(This is the act I performed for the second annual IU undergraduate math talent show. I also served as emcee.)
I’m glad all of you made it out here tonight. One great thing about math is how diverse it is–not just of mathematicians, but of the entire field itself. Math ranges from the purest, most useless subjects–the ones I like–to applied fields, like engineering; at the same time, some fields like computer science straddle the dichotomy, strangely both applied and pure at the same time.
As some of you know, I’ve recently come to like computer science a lot. I’m still learning the ropes, but it’s already pretty easy for me to find the computer scientists at a breakfast buffet. They’re usually in a queue by the hash table.
See, the choice between math and related fields is a tradeoff between purity and utility. The more applied fields actually get some important results.
For example, in computer science, they recently deduced the best way to walk: the logic gait. Of course, if you do too many logical ands, your ampersands may get inflamed, a serious condition called conjunctivitis.
In electrical engineering, they’re working on making even better semiconductors. I think adding gallium to silicon is totally dope.
In physics, they recently discovered a new salsa a thousand times better than pico de gallo. It’s called nano de gallo. And they excavated a derivative of the velociraptor: the acceleraptor.
Seriously, though. You probably saw that Wall Street Journal article about how mathematician is the best profession, since it pays well, and sitting in a chair doesn’t really have any occupational hazards.
Still, some mathematicians have gotten into entrepreneurial endeavors. I’ve been eating out lately at Markov’s chain of restaurants. They’re kind of artsy; you don’t actually get to order off a menu. They just choose your dish randomly based on the probability that you’ll like it. I highly recommend their Chinese, though. I quite enjoy their random wok.
Even the Ghostbusters have gone into math lately, studying Hilbert spaces. They’ve already made a lot of breakthroughs in spectral theory.
But Rick Astley hasn’t had as much success in game theory. He’s studying the prisoner’s dilemma, but he just can’t get past his moral hangups about ratting out the other prisoner to lessen your own sentence. Even if he knows the other prisoner won’t rat him out, Rick’s still never gonna give him up.
And ever since the economy tanked, cartesian products of rings have become more popular, since grad students can only afford to study free modules.
The military pulled out of some math research, too. At the NSA they can’t even generalize any more; they’ve been reduced to lieutenantizing. They’ve also been reconsidering some policies at their complex prisons. The problem with conjugal visits is that sometimes they result in those elements multiplying, which becomes a real problem of square magnitude.
But really, now. I’ve been making it sound like math isn’t good for anything, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
I use calculus in the grocery store all the time. For example, how do you differentiate between cuts of beef? Prime rib.
And algebra comes in handy on the dance floor. You know the robot, right? It’s composed only of rigid motions, so it turns out it’s actually a subgroup of isometries.
And analysis is indispensable in the kitchen. The other day, I made a sequence of sandwiches for myself: first a p-naught butter and jelly sandwich, then a p1 butter and jelly sandwich, then a p2 butter and jelly sandwich… I tried to eat the whole series, but I realized the sandwiches didn’t get smaller, so I diverged from that plan.
To me, at least, math is really exciting. Seriously. I just get really excited whenever I’m doing math. Like, the other day, I had the surface integral of the curl of a vector field, and I was really stoked to turn it into a path integral instead.
One problem I’ve noticed in math classes is that there’s so much material in each class, but it isn’t compact enough to cover finitely. Good professors know that it’s easier once you add on a point at infinity; then you can always cover it finitely.
Anyway. Probably a lot of you have AT&T Wireless plans, right? They changed their name one and a half years ago or so; that’s because they realized how important linear algebra is, and they wanted to be invertible. So now they’re no longer singular.
A recent medical study found that Viagra works on some ring members with zero powers. After the trial, they were no longer nilpotent.
Anyway, I think it’s time for the next act, so I’m going to leave you with a little physics problem… (A demo ensues.)