Saturday, February 09, 2008

Mathematics in Nature

The Ivory Tower was in many ways designed as an escape from a harsh, cruel "real world" and "academic subjects" tend to be conducive to those wishing a life of quiet study, a purely monastic existence.

Of course marine biology, geology, other empirical sciences, tend to push our bell curve further away from such an indoors extremum, but the fact remains we're culturally inclined to insert a firewall between bookish types and athletic types, creating a nerds versus jocks kind of taxonomy (also a tyranny).

In contrast to these ethnic cliches, our integrative learning approach asks that we cut across these diabolical conventions. Finding mathematics in nature is not something to just read about. And especially now that we have fractals, it's easy enough to set a Cartesian-like canvas of XY cells in front of some scenery, and call that a complex plane, then iterate Mandelbrot style to achieve some coast of some island (like in Lost or wherever, maybe Uru).

The lab sciences have always been something of a bridge between the indoors and outdoors lifestyles. Heartening in this regard is this "math lab" meme, already out there, meaning we don't need to invent it from scratch (yay). Also under "maths" (in Britain a plural), come game-like simulations, which may be self-referential (cellular automata for example), but might just as well be about something (an ant colony say). Nowadays we run simulations as programmed executables, such that a well-equipped math lab includes workbenches (workstations) for programming.

Putting all this together, one can see why competence in driving one of our electric ATVs just goes with the territory. If you can't drive one of those, you'll have a harder time meeting the requirements of our math curriculum. And if you can't point to the current location of Saturn (might be under your feet?), then how can you claim to know your spherical coordinates properly? Sure, maybe those other math teachers let you get away with just being a nerd, but we don't think that way out here. We're extremely remote remember (but joining us is still a possibility, if you do your math homework).