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Monday, November 16, 2009

My Inner Geek


Those who know me know I’m addicted to matters scientific. Always was.

I’m particularly fascinated by quantum physics. No doubt, my fascination is fueled by the fact that “I don’t get it”. Quantum physics is the realm of higher mathematics. Now (pardon my hubris), I did well in math...simple math: addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Fractions, too. I excelled in algebra, plane and solid geometry. I faltered a bit in trigonometry, but then met my match in advanced calculus.

My sojourns into the world of higher mathematics revealed it was a language all its own, a language incomprehensible to visual, tactile, aural types such as I. I find myself frustrated whenever I watch any program that tries to explain the mysteries of either the atom or the cosmos. I’d be following along all happy and awestruck until that inevitable moment when I realize I got lost somewhere along the way.

Quantum physicists communicate via equations and algorithms. They viscerally understand cosmic phenomena via numbers and symbols on a whiteboard. I can’t do that. I’m too awed by all that I observe. My awe does not equate to numbers. But there are Nobel Prize winners who aver: “My equation understands far more than I”.

Mathematicians and Physicists...gotta love ‘em. They’re a special breed.


It is the Mandelbulb that illustrates my dilemma. It is a physically rendered expression of a relatively simple fractal algorithm. I’ll never understand the mathematics, but the end result truly delights this mathematically-challenged soul.

19 Comments:

Blogger Fiona said...

Tis all greek to me!

But man, oh man, those are awesome visuals :)

Mon Nov 16, 08:34:00 PM  
Blogger Woman in a Window said...

How can that possibly be two dimensional? Not possible. I've no head for numbers or equations. I'm lucky to leave with two socks in the morning, never mind the shoes!
xo
erin

Mon Nov 16, 08:43:00 PM  
Blogger deb said...

The mandelbulb is beautiful, looks like a mandala.

Mon Nov 16, 08:55:00 PM  
Blogger Cheesy said...

Looks like seashell close-ups.. EXTREME close-ups. Other than that it is all geek-greek to me.

[I am a simple soul lol- but I did pass calc!]

Mon Nov 16, 09:20:00 PM  
Blogger Jay said...

Quantum Leap was a great show.

Mon Nov 16, 09:22:00 PM  
Blogger Cheesy said...

Grandma had ADD and crochets

Mon Nov 16, 09:29:00 PM  
Blogger Kass said...

I love reading about quantum physics and superstring theories for the same reasons as you. It's all so musical. If you're interested, click here: Superstrings

Mon Nov 16, 09:52:00 PM  
Blogger Ponita in Real Life said...

Is it Mandelbulb or Mandelbrot? Whatever it is, it's stunning...

I have not got any genes that can handle numbers, other than remembering them: phone numbers, license numbers, credit card numbers... If you need any math functions done, I need a calculator. I am hopeless.

But it makes for fantastic visuals! And I like visuals... very much.

Mon Nov 16, 11:59:00 PM  
Blogger Jonas said...

Aren't they though, Fiona!?! Soooo organic, these expressions of numbers ensconced within formulae.

Not to blow yer mind or anything, Erin, but these images are only two dimensional...I know, I know. I'm confused myself. I'm barefoot.

Glad you enjoy the mandelbulb as much as I do, Deb.

I'll have you know that I passed advanced calc, too, Princess Cheese! (Although not with flying colors). And I'll have you know I can ADD with the best of 'em. Crochet? Not so much.

I can't say I recall that program, Jay. I get my kicks from programming such as "The Universe" the "Blue Planet" and a whole lotta other science/nature programming. It's the geek in me.

Ah, Kass, you're a kindred spirit! I left a comment on your post.

You're way ahead o' me, Ponita. I've been struggling for two years to learn my new telephone number. I'm not a numbers/details guy.

But I hear music playing in my head.

Tue Nov 17, 09:21:00 PM  
Blogger Ponita in Real Life said...

I don't do the number remembering thing on purpose, Jonas... it's just the way I'm wired. (I still remember my very first driver's license number...)

You'd think if I can remember them like that, I should be able to do the calculations stuff too. But... nope!

Tue Nov 17, 10:56:00 PM  
Blogger Jonas said...

You actually remember your driver's license number, Ponita!?! Seriously?

I haven't the faintest notion what my number may be. I've never even looked, for that matter.

No matter. We have all kinds 'cuz it takes all kinds.

Wed Nov 18, 12:10:00 AM  
Blogger Kass said...

Jonas - left a comment on your 'musical musings' post.

Wed Nov 18, 12:17:00 AM  
Blogger Maria said...

Would you believe that I could pass this post off to my fifth grader daughter and she would be fascinated? How in the hell did I produce a mathematician? And it is what she wants to do when she grows up, too! (Well, either that or hydrology.)

Wed Nov 18, 07:17:00 AM  
Blogger secret agent woman said...

Those are gorgeous images. I finished my last math class with some relief in college, thinking that I was done with it forever. What a brutal surpise to find myself taking three stats courses in grad school.

By the way, I had a serious relationship before my marriage with an astrophysicist. A very odd duck.

Wed Nov 18, 05:35:00 PM  
Blogger L'uragano (The Hurricane) said...

I am so LOST.

Thu Nov 19, 11:57:00 AM  
Blogger Jonas said...

That's quite a precocious daughter you have, Maria! I can't remember what I aspired to be in 5th grade, but I'm certain it was something incredibly stupid (I still haven't quite grown out of that).

Yes, Covert Operative, astrophysicists are a unique subset of the human population. An acquired taste? Or not.

Me, too, My Tempest. Regardless, beauty is beauty, no matter how it comes to be. I take comfort in that.

Thu Nov 19, 08:56:00 PM  
Blogger Selma said...

How amazing. It must be what lies on the other side of the black holes. I love quantum mechanics and all that stuff like Schrodinger's Cat. It's mind-bending and will actually drive you a bit batty if you think about it for too long. Awesome sauce!

Mon Nov 23, 05:52:00 PM  
Blogger Jonas said...

Selma, you delight me - a reference to "Schrodinger's Cat" no less!

Here in Chicago, we have an "alternative" newspaper that offers a column called "Straight Dope" wherein Cecil answers readers' questions of every imaginable stripe. You'll get a kick outta this:

Cecil, you're my final hope
Of finding out the true Straight Dope
For I have been reading of Schroedinger's cat
But none of my cats are at all like that.
This unusual animal (so it is said)
Is simultaneously live and dead!
What I don't understand is just why he
Can't be one or other, unquestionably.
My future now hangs in between eigenstates.
In one I'm enlightened, the other I ain't.
If you understand, Cecil, then show me the way
And rescue my psyche from quantum decay.
But if this queer thing has perplexed even you,
Then I will and won't see you in Schroedinger's zoo.

Mon Nov 23, 07:41:00 PM  
Anonymous joanne said...

after healing from the wounds of an elementary school teacher who taught that girls are no good in math, i always did really well in math, even through a year of college calculus ... i also had a lot of fun hunting and pecking around with fractal software for awhile... but the thing that has always confused me is i have absolutely no understanding of what it means... i could churn out the answers to problems, but the connection was really missing for me... beyond having two apples and adding another two so you have four, i never quite understood the point when i got to the answer at the end of a problem... it was like following a recipe to get to the end and having no idea you just made a pudding (or even having any clue what a pudding is or that you could make one again, the next time in another flavor)...

anyway, i thought i would pass this link on to you... this guy's brain blows me away ... mine just does NOT work this way...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dehXioMIKg0

Mon Nov 23, 11:56:00 PM  

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