Saturday, May 15, 2004

A Mathematical Conspiracy

I think mathematicians have conspired to hide all the interesting stuff from the rest of the world. When they rattle off completely incomprehensible explanations at lightening-fast speeds, we all conclude that they have done us a favor by sheltering us from the details of such abstruse subjects. Personally, I think it is a defensive measure--like chaff that is deployed from an airplane that is in the midst of a dogfight--designed to direct the attention of the potentially incoming missile barrage of questions elsewhere! Mathematicians that they are, I think they've computed the probability that anyone will ever bother them about such things again and have figured out that the odds are in their favor!

(By way of explanation, I have discovered all sorts of interesting, beautiful, meaningful, and useful mathematical concepts and ideas like fractals, Mandelbrot spots, Julia sets, chaos theory, and wavelengths, and I feel just a little cheated that we never explored anything interesting like that in any of the math classes I took!)

I mean, what would have happened if math teachers had explained math to me in terms of something that I did understand? For example, after reading a very abstract statement intended to explain how Julia sets work, I interpreted it for myself like this: The
"mathematical geography" of these particular iterates prevents outward expansion (kind of like the city of Caracas, Venezuela can only expand upward because "outward" expansion is blocked or limited by the ocean, the rain forest, and the mountains that surround it. So, is it just the mathematical values chosen initially that "block" the expansion of these numbers beyond the Julian borders, or is there some other factor that is also in play?

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