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They came for the dinosaurs, and I did not speak out, because I was not a dinosaur. They came for the giant robots, and I did not speak out, because I was not a giant robot. They came for the nerds. And I was screwed.
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I think there is a stigma out there that mathematicians are frazzly-haired, bespectacled people with a weird affinity for numbers and a pencil permanently tucked behind their ears like some sort of strange, oblong growth. They are widely regarded as quirky, but brilliant; they’re taken as advanced, mature minds that endlessly contemplate the meanings of science and the universe. We probably deserve some of that typecasting. One thing I have noticed, though, is that mathematicians of old were not as mature as we give them credit for being.
Take, for example, the annulus. The annulus is a shape, a ring-shaped region if you will. It has a hole in the middle. The annulus can have various properties, one of them being whether it is an open region or a closed one. I find it hard to believe that the coiners of this term purposely overlooked the crude humor in having to posit, “Is my annulus open or closed?”
I’ve also noticed that the inventors of our beloved trig functions took full advantage of the fact that mathematicians are lazy efficient, using the names of trig identities to pass down immaturity and giggles throughout the years. I mean, secant(x) = sec x can’t be purely coincidence. Even back in the day they must have been trying to figure out the mathematics of the bedroom. Similarly, anyone in too much of a hurry to write cos(x) has inevitably fallen prey to the age-old cox reference.
Immaturity doesn’t just derive from toilet humor. A certain portion can also come from knowing that even professional math minds don’t want to do their homework. In fact, I think that I could declare all past math majors to be just kids’ at heart who only want to play games and sleep in on the weekends. Perhaps that’s why cryptographers left us a little prophecy. The whole point of crypto is that you have to feed numbers through a long and complicated algorithm, which dresses them up in a disguise, gives them a haircut, and enters them into some kind of mathematics witness protection program. Some cryptosystems make use of pre-determined value tables, which are called S-Boxes. See?! They predicted the future, practically! Hey, guys, want to go check out my SBOX 101101000?
I don’t think anything needs to be said about ∫uˣ dx.
Last, but certainly not least, is a little gem I learned recently that nearly broke my ability to pose as a mature mathematician. You see, one can integrate around a region. And inside that region, there might be a point a special spot, if you will, called a singularity. You have to be very careful about the singularity. Sometimes, you even have to work around it, specifically, so your equations don’t blow up. Mr. Cauchy probably didn’t know it, but he was setting the world up for some awful puns about his integral theorem for those regions and special spots. Lovingly referred to as the Cauchy Line Integral Theorem by some, it’s one of those pieces of math that I will never forget. What are you doing tonight? Oh, nothing. Just gotta manipulate my C-L-I-theorem... wait a minute...
Just remember, if you ever want to insult a math geek, all you need to do is suggest that their you-know-what is smaller than any ε > 0.