The Art of Physics

Many people think of physics as a purely mathematical science where they deal with the forces of the universe using equations and for the most part they are right. Physicists use math in everything that they do, but they can use math to create real world beauty.

One of the most expressive uses of math for art is in the fractal. There are seemingly random shapes creating using mathematical equations. The shapes can change by a small change in one of many variables.

The universe is made up of many beautiful sights from quasars to stars, but they would never have been seen were it not for the creations of physicists. In many ways, mathematics and physics are art forms no different from sculpting and painting. Most great scientists and mathematicians are naturals and have a way of looking at the world that is a little different than everyone else.

The same reason why an artists can see forms and shapes in an empty canvas, so can physicists see the patterns of the universe. It may surprise to know that many scientists have artistic endeavors on the side. I know many that spend their weekends sculpting ceramics or putting paint to canvas. Some prefer to indulge in music and others use a blow torch and metal.

Math may be a pure science filled with absolutes, but it’s also a unique way for scientists to make use of their special gifts. Many may consider the pages long equations created by scientists as a form of art.

When Math Stopped Being About The Answers

Things were so much simpler when I first started learning about math. The goal every problem was about the answer. You had two numbers and add them together to find the answer. When you have two trains going the opposite direction, the goal find out where they’ll be in two hours and yada yada yada.

That all changes as you get older. Suddenly, the numbers get replaced with letters and you start trying to find equations instead of numbers. We had quadratics, angles, sines and eventually derivatives and integrals.

This odd concept first came to me in college my freshman year. I was taking Calculus classes as well as first year physics courses. The physics courses didn’t use Calculus the first year, so we were left actually solving problems.

I began to notice that the answers I was getting for physics had a completely different format than the ones for my Calc class. We were solving for create derivatives and integrals and complete bypassed actually finding number answers. Sure, we had the occasional real world modeling problem, but they were few and far between.

My first year of physics was my favorite because I actually was able to find hard concrete answers for these problems. They may have been incredibly simplified and did not take into account about a dozen other forces acting on it, but it still felt good.

I never had that feeling again for the test of college. Part of me not becoming a physicist was I couldn’t get that feeling back.

Math May Predict Future Crime Spots

In Minority Report, physics were used to predict crimes that haven't happened yet and were called future crimes. It used a complex computer and the psychic abilities to find out where and when the crime will take place before it actually happens.

 

Police are starting to use math and not psychics to do the same thing. Areas of criminal increase may become a criminal hotspot in the future and they are using mathematical calculations to decide if that is likely to occur. For example, if there is an area where crime is slowly, but steadily increasing, then that could mean that a higher police presence may curb that increase from happening.

 

Also, if there is a sudden and dramatic increase in crime, then a police presence can suppress the uprising. Police are tracking the criminal traffic by area and then extrapolating using mathematics the progression over time.

 

The mathematical equations take into account everything from past criminal activity, population, and many other variable to develop scenarios of possibility. They can then decide the proper course of action ahead of time to stop these scenarios from happening. While it may not exactly be future crime, it's a good step in helping prevent crime from happening and developing.

 

This is a unique take on mathematical postulation and modeling. While people are used to seeing math used in the business world, few people would consider its used in law enforcement. This is the kind of thing that starts out small and can become a worldwide phenomenon.

When Math Doesn’t Mean Anything

The very nature of mathematics is that is a manipulation of number to come to a conclusion. It can be as simple as 2 +2 = 4 or as complex as Schrodinger’s wave equations and the theory of relativity. Math in and of itself is pure. It knows know bias or prejudice and instead exists solely to manipulate numbers and to find the truth.

That doesn’t go for the people using the math. When politicians and big business begin using math to come up with claims or to help boost their bottom line, the truth in math loses its meaning. Math doesn’t lie, but people do. When you see a poll by a particular company or even charity, you can bet that the numbers have been massaged in their favors.

How can two opposite sides of an argument have two different studies that show completely different results? One just happens to be favor of one side and the other study in favor of the other. One problem cannot have two different mathematical answers unless some numbers weren’t included or different numbers were added.

When you start doing this, then you can come up with any results you want. Theses causes math to lose its purity because math isn’t being used to manipulate numbers, but numbers are being used to manipulate math. If you ask any mathematician why he likes math, he’ll say it’s because math is pure. The equations are complex, but the principal is simple.

How Are You Celebrating Mathematics Awareness Month?

It's still about a month away, but now is the time to start planning events and activities around National Mathematics Awareness Month. April is the official month were schools, groups and universities across the national bring the discipline into focus.

It was originally started in 1986 by President Ronald Reagan and included a collaboration between such groups as American Mathematical Society, American Statistical Association, Mathematical Association of America and Society of Industrial Applied Mathematics.

Wow, can you imagine the wild and crazy parties these guys would throw. I bet the month comes to a crescendo with a rousing chess tournament followed by all-you-can-eat bran muffins. The goal is to support and bring notice to the field of mathematics and how it is used in society. It's not just for the high level math learned by professional, but the everyday math that people use to balance their checkbooks.

This month's theme is Mathematics, Statistics and the Data Deluge and will focus on how math and statistics are used to create and store massive amounts of data for everything from consumer trends to the stock market. Almost every survey and poll taken requires mathematics and statistics to be understood and how manipulating these statistics can lead to the swaying of data one way or the other.

Mathematics is part of our lives and most of the time, we don't even know we are doing it. Take the time to appreciate the field of mathematics this April and celebrate Mathematics Awareness Month.

Math and My Children

My oldest son is only in kindergarten, but I already teaching him the basics of math. He can do adding and subtracting in his head and every time I teach him a new trick whether its easy ways to remember how to count over 100 of that pesky thing called Algebra, I am incredibly proud of him.

 

When I was a kid, math was always difficult for me. I didn't have a natural ability and neither of my parents knew much more about math beyond multiplication and division. I was pretty much on my own to learn geometry, trigonometry and algebra.

 

This was part of the reason I worked so hard learn math because I didn't want my children to have to learn the same way I did. The good news is that I can take my children all the way through advanced calculus, I am sure it will all come back to me, but I don't want to pressure or push them.

 

It's too easy to push children these days and make it so they don't want to learn it. My son has a natural knack for math and I want to feed that. He's is genuinely interested in numbers and I will do whatever I can to nurture this gift. I have no problem teaching him concepts that are beyond his grade level if he wants to learn it, but I will stop short of becoming a domineering father. If my son wants to be a scientist or mathematician, then great. If not, then that's OK too.

Math and NCLB

States across the nation are trying to avoid losing out on No Child Left Behind by applying for waivers from the federal government. NCLB requires that schools have a certain percentage of the students meeting or exceeding certain levels.

 

The brain child of the Bush era, NCLB increased percentages of students needing to meet certain criteria each year. In 2014, the requirement would have required 100 percent of children to meet or exceed standards. Recently, hundreds of schools were unable to meet the unrealistic standards in reading and math.

 

This forced many to spend money on useless studies and even pay for students to go to other schools if the parents requested. In a desperate attempt at trying not to fall behind even further, states have begun asking for a waiver from the Obama administration. So far, 10 states received the waiver with 28 more waiting in the wings.

 

Once again, Obama is forced to clean up after Bush's mess. NCLB was meant to be a way to make schools accountable, but instead forced many districts to teach to a test. There is no way humanly possible that 100 percent of children will meet federal requirements in math and reading. Soon, every state will have a waiver because no one will be able to meet the requirements set forth by a misguided administration.

 

While all this is going on, the ones who suffer the most are the children caught in the middle. They are the ones that are not getting a fair shake at a good education.

World In Need Of Mathematicians

It's not secret that math is a difficult subject for most people, but there is an increasingly short list of people who can specialize in advanced mathematics and its creating a shortage in the job market. There are needs in the world for people to can do incredibly difficult math in almost all aspects of employment from science, computers and economy.

 

Math is a universal language that can be used to predict the outcome of events based on extrapolating from a set of variables. While there are computer programs designed to help with this, it takes humans with the ability to understand the problem to create and adapt these varying programs.

 

Those people are in short supply and businesses are willing to pay top dollar for these exceptional people. Many people may not think of a major in mathematics to be a very lucrative career, but as business and technology becomes more complex, the need for mathematics increased. Computers can make hundreds of thousands of computations in a second, but it's still not enough for some of today's complex problems.

 

People with the mathematical and computational know how much help the computers figure out ways around the problem by creating shortcuts and other programming tools. It's not easy and there are only a handful of people that can do it in the world. These people are recruited at a early age and groomed for mathematical greatness. Anyone with a head for math should consider a career in mathematics.

Math and Taxes

I have never been happier to know the ins and out of math, then during tax time. While most people have their taxes done by professionals, I choose to do it myself. It's not like I get much of a refund anyway.

As a self employed contract worker, I don't have the luxury of the 1040 EZ or having taxes automatically deducted every paycheck. I have to estimate my taxes and send it to the IRS occasionally and hope when the year ends that I have sent enough that I don't end up owing a ton.

This is where my love of math comes in. If anyone has ever had the luxury of filling out their own taxes, they realize that it's about as straight forward as a J.J. Abram's television series. You jump from line to line, adding here and subtracting there. You fill in one line, skip down to another multiply it by the age of your mother's cousin and voila, you're done.

Doing your own taxes is like trying to figure out a word problem in high school. You know the ones about one train going one way, another going another way and both of them traveling at different speeds, so figure which one runs on diesel kind of problem. So far, my math hasn't failed me and I have not had to owe anything, but I know that can at any moment.

When I am done and send it in, I am confident that I did everything I could using the math I have learned.

Are Math Centers Worth It?

I live in a small area, but learning centers such as Sylvan are popping up and in urban area curriculum specific centers are everywhere. Everyone knows that math isn't easy for most people. We struggle with it for various reasons, so parents are flocking to these centers, hoping to give their children an extra edge.

There are a ton of different programs out there. Some focus on practice and repetitions, while other use less traditional methods. They all have one thing in common – the cost money. This is perfectly fine for people with the extra income, but in these tough economic times that's not many. Yet, dozens if not hundreds of students in large cities are receiving the help of these centers. Is it worth it?

The evidence is confusing to say the least. Isn't this the exact same thing they can receive at home for free. Are parents so overwhelmed and busy with life and work that they can't sit down for an hour or so every couple of days and help out their children with math?

I am not saying places like this are worthless. There are children with learning disabilities, delays and difficulties that can really get a lot out of the extra help and teaching. The bulk of the students in these math learning centers could get the same benefit by sitting their parents. As a father who hopes to be able to provide help to his children, I question the efficacy of these centers as a whole.

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