'I'm always looking for the Hows and the Whys and the Whats,' said Muskrat, 'That is why I speak as I do. You've heard of Muskrat's Much-in-Little, of course?'
'No,' said the child. 'What is it?'
- The Mouse and his Child. Russell Hoban.

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Sunday, 21 April 2013

Mathematics


When I was a kid, I was scared of maths.  To use a metaphor, it was a mysterious dark lake with a couple of bloated bodies, dead sticks, decomposing leaves, and lurid green duckweed* floating on the surface.
My teachers would smile excitedly at the beginning of each new type of maths, sit me on the ducking stool and and entice me under the surface with happily familiar words, teasingly offered bait, like 'triangle' and 'x' and 'origin'. But below the surface these words were appended to really scary new words like 'cosine' and 'calculus' and 'vector'.

When I got to university, carefully choosing geography, zoology and psychology for their presumed total lack of maths content (having gained a dismal 24% on my university bursary mathematics paper), I was confronted with not one term each year of the dreaded Statistics, but three!

But there is a happy ending to this story.  The patient support of my tutors and thrice repeating the same information each year was all I needed.  By the end of my fourth year, and four times three equals twelve terms of stats, I was top of my class and swimming joyfully in the crystal clear, albeit refreshingly icy, lake of maths.

Of course I have forgotten ninety percent (plus or minus three standard deviations) of all the stats I ever knew, but I am now completely unalarmed by it.

I have recently stumbled upon a short vid clip that echoes my feelings towards maths these days. So, I invite you to sit back, get a warm beverage of your choice, have the sound on, smile and plunge in, clicking on the clip below.  Be not afraid.  It's pretty.




* Lemnoideae spp.

16 comments:

  1. This is a brilliant video. I wish it had been available forty years ago.

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  2. Fascinating…. just glad I dont have to calculate it!

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  3. I echo Adrian's comment except that my figure would be 50!

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  4. I should add that Peter Samuels' music complemented it perfectly. Actually I think I should put it the other way around in that the choreography fitted the music perfectly.

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  5. Well that's taken a while to track down. It may not have been Peter Samuels playing that because it is attributed to musopen.org (and Peter Samuels is a commercial recording). I couldn't trace it on musopen.org. The piece usually called From Foreign Lands and People is one of Schuman's Kinderszenen Op 15. None of that has anything to do with the mathematics but having started I had to finish.

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  6. I wish that too Adrian. - well, somewhere between your wish and Geeb's.

    Fi, I expect it has lots of exes, whys and zeds, with a generous sprinklings of sins, coses and cees too.

    Geeb. What a terrier you are! It was good music for it, wasn't it? Took all the stress out of it! Thanks for telling me the name.

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  7. You're right. That was pretty, both to watch and to listen to. As far as the written words that accompany the pretty pictures, however, I had absolutely no idea what they meant. I do know what a Mobius strip is, but that's about all. By the way, Kinderszenen means "children scenes"....


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    1. Maths can be viewed as fun. That was my big discovery. The happy, lilting melody - about children - perfect!

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  8. I have to admit that for me Maths was in the same bag as mumps, whooping cough, Grimsby Town, phlegm, rotten egg farts and Harold McMillan. I just didn't take to it. Funny how Maths sounds like Meths - especially when a New Zealander says it. I agree that Maths CAN be viewed as fun but only if the onlooker is mentally deranged. Thank heavens for calculators that mean that Maths is now unnecessary for 99% of the planet's population.

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    1. OK. I get it :-D I'm on meths and mentally deranged because I like maths and Phlegm...

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    2. And you should know that one of my best friends is a Grimsbyite!

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  9. Replies
    1. Sends calming cyber-thoughts...

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  10. Looking for the practical use on Mobius transformations I came across Escher's picture Circle Limit III, 1959. Although not practical it is intriguing.
    Did you ever do Mobius transformations in university?

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  11. Ben, Escher is wonderful. No, I never did explore Mobius anythings before except make a paper strip and cut it done the middle... then again, then again....

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