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Knight of the Lesser Boulevards

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This is why I'm a writer, not a physicist [Jul. 11th, 2012|04:51 pm]
Knight of the Lesser Boulevards
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Originally published at An Experimental Life. You can comment here or there.

In the equation above, solve for "Fuck you."

Despite my childhood ambition of becoming a physicist, this is, indeed, how math looks to me. Rather than explain my mathematical ineptitude, I decided a while back that it would be simpler to make a graphic to which I could refer people. As geeky as I am, I did base it on a famous equation--Schrodinger's Equation, in fact--although I didn't know what most of the symbols meant. (And had I thought about it, I would have put a cat in there somewhere.) The way the nonsense gets thicker toward the end sort of symbolizes the way I start out thinking, "Yeah, I can do this," and then end up sobbing into my calculator...

Fortunately, I have friends who are much better at math than I am. One of them, my buddy Mike Roach, mentioned that I had psi to the power of an airplane, and I was like, "Really? I always just thought of that as the little candelabra thingy." He also suggested the caption, "In the equation above, solve for 'fuck you.'" Appropriate, since I always get the vague feeling that math is flipping me off and sniggering at my inability to do anything about it.

The lesson here? There isn't one, except perhaps that math is scary, and should only be operated by people of the highest moral character.

No, seriously--Math is important, and I've often felt dumb about my lack of facility with it. It's not that I can't understand it, but that as hard as I try, I cannot seem to make myself focus on it for extended periods. Maybe it's the ADD, or maybe it's something else. Words, on the other hand... I can hyper-focus on words. (Hyper-focus is one of the things that comes along with ADD, and although it can be an asset, it isn't always as cool as it sounds, especially considering that a person with ADD doesn't always get to choose what his or her brain likes to focus on. I'm lucky, in that despite my mathematical shortcomings, my brain likes focusing on language.) So while I may never be able to do the math required of the hard sciences, I can at least understand the concepts, and write stories inspired by science. Sure, the bulk of my work is urban fantasy, not science fiction, but even in my non-science-fiction, I do my best to make sure I get the science right, and sometimes even correct a widely-held misconception or two.

I'd rather be good at both math and writing, but all in all, this is not the worst trade-off ever. Reading science fiction was one of the things--along with devouring my parents' encyclopedias starting as soon as I could read--that sparked my love of science to begin with, so maybe--just maybe--if I'm very, very lucky, something I write might someday spark an interest in someone who will end up doing the kind of science I'll never be able to. (You know, those who can, do, and maybe those who can't can at least inspire a little bit.)

(My buddy Donovon over at Objects of Amusement was talking about making a T-shirt of this graphic for his screen printing business, Nuditee Covered, but I don't know if he ever got around to it. I asked if he needed me to make any changes, and he said the design had "constantly changing potential." It took me a several full minutes to realize he was making a reference to Schrodinger's equation. Doh!)