Yesterday was Pi Day. As in the number you get when you divide the distance around a circle (its circumference) by the distance across (the diameter). Or 3.14159265358979323846 26433832795028841971. For starters. Apparently, in 2002, a Japanese computer scientist found 1.24 trillion digits of pi. That calls for a mighty big calculator.
Math was my first love: arithmetic, algebra, geometry, beginning calculus. Always my best subject, right after chatting. Math homework made me giddy with joy, to sit down with a page of numbers, sort through them, watch them go from unconnected, meaningless numbers to relationship, resolution. A right answer is a thing of beauty. Not only is there is always a right answer, it’s always the same right answer. Even if I got a problem wrong, I loved the explanation of the problem. I loved having the light-bulb go off, to see the magic revealed. I am practically misty-eyed writing about the beauty of mathematics. No joke.
"One of the most endearing and enduring qualities of humans is that
we’re so often sure that we can find the answer to any problem if we
just try hard enough…"
Because, no matter what else is going on in the world, no matter who is president, no matter if I’m a tad pudgy, no matter if the sun refused to shine, even if Oprah got canceled, 2 + 2 always = 4. Always. If you need to count on something, count on arithmetic.
I loved math so much, it was my first major in college. Imagine my huge disappointment to discover they don’t offer fun high school calculus in college. No. They offer a form of calculus that doesn’t have any math in it at all!!! Someone should warn people about this. It knocked me unconscious. The teacher’s lips were moving, sounds were emanating, but I didn’t understand any of it. You couldn’t find 2 + 2 in that room anywhere. Theorems and abstract quantum thingies had me in a fetal position in no time. My brain don’t work like that.
That first year in college was completely overwhelming anyway. First time away from Winchester, everything was outside the box. Discovering there were people in the world who were neither black nor white, that men wore dresses in other parts of the world, that there were a whole bunch of people called Jews who didn’t – you’d better sit down for this – believe that Jesus was the son of God… The list of new ideas presented to me outside the classroom goes on and on. To have math, my safe haven, so utterly destroyed for me was icing on the cake. By happy coincidence, that was the year I first felt the heat of a spotlight and heard applause. Leaving calculus for the stage was a no-brainer.
Math still holds a hot place in my heart. Because no matter how confusing the world gets, I can always ground myself with 2 + 2. It’s like touching my wall, confirming my reality. The mysteries of pi, like Fibonacci‘s sequence and his golden ratio, phi, give me hope. Even though I can’t figure them out, someone did. Someone saw.
"Pi Day is a time to honour not just a number and our fascination with
it, but also the essential truth that there are some things we simply
cannot know… pi is an ever-present,
sometimes grating reminder that there are puzzles that can be solved
and there are mysteries that, perhaps, can not."
That book mentioned in the MIT link (Tom Apostol, Calculus) is one of the greatest if not the greatest calculus book I have read, we used it in Calculus II & III in the engineering core math courses (here in CR)
But as a book for calculus I it is a TERRIBLE choice. It can’t be more abstract, the calculus books used in the first course have all sorts of nice graphs/applications of what you are learning so you know what it can be used for, once you know what calculus is for/ how to calculate limits/derivatives/etc THEN you can read the rigurous approach…….in Apostol’s (if you are crazy enough to do that , hehe)
This blog is such a pandora box, you never know what you are going to find in here , real estate, tourism, investments, calculus? 🙂
ah wait, I just re-read the article here duh!, you were actually studying math (I will never understand that major/minor thing, we dont do that here so I always get lost when someone mentions it)
Even for pure mathematicians I supose a nice introduction to ‘everything with applications’ has to be fun before trying to show that the completeness of the real number set.
You should also get this shirt http://www.thinkgeek.com/tshirts/sciencemath/6e7e/
Wow, I love this post. A pi day! We are getting scientific here ;-)! Feels good.
Your experience with college calculus made me smile, mine was an opposite experience – I love abstract problems, no numbers necessary and the more abstract the better. But I can do numbers, too – I just don’t as excited about them as you do. I did not have math in college – I studied in Europe, where they don’t waste two years repeating all you should have already learned in high school, but feed you more of a professional knowledge (I studied law) + associated subjects: philosophy, sociology, logic, legal medicine (a very “nice” semester in the morgue learning how to identify correctly and and all methods of gruesome murders) etc. No fun abstract calculus. But I compensated for the lack of it, when I took postgraduate courses at the Institute of Mathematics of the Polish Academy of Sciences to be able to apply quantitative methods to legal – and political – research. Pretty uncharted theritory at that – ancient now -time.
Have a happy pi day!
I wanted to be an architect. I pretty much had to go another direction due to “the math”.
It’s so good to see you back writing. I sure have missed your good humor and slant on things.
Sometimes I wish we talked in numbers…. then everyone would understand what everyone is saying.
Ooooh! You like math! That may explain why you like Pulp Fiction and I hated it and why I like Borat and you hated it. I’m sure there’s a calculable therom in there.
I like the idea of math, all the balance, all the predictability of conclusions, all the assured resolutions … but. Mathematics makes me want to blow my brains out. Give me a semi-colon to debate. A sentence. With no verb. To resolve. There’s my ambrosia.
I might think the best thing about math is pi. Partly was why I loved Yann Martel’s Life of Pi so much. All that mathematical inference wrapped up in a bit of wicked leaving you hanging.
This piem will help you remember pi: (then we’d have to know why)
Sir, I send a rhyme excelling,
In sacred truth and rigid spelling,
Numerical sprites elucidate,
For me the lesson’s dull weight,
If nature gain, not you complain
Tho’ Dr Johnson fulminate.
Pretty clever! Pi inspires.
Wolfie – you actually read all that stuff and understood it??? And Minerva, you, too? Wow. I am so awed – and envious: i really really wanted to understand it… but it does make me happy there are people in the world who do. There’s something right about that!
Teri – I think you’d have to do the math AND the calculus to really do the architecture thing. When I think of architecture, I think of placing stuff in space, in just the right juxtaposition. And you need fibonacci for that, as well!
Cindy: I’m going to have to pretend you did not say you liked Borat. Ptooie. When people I like say they liked Borat, I think I must have missed something in the movie… sigh. But I can’t revisit it… I’ll just have to believe all those people who liked it can’t be wrong…