I’ve been quite fascinated with math lately (see my video recommendation below about Bézier curves), but one concept in general that is very intriguing is the overall language of math.
For decades now, I’ve been looking at math as more of a “how can I use this tool” mindset. Pythagorean theorem? Fibonacci sequences? Euclidean coordinated? Sure, whatever, I’ll learn that stuff and use it in order to get something done that matters.
But something that has occurred to me only recently is that some of the bigger concepts that connect us to the universe, like how to travel throughout our solar system and how to capture and sequester carbon, are only possible to understand when you can speak the math.
It’s a damn shame how many people don’t consider themselves “a math person” because they didn’t have someone explain this to them at some point early in their life.
Hannah Fry explains the Gale-Shapley matching algorithm, which essentially proves that “If you put yourself out there, start at the top of the list, and work your way down, you’ll always end up with the best possible person who’ll have you. If you sit around and wait for people to talk to you, you’ll end up with the least bad person who approaches you. Regardless of the type of relationship you’re after, it pays to take the initiative.”
The math may be complicated, but the principle isn’t. Your chances of ending up with what you want — say, the guy with the amazing smile or that lab director job in California — dramatically increase if you make the first move. Fry says, “aim high, and aim frequently. The math says so.” Why argue with that?
This is a really cool concept. I’m gonna start taking more shots in life because, hey, why argue with the math?
There is no reassurance and no final verdict. There might be a next life, there might be a remade world in which none of this matters, but it is also quite possible that such places will have no need for art or philosophy, though I do find it hard to imagine a fleshly paradise without dancing. For us, right here, there’s only the work and the living, and making space for it, or not.
A real bummer for you this evening, and for that, I apologize.
I think a big part of growing up and dealing with anxiety and depression is figuring out how to deal with these simple, indifferent truths.
And I guess this evening, it’s hitting me a little harder than I’d like to admit to you, dear anonymous reader.
But I guess in some ways, it makes me happy to know I’ve made a few people’s lives a little less stressful this week through my work, and I’m planning on spending my next few days (through this 18” snow storm we’re expected to have) with my wife and kids, which also makes me a little more happy too.
As I’ve mentioned in the past, this website’s redesign was specifically the result of me looking back at, and pining for, my old web days.
It’s a shame (but not entirely a surprise) that search engines and slow internet caused us to lose an entire generation of fun websites.
It would be stupid for me to suggest the youths will start getting into web design like I did when I was a youths. But maybe the idea here is to keep looking for how the young people are finding ways to express themselves despite whatever perceived limitations by which they are encumbered.
Also, does this mean I need to try my hand at a redesign again? Or should I find a new hobby?
Lest you think I’ve just been watching YouTube all night, here’s a really compelling article about The Simpsons.
This pull quote spoke to me:
“America has certainly turned into Springfield,” says Matt Selman, who is, along with Al Jean, the current showrunner. “I’m gonna generously say: Good people are easily misled. Terrifyingly easily misled. That’s always been in the DNA of the show, but now it’s in the DNA of America. It was a show about American groupthink, and how Americans are tricked—by advertising, by corporations, by religion, by all these other institutions that don’t have the best interests of people at heart.”
I’ve been rewatching clips from the first ten seasons sporadically over the past few months, and I think that’s an astute point that I hadn’t really considered.
The pro wrestling world has a term for fans who know quite a bit about the backstage politics which makes the show possible: a “smart mark” (with “mark” being a carny term for someone who can pull one over on).
But much like internet trolls, the only way you could ever “win” as a pro wrestling fan is by not engaging. By consuming the content, you’re still a mark (even if you are a smart one).
Perhaps the reason so many people are drawn to The Simpsons is similar: you feel like you’re in on the joke, even when you can’t escape the gravitational pull of the society which the show is lampooning.
Most companies don’t get it. Most people don’t get it. To them, problems are a sign of failure. They think that the default state is perfection. They believe that if we just worked hard enough — planned hard enough then there wouldn’t be any problems. The only reason we fall from that perfect state is that someone, somewhere screwed up.
But that’s not reality. The default state for our reality is chaos. It is ruin. It is entropy and erosion and human nature. We build things to make a better world, and yeah, part of that is people failing. People fail all the time. That sucks, but you’re not going to change it. So you might as well do a good job living with it.
This is really what we all need to cope with. The times we live in are chaotic, filled with uncertainty, fear, and a sense of impending doom. So much so that even our children are suffering at historic rates.
But as I deal with my own struggles to make sense of things, I continue to fall back on accepting that we've always lived in a world that is rife with turmoil. All we can do is go along for the ride, appreciate what we have, and be grateful for those who we can lean on to help navigate it together.
There is too much in this article to even grab a single pull quote from. The entire thing is worth reading from top to bottom.
It did make me think a bit about how I can apply some of this knowledge to my own life. I personally struggle with “what will I be when I grow up” from time to time, and I think even simply knowing that this is not abnormal is helpful.