematical skills had earned me a number of awards and recognition at my school. But when I looked at all the prestigious awards on Krishna Ar's homepage, I realized just how small the awards I won were. In lower school, I thought I was so smart just because my IQ was 194 (at the time I actually thought it was something a little more like $$\infty^{\infty}$$). But I was at least realistic enough to realize that, even though I may have been the best mathematician at my school, there were at least a hundred smarter than me in the world. But now that I've joined brilliant, I've learned "how to do math" and how many smart kids are out there. Those who have been doing math outside of school since they were 3.

I, on the other hand, had only used what I had known and refused to learn from the internet. So I knew very little, but what I knew was reinforced a lot. But I wouldn't do so well on competitions such as the AMC or CML because I was slow and my ADD combined with my Dysgraphia slowed me down a lot on those.

I was never exposed to such pure intelligence until 9th grade, when I joined math team and Natsu, Gucci, and Queen Kong (math team nicknames) joined my school. They were the first people I met who were much smarter than I. Gucci knew advanced calc by the time he joined 9th grade (but he still hasn't learned alg 2, just calc. LOL). I was amazed. Then I met Makkah (another genius math team member). He was and still is one of the three smartest high school students I know IRL.

I was intimidated, and I hate being intimidated. I hate not knowing as much as others, I hate not being the best at something. I hate knowing, that when I wake up tomorrow, there will not be an article dedicated to me stating that I am not the worlds smartest person. I hate knowing that there are tens of thousands of people smarter than me out there who are all my age or younger.

So I began to learn. Since I joined brilliant 3 months ago, I have doubled my levels in each topic. I joined only knowing the math that was taught on the honors course, nothing from outside. I taught myself almost all of Alg 2 (excluding trig, I suck at that no matter how hard I try), geometry OVER 9000 times harder than what they taught in geom H (it's a Dragon Ball Z reference, here is the video), a ton of number theory theorems, and half of pre-calc.

I gained a burst of confidence when I discovered a factoring trick that no one (to my knowledge) had thought of before. It discussed how to factor polynomials with unusual coefficients (exg: large, imaginary, fractional, unfactorable, transcendental...) assuming that they shared at least one prime factor in increasing or decreasing powers (here is a link to it). I felt special, because I had an identity, I was a somebody who was distinguishable from the crowd in at least one way.

But as time went on, I became depressed, thinking that there was absolutely nothing that I could do to catch the brilliant kids out there. Knowing that I wasn't nearly as special as I thought I was sucked. $$\textbf{I wish that I had started earlier}$$ if only someone had told me about all the smart minds out there and I had started earlier, I would be so much smarter.

But I didn't look at the bigger picture. While there were kids so much smarter than me, I tested in the the 99.9% percent tile on every official math scoring exam that I took. The population smarter than me was only .1% of the entire world. And now, that I'm a little smarter since I started doing "real" math, I wonder just how many people I've passed. So when I got back to school, and many of my friends were struggling with material that was a breeze for me, I realized that I should be greatful for what I have. That I was blessed and should be lucky that I am alive.

So with this in mind, I kept going, aspiring to be the next Jon Haussmann, Michael Mendrin, Calvin Lin... I have been teaching myself math as fast as I can, and Brilliant.org has really helped speed that up. I have asked tons of questions that may seem silly to many. But I was asking them simply to learn quicker. I have received nothing but knowledge by asking question after question.

My superiors have taught me so much, so I felt that it was only fair if I gave back what they gave to me by helping those who are still learning what I have been taught. When I was offered the option to become a moderator of Brilliant and improve the site to help others learn faster, I was unbelievably happy. It would help me to teach others everything that I know so that they can learn faster. So I encourage all of you to ask questions, because no matter how smart you are, you don't know everything.

All in all I would like to say thank you to everyone (everyone still reading this note who hasn't clicked out due to sheer boredom HAHA) who helped make this site, and thank you to every other brilliant mathematician out there. Just remember you are my inspiration to keep learning. It's a game of catch up, and one day, maybe, just maybe, I'll be as smart as you.

Note by Trevor Arashiro
2 years, 5 months ago

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The worst thing about getting smarter is that you become more aware of how little you really know. Now I laugh, and say to myself, "wow, am I really ever going to find time to learn all this stuff I don't know about?" · 2 years, 5 months ago

Learning new things isn't getting "smarter", it is becoming more intelligent. Smart is the application of intelligence to gain happiness. If acquired knowledge doesn't resolve one's problems and serves no purpose, it isn't smart.

The worst thing about getting more intelligent is that this intelligence may not bring you happiness, but waste your time and make you less happy. A part of becoming intelligent is becoming aware of things that you wish you've remained ignorant of. Ignorance is bliss.

To an extent. The sole purpose of intelligence is to minimize effort required to maximize happiness.

What is the "Meaning of Life"?

It's actually very simple: Endeavor for happiness.

Think about it. But don't overthink it ;)

~J@M · 2 years, 5 months ago

Food for thought, John, but it does make me wonder, though .....

Happiness, as it is commonly understood, is overrated. The pursuit of such happiness is counterproductive, as it more often than not sets us up for disappointment. (I could go on with the notion that this pursuit is a corporate conspiracy to make us buy and consume more to fill the void we can never satiate, but I digress ....)

Happiness in modern western culture is perceived as more hedonic in nature, (i.e., pleasure, gratification) , whereas for the ancient Greeks it was more about eudaimonia, (i.e., well-being, fulfillment). In short, "a happy life" versus "a life with purpose". These are not mutually exclusive states of being, but I see the former as spiritually static and the latter as more dynamic. To live a life with purpose can involve great hardship, but as Nietzsche said, "He who has a why to live can bear with almost any how." It is not the easy way that is the most worthwhile; the path of the hero is often shrouded in darkness and despair. Does that make heroes, and I mean real heroes, stupid? Perhaps. But do their lives have more meaning? Absolutely.

Or maybe, just maybe, I overthought all this .... :) · 2 years, 5 months ago

Well, this is what makes people miss the mark on the question of Meaning of Life. Most people perceive "Happiness" in its stereotypical form, asserting definitions and rules and constraints and all such. But that's all a perspective - an interpretation - an illusion. Happiness isn't just defined as laughing all the time and being around lovely people. There is no "right answer." The worst part about most high-schools and colleges is that unless you take a philosophy class you're taught to view the world in black and white. But that's not true.

Answer this: If each of the following were an illusion, which would be the life's greatest illusion?

Guilt

Consciousness

Power

Time

(Now now relativity experts, calm your horses. We're not looking for how's - we're looking for why's)

I can argue for each one - and win. WIN? No such thing. Every reasonable (logically sound (no - jack poster bewareness hot sponged con - type of sentences or reasonings)) argument is right in its own respect. Aristotle's Fundamental Law of Logic states: "two or more contradictory statements cannot both be true in the same sense at **the same time." A person once said, "No position is so absurd that a philosopher cannot be found to argue for it." (sorry I forgot who said this, but someone did).

Arguing over the definition of a such broad and core subject as Happiness is futile. I say, it's whatever sustains a person on a positive mental state over a substantial period of time. I've started thinking like this only a while ago, and didn't get chance to expand on the philosophy because the school started. So, to address what you've said, "living purposelessly" is actually still, a pursuit of happiness. The simple act of devoting oneself to doing - even when it involves not doing - is a pursuit of sort. If I'm too broad or do not explain/elaborate/backup on my statements, I'm sorry, I can't spend too much time discussing this. But I hope this explains things a bit more.

Right now I'm working on the Equation of Life. It's the Theory of Everything - for life. I hope I'll get a chance to work on it someday - 7AP classes aren't easy to manage.

Cheers, · 2 years, 5 months ago

Wow, 7 AP classes; you are definitely not taking the easy way, my friend. :)

O.k., feeling tired, so random thought time ....

• Resistance may be futile, but I don't think the pursuit of happiness is, whatever the version. As the existentialists hold, the meaning of life is relative and is essentially whatever you choose it to be, so whatever floats one's boat, (as long as it doesn't involve sinking those of others), is hunky dory. But when the option of living with intent presents itself, living otherwise would be like entering a state of denial. I'm more often than not "guilty" of this, but at least I'm aware of it. In reality, I think that a state of enlightened self-interest is the practical ideal, keeping in mind all the life lessons we were supposed to learn in pre-school, (you know... share, play well with others, clean up after yourself, don't run with scissors, etc.).

• No, there is no right answer, but are there right questions? Wrong questions?

• Life's greatest illusion? I'd say consciousness, but it's an illusion I'm perfectly happy to live with. Guilt is a construct of consciousness, so no contest there. Power? Just another construct, I think. Time is what keeps everything from happening at once, so it perpetuates the illusion of consciousness and is thus its partner in crime.

• "No position is so absurd ....". I do recall that one; I think that might have been Bertrand Russell, but I'm not positive. Anyway, speaking of the absurd, at your age I gravitated towards the Absurdists, particularly Albert Camus, (I see him as a humanist as much as anything, but that's semantics), and also towards the Eastern schools of thought, (Buddhism and Taoism in particular). Strange bedfellows, I suppose, but they do have some essential elements in common. I'm sure you'll cover them while you're doing research for your "Equation of LIfe". You have read the "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" series, no doubt? :)

• In the spirit of Michael's byline, (namely, "Before you solve a problem, first figure out what the problem is"), I offer this definition of life from Thomas Mann's "Magic Mountain": "Life is that which maintains form through change of substance."

• As for the purpose of this website, I paraphrase Nietzsche: "Without mathematics, life would be a mistake."

· 2 years, 5 months ago

And so my intelligence tells me I'll be deliriously happy once I've solved certain key problems, but of course I had to pick problems that seem insolvable. So what does that make me? · 2 years, 5 months ago

General rule is - as long as it makes you happy. Happiness depends upon human values - YOUR values. That's what most of the disrespectful people don't realize when judging others - "Oh football is for ruffians" "Oh cartoons are for kids" "Oh math's for no-lifes" (yeah I'm not so good with examples). Every person has his/her own personal value that one develops throughout living based on a great number of factors encompassing geography, society, education, religion, etc. For example, though a scientist may "know" the absurdity of the idea of God, he still has no right to judge a believer - it isn't the believer's fault that he's been taught different.

As the Declaration of Independence states, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." Life - body, mind; Liberty - power, opportunity; pH - what the two others are purposed to.

So if you find math, science, and the general pursuit of knowledge to be your happy place, you go at it! This is what you love to do, and should do, and let no-one tell you otherwise! (in fact, keep studying dimensions and weird physics properties because when I graduate I will likely work on wormholes and space-travel so I'd like to have a master-genius friend like you that I can refer to :))

s

May the happiness be with you. · 2 years, 5 months ago

You know, look too happy Yoda does not · 2 years, 5 months ago

You know, reply too constructively Michael does not

Well, that's alright. But to address that - You know, looking too happy makes Man happy not. Expression of satisfaction is not a requirement on the happy list. A yoga in the alpha state is happy - looks dead too.

In fact, people should resent those simplistic people - and love them at the same time. Their bar (goals, purposes, desires) is so low that the necessary endeavor (and thus resources) required to reach is miniscule (and thus those people who go through so much to still be desperate as shit must envy). If more lived a tenth as simple as them, we'd have so much more economic equality. And my equation of life will be defined in terms of those two - bar vs. effort. The ratio of effort to bar should produce happiness - in a rough sense. A person who sets his goals twice as high needs to invest twice the effort to be just as happy as the man with half the goals and half the efforts. I can back this up with an extentions on Law of Marginally Diminishing Utility - among with some other parameters.

Ok well back to work. Thanks for taking interest.

Cheers, · 2 years, 5 months ago

John, remember how you learned that dimensions could have fractional values? Okay, well, imagine maybe happiness is some kind of a tensor quantity. I think happy is the man who knows he's motivated, even if he could fail. You seem prettry motivated. · 2 years, 5 months ago

Well, yes, that is one way he can be happy. Did you see my response to BC's post? Hope so.

Btw, I still don't know what a tensor quantity is. I know you explained this in my fruit fly's brain project but I forgot. But no matter.

Yes, motivation - intent, will, desire - are means to achieving an end. How far the end is is the other major factor. It's like Alpha and Omega. And I plan my Equation to have a sort of $$\sum$$ of intervals of processes involving input in form of effort and output in form of degree of happiness. No, I don't know what I'm talking about.

But I will...

I will. · 2 years, 5 months ago

The whole is more than the $$\displaystyle \sum$$ of the parts. Just sayin'.

And yes, you will. Or at least you'll die trying. :) · 2 years, 5 months ago

Yes, I saw your response to BC's post. I've been following your entire thread on the matter of pursuit of happiness. And I thought BC made the good point that hedonism isn't the same as sense of fulfillment. Climbers who make first ascents aren't doing them because they're having such an hedonistic blast while doing them--in fact it can get downright miserable. But they keep doing it anyway. I hope you find your calling. To paraphrase Telly Salavas, "What moves ya baby?" · 2 years, 5 months ago

Um, I do know nothing about that whole concept of hedonism or whatever, but I do know that it is a value of some sort. And as long as it is, it still fits with my model/interpretation of life.

But if it's something so abstract that it isn't anything of sort, well, enlighten me.

I shall resume to this tomorrow, perhaps.

Nice chatting with ya.

Cheers · 2 years, 5 months ago

Well said, Michael. I feel the same way; no matter how much I learn it still feels like I know next to nothing. Just out of curiosity, what area of mathematics (or physics) would you most like to learn more about, given the time? · 2 years, 5 months ago

Oh that's easy for me to say--quantum field theory and its extension to quantum chromodynamics and supersymmetry. Even though there seems to be a number of disparate, competing models in theoretical physics, I do keep seeing underlying patterns that runs through all of it. We know about mathematical equivalence, but I think we get a much richer picture if we accept slight mathematical imperfections, since even though physical reality depends on mathematics, unlike mathematics, physical reality isn't really infinitely perfect.

If only I had the time. Well, I think I'll take that hike up in the hills now. · 2 years, 5 months ago

Yes, fascinating stuff. "... slight mathematical imperfections ..."; perhaps a dose of possibility theory is in order. I'm also curious about the difference between "infinitely perfect" and "finitely perfect". I guess it all depends on whether or not God really is a mathematician. :) · 2 years, 5 months ago

Very True. Upvoted! · 2 years, 5 months ago

This is so true, and not just in math. Whether it's literature, philosophy, science... the more you learn, the more you realize how little you really know (and how little any of us really knows). Staff · 2 years, 5 months ago

So true. I couldn't state this any better. · 2 years, 5 months ago

i agree with you sir @Michael Mendrin · 2 years, 5 months ago

"boy, what a nerd, he must not have a life except for a math."

That's actually true lol · 2 years, 5 months ago

Thank you for sharing this heartfelt message, Trevor. I agree that Brilliant has become an amazing site for learning and connecting with others who revel in mathematics and the sciences; long may it last and continue to grow and improve.

I went to school with a prodigy from a young age, (7 or so), so I always knew "my place" as far as my mathematical abilities were concerned. I tried to keep up with him, (more to give him company than anything else), but I never aspired to be like him. Although I was a competitive person, it was always more about learning new things and solving (relatively) complex problems of my own creation than it was about being the "smartest person in the room".

Anyway, I'm sure that your talent, enthusiasm and newfound humility will serve you well in the future, no matter where your life's journey takes you. · 2 years, 5 months ago

At my beach house, I have some bougainvilleas that never get any water, and yet no matter how much I cut them back, they just explode in all directions all the time. I hope Brilliant will be like that. · 2 years, 5 months ago

LOL that's an interesting comparison. Staff · 2 years, 5 months ago

I hope so too. And whatever gene is allowing your bougainvillea to respond like that should be isolated and spliced into California's food crops to allow it to survive in a water-challenged future. I don't normally advocate GM crops, but water conservation methods may not be enough .... · 2 years, 5 months ago

How funny, but that's exactly what I told a friend just yesterday. But I agree with you, California farmers can conserve more water by changing crops than by "more efficient irrigation methods". Still, they should change irrigation methods, and in order for that to be feasible, the irrigation companies HAVE to start metering individual farms. As mandated by California law, but they're stalling. California is still amazingly backwards when it comes to cropland water regulation. · 2 years, 5 months ago

It's crazy that they don't meter individual farms; without that transparency there is no motivation to conserve. I hope the irrigation companies get their acts together soon; the desertification of California is, obviously, in no one's best interest, so I don't understand why they're stalling. · 2 years, 5 months ago

The problem is that it's hard to change traditions, and the fact California has such a Byzantine system of overlapping water rights and layers of local regulations doesn't help. Nobody's really in control. · 2 years, 5 months ago

This is such an inspirational message! I'm truly amazed by your progress, and I believe that you're a role model for the people who have the potential to prosper in math :). Thanks for posting this message, and encouraging people to stick with brilliant to reach their mathematical prestige! · 2 years, 5 months ago

And remember,there was a time when Einstein couldn't count to 10!!!!! · 2 years, 5 months ago

Wow... You should have written more man... Loved your story. Thanks for sharing. . · 2 years, 5 months ago

Thank you. And I could have written more, I just wasn't sure if everyone wanted to read it all. · 2 years, 5 months ago

Genuine doubt! Everyone not the same. You yourself have seen how smart and dumb people can be :P Your starting was god enough for me stick reading on... BTW even I am going to share some of my views and become active here, as I was busy till now..also I realised what you've realised some years back because I think I'd never been in one place for more than 1 or 3 years. On the move I realised much and many...I think I can the discussion forward..by mails. · 2 years, 5 months ago

Awesome note. Same story here, except for the 194 IQ. · 2 years, 5 months ago

Yours is probably like 230 · 2 years, 5 months ago

That would be ridiculous. But thanks! · 2 years, 5 months ago

I am a star distorting another star behind me via gravitational lensing. IQ 201. :D · 2 years, 5 months ago

I'm amazed you've done so much in 3 months! Kudos! W.R.T Competitions, Well, I think my list is actually bigger.(I've put only the recent ones there). But , let me tell you-I've seen a lot of seniors having much more (even 1/2 12th graders in my school). So I'm maybe one of the people in the >0.1% percentile :P :D Which grade are you in? · 2 years, 5 months ago

Currently starting 10th grade. And I cant imagine how smart your school is if that many people have such prestigious awards! My school has only 1 or 2 AIME/USAMO side the every year if we're lucky. · 2 years, 5 months ago

:D. Well my school's one of the sucky schools. It's really bad. I actually meant that there are a lot more people out there (here in India :P ) who actually have a longer list! · 2 years, 5 months ago

This is the story with every student in INDIA. I think that there should be one school for RMOawardees all over INDIA. · 2 years, 5 months ago

True!!!!!! · 2 years, 5 months ago

@Trevor Arashiro where do you live in US? I live in Maryland. · 2 years, 5 months ago

Hawaii man. Land of paradise · 2 years, 5 months ago

Where extinct volcanoes live in peace with their human neighbours. · 2 years, 5 months ago

Sort of in peace, Kesa. it still erupts on the main island of Hawaii. · 2 years, 5 months ago

Wait, how old is it? I thought that the hotspot was only at the end of the chain. · 2 years, 5 months ago

Wel, but that's exactly right. the still active Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is at the east side of main island of Hawaii. · 2 years, 5 months ago

Movie 2012, hotspots everywhere! · 2 years, 5 months ago

Dude, in that movie, there is a scene where Hawaii is completely covered in lava. Like there is no ground, just lava covering the every island · 2 years, 5 months ago

I know. The mantle had been completely disrupted, which led to the mass lava spewing. · 2 years, 5 months ago

Where did you take this IQ test????? I doubt that your IQ was 194 · 5 months, 1 week ago

Love that graph. · 1 year, 11 months ago

Trevs, I just want you to know that Gucci is always here to support and learn with ya ^^ · 2 years, 3 months ago

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