Mathematical insight on reality & you (yes, you!)

by | Saturday, January 28, 2017

I have always been intrigued by the manner in which everyday ideas get “mathematicized” (if that’s a word). For instance, the other day, on a bus-stop by my office I noticed an equation written on the wall. I have no idea why it was there, but there it was.

Happiness equals reality minus expectations – Tom Magliozz

As I have written elsewhere, mathematization is actually quite common. For instance, we sometimes “thoughtlessly assign specific numbers where such specificity is not warranted” and the results may actually be fictional in their relationship to reality. You can read that blog post here: Number (non)sense & flatulence. It is a post where I bring together petabytes, Moby Dick, Indian elevators, Samuel Beckett and flatulence into one sweet(?) package! How often do you see that? It’s worth a read (if I say so myself) so here’s the link again.

A somewhat related issue is how we often take ideas that are extremely subjective and try to express them mathematically, often in the form of an equation. Of course, once we express something as an equation, it is easy to conceive of some interesting variations, generated through simple algebraic manipulation. For instance, here is the equation I saw at the bus-stand:

Turns out that they got the name of the person wrong (thanks Google). It should be Tom Magliozzi (with an i at the end), the late, much beloved, co-host of NPR’s Car Talk, the one who never drives like his brother. 

A simple algebraic manipulation leads to this deep insight:

Reality = Happiness + Expectations

Did you know that Reality is nothing but  happiness combined with expectations? Frankly I did not know that, but thanks to mathematics, I now have a deeper understanding of reality (or at least of alternate reality, an idea that goes well with alternate facts)!

The next image, and example, comes from Dean Basile:


Hmm… lets shift a few of these variables around and we get the following:

You = Impact – Generosity

Reflect on that for a minute (or two). You are whatever is left behind when you subtract your generosity from your impact! Like I said… hmmm…

The question that remains, of course, is what is your relationship to this new reality?

A few randomly selected blog posts…

Design related videos

Just a link to online videos related to design. Check it out by clicking here Relevant to CEP817 and CEP917 (and maybe even CEP818)

Barriers to Innovation & Inclusion

Leigh Wolf just sent me this video created by the Johnson Space Center on Barriers to Innovation & Inclusion. A Google search led to this description: Last summer, Johnson Space Center senior management coordinated a center-wide, cross-generational effort to explore...

By the Numbers

I just discovered a blog by Charles Blow, visual Op-Ed columnist for the NYTimes. Titled By the Numbers it is a site for "discussion about all things statistical — from the environment to entertainment — and their visual expressions." Pretty cool. Check it out.

My ambigram design in Brain Games TV show

I am a huge fan of the show Brain Games on the National Geographic channel. Brain Games focuses on the workings of the brain and the reasons we do what we do. The show is quite creative about how they explain ideas, using a range of techniques games, visual illusions...

Mishra, Dirkin & Cavanaugh, 2007

I have been teaching summer course in our master's program for years now and for the most part have found them to be the most enriching teaching experiences I have had. These are intense 8 hours a day, 5 days a week programs that typically go on for a month. [We are...

Ganesh, new ambigram, & old video

Ganesh, new ambigram, & old video

One of the big parts of my life over the past decade or more, has been the Ganesh Festival celebrations in Lansing with friends and family—Good food and good times. Of course this year I have to miss all the fun - being here in Phoenix. I have kept up with all...

Let children play: From evolutionary psychology to creativity

Let children play: From evolutionary psychology to creativity

As a part of our ongoing series on creativity we recently spoke with Dr. Peter Gray, professor of Psychology at Boston College. Dr. Gray’s interest in creativity emerges as a consequence of his background in evolutionary psychology and interest in how humans (and...

Harvard Open Access update

An update to my previous posting regarding Harvard adopting a open access requirement to all it faculty. It seems that the proposal has been approved. See this news story on the website. Stuart M. Shieber, a professor of computer science at Harvard who...

Coding + Aesthetics: New Journal Article

Coding + Aesthetics: New Journal Article

Does beauty have a role to play in learning to code? Can code aspire to beauty and elegance? In this article, we argue that it does and it should. Read on... Good, J., Keenan, S. & Mishra, P. (2016). Education:=Coding+Aesthetics; Aesthetic Understanding,...


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