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…

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