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Friday, March 23, 2007

Our Days Are Numbered

I have a vague recollection from years ago.

Actually, many of my childhood memories are fuzzy. Especially the ones that involve me screaming and running away from home.

My therapists and I are working on it.

But there’s one in particular that returned to me quite vividly today. It was a story about some mathematician who had been locked away working on a proof for YEARS. And finally, after all that time, he saw the solution.

At the exact moment that he put pencil to paper, completing the mathematical proof of the existence of God, a divine voice boomed from the sky saying something like, “It’s about time … Tag—you’re it!”

Something about that story disturbed me. Maybe it was that God would be found through math and not philosophy or art. Or perhaps it was the idea that some people were such nerds that that they worked on math proofs for years.

Either way, I thought it was just fantasy—until this week.

According to this story on CNN.com, a team of 18 researchers have completed four years of effort on a 120-year-old mathematical puzzle. All that work in order to—get this—map a theoretical object with 248 dimensions.

I don’t even know what that means.

And it turns out I’m not alone. As project leader and math professor Jeffrey Adams remarked, “To say what precisely it is is something even many mathematicians can't understand.” The solution to this puzzle apparently is so complicated that it involves more than 50 times as much data as the Human Genome Project—and, if written out, it would cover every inch of Manhattan.

Even the people who devoted their lives to this math problem admit that their calculation has no practical applications. Sure, some extremely mathematically inclined theoretical physicists and other such geeks are getting off on this … but the real world remains unchanged.

Unless we all wake up tomorrow to an odd booming voice saying “you’re it.”

30 Comments:

At March 23, 2007 4:45 PM, Blogger Layla replied to my musings ...

I
do
not
get
it....
I can understand being locked up for years writing a synphony, or a book or doing research on something exciting but MATH! MATH?!?!?!?!?!

You're right its very disturbing.

Thanks for the EXCELLENT COMMENT you left me re: def of rock, it inspired a new post over at Layla's and of course I linked here and told anyone who was not regularly reading your blog that they were a fool.

 
At March 23, 2007 4:55 PM, Blogger David Amulet replied to my musings ...

Thanks, Layla. And I'm sorry I didn't emphasize enough how your alphbetical post inspired me last week.

I don't reguarly read my blog ... does that make me a fool? heheheh

-- david

 
At March 23, 2007 5:40 PM, Blogger Paige Burns replied to my musings ...

I can't wrap my head around the fact that people would spend that much time on a math problem that doesn't apply to anything! Guess that's why I'm a writer...

 
At March 23, 2007 5:58 PM, Anonymous Bruce replied to my musings ...

Anyone who can understand this shit has all of my admiration, and much of my jealousy, as well.
Being almost completely left-brained my entire life, the nuances of mathematics(which is right-brained) have eluded me to no end, yet I still watch "Numb3rs" every week. It doesn't compute, does it?

 
At March 23, 2007 10:45 PM, Blogger Lee Ann replied to my musings ...

Off the subject a bit...I have a recurring dream. I am running through the campus trying to find my classroom. I realize it is my final exam and I haven't been to that class all semester!
hmmm
Have a great weekend David!

 
At March 23, 2007 11:14 PM, Blogger Gyrobo replied to my musings ...

This is actually embarrassing, but...

I solved that puzzle years ago and didn't tell anyone.

I hope not too many people were inconvenienced.

 
At March 24, 2007 2:12 AM, Blogger Phats replied to my musings ...

I've always hated Math, this is just one more reason to hate it.

I bet your therapy sessions are interesting.

Is Coach G going to bolt to Texas?

 
At March 24, 2007 2:48 AM, Blogger Ray Van Horn, Jr. replied to my musings ...

I concur with Paige...

 
At March 24, 2007 8:23 AM, Blogger David Amulet replied to my musings ...

Paige: I am great at math, but I hate doing it. That's why I write.

Bruce: Opposites attract. I'm no astrophysicist, for example, but I'm fascinated by deep-space exploration.

Lee Ann: That's actually a very common dream--almost as common as being chased, teeth falling out, and falling. The dream means that you aren't blogging enough.

Gyrobo: When you feel like making your cure for cancer public, please let us know.

Phats: I doubt she'll go. But the men's coaching moves so far are interesting: Tubby Smith bailing out, Jankovich going to Illinois State, Amaker out at UM.

Ray: I usually do, too. I sometimes think Paige and I were separated at birth.

-- david

 
At March 24, 2007 10:15 AM, Anonymous LisaBinDaCity replied to my musings ...

I think I was always "it" ;-)

 
At March 25, 2007 9:00 PM, Blogger Maggie replied to my musings ...

I always used the phrase "and then a miracle occurs" when showing my math homework.

 
At March 26, 2007 3:48 AM, Blogger ChickyBabe replied to my musings ...

I think I might feign selective hearing if I heard a voice tell me "I'm it"!

 
At March 26, 2007 5:49 AM, Blogger DaBich replied to my musings ...

Uh....that's just plain dumb...wasting all that time and energy...on...NOTHING!

 
At March 26, 2007 5:51 AM, Blogger David Amulet replied to my musings ...

Lisa: Do you mean "it" in the sense of a horror movie?

Maggie: I always used the phrase, "Can I go play now?"

CB: I know--that job would have a lot of responsibility, and not much holiday time ...

-- david

 
At March 26, 2007 9:37 AM, Anonymous LisaBinDaCity replied to my musings ...

Nope ;-)

 
At March 26, 2007 9:47 AM, Blogger BV replied to my musings ...

Somebody is rolling in their graves laughing their asses off right now.

 
At March 26, 2007 12:05 PM, Blogger Godwhacker replied to my musings ...

Hi David,
I've recently moved to the country and free of the city lights, I got myself a large telescope (size queen) and a subscription to Sky and Telescope. I am fascinated by all the strange stuff out there. The more I learn, the more I realize that we just don't know. 248 dimensions? Well that could help explain all of that dark matter and dark energy that we know is there but can't see. Quantum physics and the cosmological constant are really just long-winded explanations for "we have no idea."

What if god was one of us? Just another contributer to the county landfill.

 
At March 26, 2007 1:21 PM, Blogger Pixie replied to my musings ...

Mind boggling...
I was never any good at maths.

 
At March 26, 2007 5:34 PM, Blogger On My Watch replied to my musings ...

what a waste of time tables.

 
At March 27, 2007 7:41 AM, Blogger David Amulet replied to my musings ...

Lisa: I had to ask!

BV: I imagine that's happening ALL of the time. That's where earthquakes come from.

GW: That sounds great--I'm jealous of your ability to see the sky without all this urban lighting.

Pixie: Math is overrated. Recess is underrated.

OMW: Agreed. Time to move on.

-- david

 
At March 27, 2007 5:42 PM, Blogger :P fuzzbox replied to my musings ...

Spending your whole life devoted to something that has no practical value, huh. Reminds me of the democratic party.

 
At March 28, 2007 1:21 AM, Blogger Phats replied to my musings ...

haha funny fuzz.

Sounds like Coach G is outta there, is McRoberts going to stay or did he declare?

 
At March 28, 2007 8:28 AM, Blogger Stacy The Peanut Queen replied to my musings ...

Math. YUCK.

;)

 
At March 28, 2007 5:10 PM, Blogger Perplexio replied to my musings ...

Great post sport... I remember reading in high school from the American Journal of Physics about a group of Physicists who were conducting experiments to determine why apples on the bottom of the stack at the supermarket were more bruised than those on top.

Physics to prove or illustrate something that should be common sense are about as meaningful as the theoretical math problem you've posted about. Oy vey!

 
At March 28, 2007 10:19 PM, Blogger Lee Ann replied to my musings ...

You are right, I haven't been blogging too much lately, but I am trying!
Have a great week David!
~xo

 
At March 28, 2007 11:57 PM, Blogger Jeff replied to my musings ...

I wonder if these geniuses could have found a cure for cancer or something if they decided to put their attention to something productive like that... Well I guess their just mathematicians... Is that even a job???

 
At March 29, 2007 6:05 AM, Blogger David Amulet replied to my musings ...

Fuzz; I wonder if Hilary and Barack will have a math story problem contest for the nomination.

Phats: I find it hard to believe, but it could happen. I'm sure they're offering her the moon and the Texas stars.

PQ: Yuck is exactly right. And that's how we need to teach kids about it.

Perplexio: I've never heard that one, but it bothers me. You're telling me that my favorite bruised apples are really buried under all the rest?

Lee Ann: No need to justify having a life. Blogging is a nice diversion, not an end in itself!

Jeff: Great point. I often think the same of elective plastic surgeons.

-- david

 
At March 30, 2007 2:05 PM, Blogger Layla replied to my musings ...

got you back on my links...had to subscribe to you in two lists so it would show up in both...sorry bout that

 
At March 30, 2007 8:09 PM, Anonymous Fred Charles replied to my musings ...

That makes my head hurt just thinking about it. Math is brutal. Su

 
At April 07, 2007 10:20 PM, Blogger Trundling Grunt replied to my musings ...

yet weirdly enough people pursued the whole issue of finding larger and larger prime numbers in the sure knowledge that it was bloody useless and a gwot. Yet the Internet uses it constantly. So, maybe one day we'll find a use for all of this. And then we'll be sorry.

 

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