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Ralsina.Me — Roberto Alsina's website

That's Math! I Know Math! (No I don't)

The ti­tle is a quote from Juras­sic Park, if you were won­der­ing. A girl, chased by di­nosaurs, runs in­to a com­put­er, no­tices it's Unix, says "That's Unix! I know Unix!", and pro­ceeds to hack some­thing or oth­er that lets her es­cape the pre­vi­ous­ly men­tioned di­nosaurs.

Well, that's how life of­ten feels for me, ex­cept with Math. And with­out di­nosaurs. I am sur­round­ed by trou­ble, some­thing is com­plete­ly bro­ken in a way I can't quite get, things feel just slight­ly weird... and sud­den­ly... that's math! I know math! (of course I don't know math, noone knows math. We all just know some math­).

I may see an ad and no­tice the huge dis­count is just a clev­er­ly dis­guised tiny dis­coun­t. A snip­pet of news may re­veal it­self as com­plete non­sense af­ter a cur­so­ry anal­y­sis. A for­ward­ed mail may be­come slight­ly more an­noy­ing be­cause of its ob­vi­ous stu­pid­i­ty. Be­cause of math.

Math is the tool I have to make sense of things. When the world gets con­fus­ing and scary, if it can be ex­pressed in num­ber­s, it calms me down. Afraid of the fu­ture? Let's con­sid­er the won­ders of com­pound in­ter­est. Scared of death? Well, look at prob­a­bil­i­ties. Need­ing a lit­tle ad­ven­ture? Well, there is game the­o­ry! Need a con­ver­sa­tion starter? You can men­tion you once spent time in class fig­ur­ing out the ho­meo­mor­phism that ex­plains the scene in Flash­dance where the welder re­moves her bra through her sleeve.

Math tells me the world is not per­fec­t. Math tells me the num­bers I see on my com­put­er are not re­al­ly re­al num­ber­s, and can't be trust­ed. Math tells me I can't cross all the bridges in Könis­gerg on­ly once. Math tells me the num­ber one is the most fre­quent num­ber in to­day's pa­per. Math tells me Pla­to was right and there is a uni­verse of pure ideas, and this is but a re­flec­tion.

On the oth­er hand, Math tells me I can cut an or­ange in­to a few pieces, which re­assem­ble in­to two, iden­ti­cal, or­anges. So take what she says with a grain of salt.

patricio / 2012-01-06 00:37:

No tenía la de las naranjas, pero con un cuchillo bien filoso, podés obtener 2^n naranjitas idénticas :)

pointtonull / 2012-01-06 01:11:

Si no puedes aplicar las matemáticas es que debes corregir/completar tu modelo. E.g.: cuando en Banach-Tarski se dice macizo se habla de macizo en el sentido de la hipótesis del continuo. Por no mencionar que en la vida real no puedes conseguir un cuerpo puntual.

Roberto Alsina / 2012-01-06 13:21:

La realidad carece casi completamente de características matemáticas interesantes. Por ejemplo, no podés tener conjuntos densos. Esas cosas se deben dejar para los físicos, químicos y otras pobres gentes.