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Is math baffling to you? Can’t get enough math? Either way you should check out Steven Strogatz’s New York Times column where he examines mathematics. As he writes in his introductory post:
I’ll be writing about the elements of mathematics, from pre-school to grad school, for anyone out there who’d like to have a second chance at the subject — but this time from an adult perspective. It’s not intended to be remedial. The goal is to give you a better feeling for what math is all about and why it’s so enthralling to those who get it.
I can’t help but be reminded of One Two Three… Infinity by George Gamow. Strogatz writes with a similar ability to turn math (blah!) into something intelligible and fascinating. Here’s a funny little story he relays in his discussion of negative numbers and their real work counterparts.
In conventional morality, two wrongs don’t make a right. Likewise, double negatives don’t always amount to positives; they can make negatives more intense, as in “I can’t get no satisfaction.” (Actually, languages can be very tricky in this respect. The eminent linguistic philosopher J. L. Austin of Oxford once gave a lecture in which he asserted that there are many languages in which a double negative makes a positive, but none in which a double positive makes a negative — to which the Columbia philosopher Sidney Morgenbesser, sitting in the audience, sarcastically replied, “Yeah, yeah.”)
I really enjoyed this column especially where we visualize numbers as rocks.