Tuesday, October 11, 2011

numbers: invisible or imaginary

I'd say I'm average (not mean) with math. I can do the basic addition, subtraction, multiplication and division (sometimes without a calculator!). In a pinch, I could probably recite some basic theories and equations. And I know that when you want to say someone has changed completely in the other direction, you say they've gone a 180, not a 360. There are a lot of things I don't know about math and will unashamedly rely on my engineer-trained-husband for further clarification.

We hit a snag in that arrangement on our way home from a wedding.

Me: "Is it invisible numbers or imaginary numbers. I can never remember and they both seem like the same thing."

Hubby (laughing, because I've asked this before and he still thinks its funny that I call something an invisible number): "It's imaginary numbers. If they were invisible, they wouldn't be there.

Me: "Ok, but if they're imaginary, they're not there either. I always thought it was like having an imaginary friend (not that I would ever consider numbers my friend - screw AP Calculus!) - it's an imaginary friend but its also invisible."

Hubby: "Why would someone use invisible number? Someone's thesis would be, 'well, I did the calculations but I can't see the number.'"

Me: "But you couldn't see an imaginary number either?!"

This is important. Perhaps this very confusion is what has led to our current economic crisis (or whatever word you use to define it). A few people thought it was okay to use imaginary numbers in place of invisible numbers and there was a bit of a widespread fall out. Or perhaps in budget deficit negotiations. Let's face it there has to be a limit to the number of zeros you can put at the end of a number and it's still real. We may need double-check the Algebra/Trig curriculum just to make sure.

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