Brian Chen

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Last time you cried? And why?

I definitely teared up during the Dual Destinies ending. No spoilers but the flashbacks were heart-rending and the whole thing after the second interruption brought me back to Liar Game's best Aesop moment.

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What is the best year for you?

I think I'm reaching new heights with most of the recent ones, so I would say this one. But years are a really artificial method of division.
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What's more important for you eating&sleeping or traveling ? (same question different answer) ?

Hands-down sleep.

What are the most important lessons you’ve learned in life?

Take risks.
Externalize memory.
Nearly every decision in the real world has tradeoffs.
Most people are nice, but may do dumb and regrettable things in the heat of the moment; it helps to remind yourself to think about what you *really* want.
But a few people are actually malicious, possibly in subtle ways.
Many rules are made by humans and can be bent by humans. It's extremely difficult to write rules with no false negatives or false positives, and humans can understand the intent and make exceptions. If in doubt, ask (politely). Relatedly, excessive rules-lawyering is one tool to be subtly malicious.

Which type of people you really love to talk with?

People who have a sense of humor and an above-average ability to keep conversations going (to cover me, who doesn't), but who don't shy away from difficult or serious topics and have interesting thoughts about them.

What's the best news you've ever received?

Getting one of my puzzles into the 2015 MIT Mystery Hunt wrap-up slides' honorable mentions as puzzles to look at. was pretty cool. I'm pretty sure there is at least one definition of "best" for which this is actually best, even if it's not a majority.

What is something you do every single day?

I don't have a regular daily routine and don't think I have any nontrivial answers above the bottom layer of Maslow's hierarchy of needs.
Nontrivial answers that could come close: eat fruit, open Firefox, check my boring digital watch after waking up.

Has anyone ever said something to you that set you on a path to prove them wrong?

Ace Attorney: Spirit of Justice keeps doing this to my lawyer face and I am super vulnerable to this kind of emotional manipulation.
I think one of my high school counselors might have said something too, but that's long ago.

What did You learn today?

C++ doesn't support non-trivial designated initializers that look like some permutation of `struct Point = { .x = 1, .y = 2 }`, even though it's valid C. I'm not exactly sure what's legal and illegal here, but as best I can see, apparently the fields you initialize have to be, in order, a subsequence of the fields of the struct.

Name 3 goods things that happened over break

I smithed a bottle opener, finished playing through Ace Attorney: Dual Destinies, and memorized the entire lyrics of Jonathan Coulton's "The Presidents".

Do you believe in super natural powers?

I think you can meaningfully exponentiate anything to anything else.

Did you find out more on elliptic-curve cryptology? Just curious... With M77232917.... I was thinking about RSA etc again... Anyways. Happy New Years!!! ?? Oh... And did Boston get hammered by the cyclone bomb??? ?⛄❄

gretchen0012’s Profile Photog
Not significantly...

If you had a choice between McGill University (Montreal) or UofT (Toronto), where would you go? McGill is my first choice but UofT has a better standing. Also, the program I want to study is Biomedical Engineering/Minor in Honours Maths. Montreal is really amazing IMO and Toronto sucks.

Wow I guess I have a backlog of actual questions, and this has a good chance of no longer being relevant, but...
Unfortunately I think deciding between colleges is one of those things that I would need to devote full days to give a satisfactory answer to. There are dozens of factors. I'll just say that "standing" is overrated and the people are the most important factor. Do you think you'll find what you want among the people there? It could be a community to learn with, a place to fit in, a network to achieve future endeavors, or anything else.

Can you spy on someone's device if they share the same router. I suspect my homestay brother is hacking my device. What would you do? I told my mom and she is researching how routers work. Sadly mine (and with my mom's) comp skills etc are bad. This student is creeping me out. I told my mom that too

To a first approximation, if they're on the same router as you are, it's easy to spy on your network traffic if you don't use HTTPS (to an even rougher approximation, HTTPS is sites that have a padlock in your address bar). If you use HTTPS, you're theoretically protected from the simplest kind of packet sniffing, but in practice vulnerabilities exist (there was a recent one published at krackattacks.com).
Beyond that I guess the question is kind of insufficiently defined depending on what it means to be spying on or hacking a device. Based on the one security-minded friend I consulted, you should be more concerned about somebody physically accessing your devices, guessing weak/shoulder-surfed passwords or plugging in peripherals.
I am not a security professional and am kind of assuming a paranoid hypothetical worst case; use your best judgment.

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Re: student groups. Do you help with the tours? I am visiting MIT next summer and I am wondering.... If, say the maths students or engineering students do the tours (if you want to apply to those programs).

I don't help with tours (I think this is true no matter which of several interpretations of "tours" you take). I don't really understand the second question — there are lots of MIT students who study neither math nor engineering; I don't think most tours are major-specific in any way, and that's probably a good thing since lots of people don't come in knowing what they're going to study. I have no idea what the major distribution of tour-givers is, but I'm pretty sure everybody who gives a tour will have some baseline understanding of MIT in general and will be able to talk about most majors and most aspects of MIT or at least direct you to the right resources.

Hi Brian. How was your summer?

gretchen0012’s Profile Photog
reasonable. I did a math research program at MIT and proved something kind of dumb, but somehow it seems to have led me into a more interesting long-term research project over the semester. I also helped a lot with student groups as usual.

A few of the dashes and dots equal numbers (Morse Code), but I'm not sure... can you give a hint?

There are three steps, each of which applies to the entire thing; Morse code is the first.
But have you tried clicking the links and looking through the dropdowns?
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One more questions. If you had to start programing again, where would you start.

I don't know very much about this, but I hear Python with Codecademy is pretty good.

How much do you use LaTxt?

gretchen0012’s Profile Photog
I'm going to assume you mean LaTeX because I can't find anything plausible for "LaTxt" --- I do most of my schoolwork and some notes in it, while gradually moving towards some Pandoc for softer things requiring less technical notation. That's not a lot nowadays because it's summer, of course, but over my first year I think I typed maybe 100--200 pages in LaTeX?

When are you adding to your blog?soon? soonish?

I've been asking myself this question for months now. I don't have a good answer, but if it's soon, it'll probably not be on a weekday. My internship workday is as packed as a strict ByteString.
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After reading your link, I can't believe people think RSA keys are secure. Although, and this might sound naïve/dumb, but what is safer?

RSA *is* secure*, if you do it right. Crypto is hard to do right; a theoretically secure cryptosystem can very often be compromised by some tiny detail implemented incorrectly. The link describes an attack on RSA when key generation is not done right.
As far as I'm aware, the alternative to RSA is elliptic curve cryptography. I don't understand the mathematics behind it (yet), though.
* unless, of course, the NSA or somebody has an unpublished algorithm that breaks it, and until quantum computers are well-developed enough to make Shor's algorithm practical...
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Reading a book on cryptology and it talks about Euclid's algorithm. I'm wondering if I should I read more about it? Other than finding the GCD, is it useful?

gretchen0012’s Profile Photog
I'd say no, with the caveat that finding the GCD is *extremely* useful and that that application alone makes it worth understanding.
You can use it to find the GCD of numbers and do all sorts of fancy number theory, but you can also find the GCD of polynomials, and more generally Euclidean domains, which are basically "places where the Euclidean algorithm works". Proving that the Euclidean algorithm works is a common way (possibly the most common?) to prove that a ring is a unique factorization domain; this covers the rings of Gaussian integers and of Eisenstein integers, for example. I don't have time to give more details or background, but I guess these things are all on Wikipedia.
In an even more real-world application, you can crack badly generated RSA keys with it: https://sbseminar.wordpress.com/2012/02/16/the-recent-difficulties-with-rsa/

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