HOW ARE MATHEMATCS AND A BROOM ALIKE?
On a sunny day…
The Readers still toiling in August, and let’s, also, include those inveterate workaholics with cell phones, maintaining their invisible matrix of lovers and friends…those who are at the epicenter of the 5 o’clock traffic, in these here last days of August, and, especially those who have resisted the temptation to pursue whatever remains in their lives that still interests them…
Well, they might give themselves over to the thought that mathematics and a broom might be somehow alike.
Wouldn’t it be simpler if we just said “It’s hot, and why drag mathematics into it – it isn’t perfect, to be sure, but it certainly isn’t responsible for the weather!”
Why not drag mathematics into it? Does it have any better offers today? And, you know, mathematics was not always the great lady who judges the worth of things, like Athena, the ancient goddess - carved in stone – dispensing wisdom from amongst the marble folds of her gown?
Someone chipped away, who knows for what horrible stretches of time- so that she could have her marble folds – and continue to look her best. For an afternoon rendezvous with her fans, a few thousand years later –
But, strictly speaking, she also has to do with justice, and belongs to, shall we say – other occupations.
Never mind that. They are not here - and if they are interested in turf issues we can always fight later.
What I was going to say is, that before mathematics acquired her aristocratic stature, it was, once, just an idea – an insight, a moment of revelation which sparkled in someone’s mind. It began like that, wouldn’t you say?
Not that anyone remembers!
Maybe we can approach this from another angle. Perhaps you are willing to consider a broom?
Might as well, it might be quicker in a long run!
A broom is a tool – and not a marble goddess.
If you say so –
Admittedly, a humble object – it is, nonetheless, very possible that it has been around as long as mathematics. That is how long it has been useful to others.
A bunch of straw on a stick?
If you are going to mock this simple, but ingenious design…Just because it is now a single object, doesn’t mean that, once upon a time, the straw just gathered its kin together and jumped on a stick, so that they could clean together. Someone thought of it. In other words, before the broom was a tool – it was first an idea!
The beautiful face of Carole Bouguet launched her as “that obscure object of desire” in a film of the same name by the Spanish director Bunuel for whom eros is ever a terror. If he can launch her as the object of desire – I can launch the broom as an object of merit.
Launch away, launch away!
The broom, after being invented, was used - who knows how many millions of times – from its humble beginnings, all the way up to today. This makes it hard to think of it as an invention, and still harder to trace the inventor’s reasoning. And how he came up with the spatial concept which underlies this object…
The same thing with television. It looks outwardly as a box. But inside it – it resembles a space ship: unknown parts connected to other unknown parts – unless you remember the physics.
A submarine looks like a sausage, but, again, it is very complicated inside. People in sparkling uniforms looking after its every whim…
Lots of physics and engineering, a great deal of elaborate spatial reasoning, etc – but still, we don’t think of it as an invention.
Why don’t physicists and engineers and inventors just step outside, and make a few things clear to us?
Because they are not necessarily warmed by the limelight. And, also, because they’d rather be inside- tinkering. (You want me to explain why?)
No, no! I see what you mean!
Author of the broom, come out, come out, wherever you are! We’d like to invite you for an afternoon meeting with the Queen of Science. Dessert of your choice. A smooth tablecloth and lots of whipped cream… Veggie sandwiches, if you prefer!
She’ll only laugh at me!
Laugh at you? But you are a guest! No one laughs at my guests! She is also a guest (that is why I am intermittently capitalizing her name, also, what with her being a Queen of Science – this is a grammatical nightmare!) Well, I invited her as well.
Who are you to be inviting people?
I am the author!
Oh, I see. But I have to tell you, I don’t go out much…into society.
The time to break that tradition is now!
The inventor appears, in a herring-bone jacket (this is a type of cloth – be assured my guests don’t go around clad in fishes).
The jacket is slightly rumpled, but presentable.
Thank you, Author!
The Reader may wish to know your name, and where you live – if that is agreeable to you!
I live in what you might call a Harry Potter-ish setting which I cannot disclose fully, because it is confidential, you understand! Likewise, my name!
That does not surprise me. I mean, about Harry Potter –
Why, may I ask?
Well, because, in his world, they are very good at keeping the time boundaries highly flexible. You may be 30 years-old, or a 1000 – it does not matter to them. For instance, you look only 30, and yet, I know that you might, possibly, be 1000 - this is how long your invention has been with us. That is only possible in a Harry Potter-ish world, technically speaking.
It also makes sense, because the broom, your invention is admired by wizards and muggles alike. After all, they both clean – whatever their differences.
Thank you, thank you!
The inventor smiles and takes a crumpet.
The marble lady steps forward and greets the inventor. She, much like himself, might be a thousand years old (actually more) – but she looks 35. The inventor, thrilled to meet her, accidentally steps on one of the folds of her gown, and drops the crumpet!
Such is the power of scientific rapport!
Instant attraction is not a scientific argument. You cannot answer the question of how mathematics and a broom are alike, by saying that the inventor and the Queen of Science look happy together.
Fine, we could do this the easy way or the hard way! And you just rejected the easy way!
Igor, bring me that sheet of paper that says
Canonical vs. Incident Truth
He! He! He!
This attitude is not helpful to me, Igor! We are not hunting vampires here – just trying to clear a few pathways in science.
A few ? Quite a few, would be more like it! And why are you doing this, anyway? Is it the hurricanes?
No, Igor, it is curiosity!
Igor is a cinematic character – very capable, albeit a hunchback. Of his role in Mel Brooks’s comedy Young Frankenstein (1974) the Reader will be appraised momentarily.
At times such as these, Igor’s heart is caught up, yet again, on the waves of nostalgia for his days with Dr. Frankenstein whom he ably assisted in his historic projects. His assessment of his present-day employment being “the weirdo I work for now”.
IS it my fault that Dr. Frankenstein, for all his good qualities, is no longer with us?
Igor is sitting in the corner, sadly… stroking a cat. Dr. Frankenstein nowhere in sight…
All to the good, you might say – at least he won’t get under foot (I mean Igor)
When he is missing Dr. Frankenstein especially badly, Igor engages in a cold assessment of my projects which he dismisses as “pissy- little- this- and- that”.
And I took him in!
He does not understand what I am doing – and, still less, why I should be doing it, in the first place. Dr. Frankenstein was a mad-hair scientist and a doctor who animated and re-animated certain God’s creatures. He switched body fluids, and who knows what else, into who knows where else, at night – amidst the rolling thunder and crackling skies. Add organ music and a castle, albeit with a leaking roof! And there were moments when Igor’s face would be fully contained in a burst light from the lightning outside.