Tuesday, August 07, 2007

numbers and the beatles

it is no secret that i hate math -- really hate it. hated it in high school, and am hating it currently because i apparently didn't do enough of it in high school to facilitate a career in English and writing. you see, the state of nebraska would like all of its potential writers to know about quadratic equations, complex numbers, inequalities, graphs of equations, graphs of functions, inverse functions, graphs of polynomial functions of degree greater than 2, zeros of polynomials, complex and rational zeros of polynomials, and trigonometric functions of angles, thank you very much. just in case. even though everyone knows you forget what you don't use in a matter of months, regardless of how much you paid for it.

tan: that is why technical schools are usually a much better option than 4-year degrees, because you don't have to learn all this stuff that's completely irrelevant to what i actually want to do. why do schools do that?? i guess i am just more practical than "having a broad view of the world" and "breadth of knowledge" and all that. just learn what you need to, and why would you pay money and waste time learning the rest? oh, and i am the walking antithesis (reciprocal?) of that statement, as you are about to find out.

so anyways, as you've probably figured out, i found out that i have to take two more math courses before i'm admitted to the university next semester, so i'm in a brief 5-week class to brush up on my beginning algebra skills before i dive into those courses. but oh wait, i never had any of those skills, so this class is a mild form of torture, from 8:30-9:30 five days each week.

(to give you an idea of how elementary (literally) the course is, today we learned what polynomials were, and last week what the origin of a graph is, and which direction the X and Y axes go. and yes, i DO remember this from school. vaguely.)

a few days ago, we were discussing an elemantary principle of graphing. as is my habit when i don't feel a need to listen, i zoned out for a while. but my attention was arrested by the line on the graph that represents a simple equation such as x+y=6. most of you know this, but no matter what number you plug in there for X and Y to satisfy the equation, the dots will always line up into a perfect straight line on your graph. i was suddenly in a trance and couldn't stop thinking "WHY does it do that??" i was struck by the beauty and order of mathematics and numbers and how they all relate to each other in an infinite number of ways. (i like thinking about mathematics in a more abstract way, which allows me to appreciate it without actually knowing how to do it.) but think about it: numbers are just things people made up, using their own minds, yet they are solid logical facts, REAL STUFF, and no one, EVER, argues that 1+1 does not =2; or that 1=0. it's more than obvious. but numbers still seem to exist for their own sake. there is so much order and design in math, it makes it hard to see why any mathematician could ever be an atheist. (of course, i could say the same for musicians, scientists, doctors, and anyone else who studies reality.)

to me, math is like the beatles. i know the parallel there is really obvious, but i'll explain it anyways. just like with a lot of music, i can appreciate math without actually liking it. do i like most beatles music? no, because it sounds like everything else, or worse. but others insist that the beatles were original pioneers of their time, and brave and courageous trailblazers (you'd think they were talking about the Founding Fathers). so i begrudgingly yield the beatles a bit of lazy appreciation, even though i still own zero (which, as i learned, is a bit of a debated "number") of their music and don't care to change that fact.

so i can appreciate the order -- and, alright, beauty -- of math and the beatles and what each has apparently done for the furtherance of the species, without actually enjoying the music, or wanting to ever see a set of numbers again. ever.

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