Martin's Blog

M2 thesis and defence

Posted by Martin Orr on Friday, 13 August 2010 at 15:05

Last month I finished my Masters in Orsay. Since March I had been working on a thesis on a 1998 paper of Pink on the Mumford-Tate conjecture (concerning l-adic Galois representations attached to abelian varieties). The paper was difficult to read, but I learnt a lot doing so.

In July I defended the thesis in Orsay. This did not seem a valuable exercise. I spoke for a bit under an hour to my adviser, one other examiner and one of my friends (in my case the second examiner was my adviser's collaborator, visiting from UCL). In principle the public are permitted to attend, but since it is not announced anywhere noone is likely to do so except some friends you may have invited - I can't imagine anyone else wanting to attend anyway.

Since I had already explained all the contents of my thesis to my adviser in our weekly meetings, the only person I was really talking to was the second examiner. But as I understand it, the written thesis is the part which is most important for marking, and I doubt whether the second examiner reads that in detail. They did not ask many questions, and the questions they did ask I was mostly unable to answer - since I had focussed all my energies into understanding the proofs of certain specific results, and then writing down what I had understood, it would have been difficult to ask questions I could answer.

In September I will be returning to do a PhD with the same adviser, and working on the same sorts of questions.

no comments Tags abelian-varieties, m2, paris

Sleeper train and Spring

Posted by Martin Orr on Friday, 30 April 2010 at 20:29

I had a week at home in Belfast last week. Since I resolved a couple of years ago not to fly for routine journeys, it is quite a long journey between Belfast and Paris. In the past I have always done this with a night's stop in England, taking most of two days. This time I broke my journey Paris to Belfast in Leeds for the Future Sounds of Swing weekend. This was almost the only lindy classes I have gone to since last June. It was a great weekend.

On my way back from Belfast to Paris, I took the sleeper train from Edinburgh to London. This allowed me to get from Belfast to Paris in 24 hours (with a bit more time required for travel at either end). It takes about 7 hours leaving at 11.40. The train during the day, which makes several stops, takes less than 5 hours. I suppose it goes slower to give a smoother ride and so that you can get a decent night's sleep. In fact you can stay in your cabin for another hour after it arrives. It cost me £35 with a rail card.

The room is very small with not much more than a pair of bunk beds and a sink. When I saw it I worried whether there would be space for my suitcase, but there was a shelf for it. I was sharing with one other man. It was very comfortable and the movement was barely noticeable. You get brought tea or coffee and a biscuit when the train arrives (in a disposable cup, I suppose so you can take it away if you want).

When I got back to Bures, as soon as I looked across the valley I could see that something had changed. The woods which cover all the upper part of the valley side had gone from brown to green. The leaves have come out on all the deciduous trees on the campus, which was only just starting when I left. This makes everything greener but less open.

no comments Tags lindy, paris, train, travel

French exams

Posted by Martin Orr on Saturday, 20 March 2010 at 22:45

In the past six weeks I have taken four exams: two on the courses from the first semester (October-January) and two on the courses I have taken January-February. The reason the latter came so soon after the former is because they are in different institutions - the first two were here in Orsay, the second two in other institutions in Paris with different timetables. These exams were hard, and very different from exams in Cambridge. (Note: this post discusses pure maths exams only.)

2 comments Tags exams, m2, paris, tripos

Trip to London

Posted by Martin Orr on Sunday, 08 November 2009 at 17:54

I took a trip to London on Wednesday. It takes 4 hours to get from where I live in Bures-sur-Yvette to St Pancras by Eurostar (and under 6 hours to Cambridge, where I went for a weekend in October). It is surprisingly cheap - £27.50 if you book far enough in advance (about 4 weeks in advance to travel mid-week). In London I went to see Ed, who did Part III and is now doing a PhD in Imperial, and went to the London Number Theory seminar. This seminar reminded me that the stuff I have been doing recently is much more "geometry" than "number theory" - I am generally happiest doing something in the middle.

I only planned to go to London for the day, but my time there was nearly doubled because I was confused about the time of the train home. I discovered this as I was going to check in, bang on 30 minutes in advance as requested, which was in fact the time the train was due to depart. So I heard it leaving. This was the last train to Paris so I had to wait until the next morning. When I explained to the lady at the ticket office what had happened, she looked like she thought I was completely stupid (which I was). But she said she would class me as having missed the train (I am not sure why this was being generous; maybe it is meant for people who had delayed connections), and so I could change the ticket without paying anything. But only to the next train, at 5.25 in the morning. Fortunately there is a youth hostel only a couple of minutes from St Pancras where I could stay.

no comments Tags london, paris, train

French Lectures

Posted by Martin Orr on Sunday, 20 September 2009 at 15:52

I had my first lectures in Paris this week. They are much longer than Cambridge lectures: 2 or 2.5 hours per lecture. And you have one lecture in the morning, then the same course again in the afternoon. (In Cambridge lectures are 1 hour, you have about 3 different lectures in a day, and they are only in the mornings.) I had this every day this week, so that was quite a lot. For the first three weeks there are some introductory courses, which take place every day. When term starts properly in October I will only have 2 or 3 days of lectures per week.

The two courses for which I had lectures this week were Algebra and Geometry, and Complex Analysis. The first is all stuff I already know from Part III. Sometimes it is interesting to see it taught from a different (more geometric) perspective, and sometimes it is just boring. The Complex Analysis one is not really relevant to what I am interested in, but I thought I would go along just to broaden my knowledge.

The lectures are all in French, but the lecturers speak reasonably clearly so that is rarely a problem. Reading what they have written can sometimes be harder, and they don't write full sentences on the board as lecturers usually do in Cambridge. That means that I'm not learning how to write maths in French as I had hoped, and I often don't know what to write to fill in the gaps in what they wrote on the board.

There are about 18 people attending the lectures. The audience at the Algebra and Geometry ones is quite international. I think I am the only native English speaker, but the majority of the audience are probably more comfortable speaking English than French. There are more French people at the analysis lectures.

no comments Tags france, languages, lectures, m2, paris

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