Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Geekiness To a Whole New Level: Even I Don't Understand What I'm Trying to Calculate

Part 1:  Definitely Definable

I like math problems.  More than anything, I love calculus functions.  In fact, I usually end up seeing how similar life is to mathematical functions, and they help me understand those weird moments much more than anything Lifetime Television has tried to tell me.  Although, Golden Girls still kicks ass.

= Awesome.

This is probably why I'm still single.

Anyway, if you're worried this will get too mathy, don't worry.  I tend to run away from anything too obtuse math-wise (I have an incomplete math major at UCB that still haunts me).  I mean, after a while my eyes gloss over and I start to hymn The Mamas And Papas "Monday, Monday."  And yet, I love patterns and practical explanations as to why the world works the way it does, which tends to contradict the normal artistic gaze.

But, it's amazing how often math functions can describe real life, perfectly.  For example, take the function F(x) = 1/x.

This is a basic calculus function that pops up almost immediately in your average CAL. 1A course.  In point of fact, it's usually one of the first functions you're asked to find the derivative of, take the integral of,NON-MATH PEOPLE STICK WITH ME. IT'S GOING TO BE OKfind the volume of the shape it takes when put into the third dimension, etc., etc..

The idea is, that as x (whatever you want to x to be, it could be time, it could be bananas, it could be rocket ships covered in ninjas) approaches infinity, y is slowly decreasing and is heading towards 0, but oh no!  It will never reach it.

And if you try to let X = 0, oh dear.  What you have on your hands is something even Math doesn't understand (and that's really un-understandable).


*Crack!  Bolts of Lightning Streaks! Another Crack For Good Measure!*

Yes, Undefined.  

I was curious about what Undefined really means though, as I never got an exact definition on this term myself, even (or especially, depending on how you take it) after several semesters of math classes.  So, I poked around online.

Immediately I got the usual:  "Anything divided by 0 = OH THE HUMANITY WHAT IS HAPPENING?"  But, according to MathnStuff here, The Definition of Undefined is thus explained:

"Define means to set the limits, explain.  So, undefine means not to set limits or not to explain."

So, Undefined is unlimited--unexplained.  And F(x) = 1/something to infinity that will eventually go beyond anything we know or can understand.  

 Aka, Buzz Lightyear.

 = 1/x
I think this function is ripe to be applied to life.  Don't you?  Thus, we have the function, F(x) = y = 1/x, where y = Your Dependence On the Outcome Of Your Interaction With Sexy Person At a Party, and x is your Likeability: 

See how simple that was?

**UPDATE:  I have been futzing with the function more and more.  But, the root of it still stands true.  Funny how when one puts something emotional into the realm of calculus you see things you never would have before in a different perspective.  For example, Sexy is utterly undefineable (I know this isn't a real word).  And Romance is in the negative.  Hm.


  1. Simple?!

    When I read " For example, take the function F(x) = 1/x" I'm pretty sure my heart stopped beating. The "non-math people stick with me" was a faint pat on the back, but it was the rocketships covered in ninjas that brought me back to life. Unfortunately, you overestimate this non-math person, and that last graph eludes me. I am left dangling with questions and am one number short of 9-1-1 unless I learn of how to navigate your graph, how it came to existence, and how it can be useful.

    9-1 and counting...

  2. Yea....totally went over my head. The only thing that stuck with me was the thought of you ONCE BEING A MATH MAJOR. 0___o

  3. Alana-- It's ok. I think I'm going to try to be simpler in my math analogies from now on. However, it's kind of sad because the "good ones" only get more complicated from here on out. This was to be my example function, haha. I wrote up a function for the Meaning of Life and also for Humor.

    Amy--Isn't it kind of weird to think I was heading off into that arena? But I totally bailed before they got to the good stuff--I never did the homework until the last minute and didn't really put the effort in to learn it because it ultimately was not as entertaining as hanging lights in the air, aimed at people in medieval costumes.

  4. I stuck with you my dear! Perhaps that is because we've done far worse with math before. I LOVE LOVE LOVE the graph at the end. So true, so perfect. And your epic search for the meaning of undefined was educational too, I was quite enthralled. In other news I think my neighbor is coughing up a small animal. Oh and my mom might get a puggle!

  5. Please do not dumb down the math just bc everyone won't get it. The graph is hilarious even if they don't get it. You can tell them to start here: bc everyone understands Venn Diagrams, and their appreciation will grow from there. You can also send them to this series in the NY Times (the first articles is here:

  6. Chin--Thankyou! This means I have the capability to actually convey the meanings that fly around in my head. Brilliant.

    Jen--AH! I am so happy you love it as much as I do--I actually got the graph wrong the first time I wrote it out, hilariously. I kept thinking "negative" means bad but see, that's where the math trips up even the math-minded. PUGGLE. I need to see and squeeze the puggle. Possibly your neighbor is coughing up the amazing lackluster that is life without graphs to explain human relationships.

    Cecily--These links are beauteous. I shall use them as standards for my future mathematical endeavors.

  7. The "we're all going to hell" link was hilarious.

    So yeah, I agree, no need to simplify the diagrams on my account. In fact, make them more complicated! haha.

    I like the axises--pretty straight forward, but the function is what threw me off. Perhaps, alas, I will never understand the function of sexy!

    A few questions:
    1) Why aren't there functions on the other two sides?
    2) What if you have a point on the function? I know that's not really a part of the equation of a function, but I was curious. What would happen? What would it represent?
    3) Is the object of this to compare an interaction or relationship to one another?


  8. 1) the function is the whole of what you see as it is calculating answers that only pop out on the second and third quadrants of the four quarters of the graph, but they're still there... just... not being filled by answers right now as the function won't let it happen. I hope that makes sense.

    2) Totally--those lines you see are tehcnically ALL the points on the graph.

    Also, another way of reading f(x) = 1/x is...

    Some Number = 1/A Number That Would Make The "Some Number" Be the Answer To This Equation.

    For example, 1 = 1/1. And 2 = 1/(.5). So, the coordinates of these two points are (1,1) and (2, .5). Now 1 or 2 of what...well...I'm assuming it's not only possible but completely logical to measure emotions in units. And it is. Absolutely logical.

    3) This graph is a half-hazard mapping of where you, the viewer, falls in your sexiness level, ha. So, using this particular function as the main metaphor for that, I noticed that there are restrictions on how cute you get verses how close you get to one extreme of security or another. Go forth and use this graph for all future relationships. Now.