Additional Math Pages & Resources

Monday, November 29, 2010

How do you measure a life? Part I

Can math measure a life?

We can measure a lifespan.

How long have you lived? In my case, I can say "I'm 59 years old".

That makes sense, but it seems unreasonable; it seems nonsensical to say "I'm 21,600 days old, or 518,400 hours, or 31 million minutes, or 1,866 million seconds old".

Measuring life like this is meaningless. The larger the total of tiny units, the less the measuring means. Just as it makes sense to say "I drive 15 miles to work" but not to say "I drive 950,000 inches to work".

But regardless of units, the lifespan doesn't capture what the life was about. 

Measuring a life with math units doesn't capture its meaning, only the external evidence, such as "She earned a PhD and 94 graduate units" or "His retirement account has more than 1.5 million dollars" or "They had 4 children, 16 grandchildren and 44 great-grandchildren".

I saw this statement recently, In science one tries to tell people, in such a way as to be understood by everyone, something that no one ever knew before. In math you try to prove something that's never been proven - and tell people how you did it. But in poetry, it's the exact opposite. With poetry you want to tell people (whether they understand it or not) what we all experience.

Can we describe a life? with mathematical poems?

We'll have to look at this more tomorrow. In the meantime, try searching on mathematical poetry.

Read some. Write one.

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