Absolutes and almost every

Back when I was writing my thesis, I came across this abbreviation: a.e. It took me a while, but I eventually found that it meant almost every. This might have been almost everywhere in measure theory, but I don’t think so. I seem to recall just “almost every”.

Almost every what, you ask?

Well, I was doing research on computer virus behaviour, so I had books from computer security, graph theory, biological viruses, mathematical models (with exponents and ordinary differential equations and such). I think it was in graph theory. An author was talking about a result or theorem and the proof included almost every type of graph, which was good enough.

I thought that was interesting, because I’ve thought of mathematics as absolute. Maybe this was why I suck at statistics… The idea of some event having a probability of happening, instead of just be or be not, shakes my world somewhat. Of course, I’m less shaken now since life isn’t really absolute…

My greatest accomplishment came when I was in the computer lab, and a Masters student was around. She’s from China, and you know those people are wicked clever. She held up a book, looked at me, then walked over to me.

“Do you know what a.e. means?”

AHA! Me, honours student, knew something a Masters student didn’t!

“I think it means almost every.”
“Oh. OHHHH! Thanks!”

I suspect she asked me because she believed my English was better than hers, and not because I was more knowledgeable in whatever topic that book of hers was about. Have you seen programming books translated to Chinese? I can read the words, but that doesn’t mean I know what the hashbrown that meant… She approached me probably (yay statistics) because she believed a.e. stood for something that someone moderately versed in English will know.

Still, it was an accomplishment. I could tell you I went on to brag about it to all my friends, but truth be told, I continued working on my program code… I was in the computer lab for something, you know…

Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    There are “levels of equivalence” in mathematics, and for some things the best you have is “a.e.” or “a.s.” – almost surely, or with probability = 1. I don’t know a lot about the topic but here is an article that explains it http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Almost_surely

  2. Vincent says:

    Thanks for that! I won’t be surprised if there were abbreviations such as a.c. and a.p. … (“almost certainly” and “almost positively”) 🙂