Written for Canadian Community News by Mike Sterling
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I've read most of Dr. Eli Maor's books He is one of the foremost scholars on the history of mathematics. He and Eugen Jost an acclaimed artist, have written a new book called 'Beautiful Geometry'. The lead-in reads:
"No doubt many people would agree that art and mathematics don't mix. How could they? Art after all, is supposed to express feelings, emotions and impressions - a subjective image of the world as the artist sees it. Mathematics is the exact opposite -- cold, rational and emotionless.
Yet this perception can be wrong. In the Renaissance, mathematics and art not only were practiced together, they are regarded as complementary aspects of the human mind.
Indeed, the great masters of the Renaissance, among them Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and Albrecht Dȕrer, considered themselves as architects, engineers and mathematicians as much as artists.
If I had to name just one trait shared by mathematics and art, I would choose their common search for pattern, form recurrence and order."
Wow, I like that. I've been saying that for years to people who seem to take pride in their abhorrence for mathematics and science. Never mind, some of the same people have a lot to say about climate change and geology. They don't trust science or mathematics.
Some are almost child-like in their life-long fear of anything with numbers and method. Yes, fear. It must come from parents or a bad educational experience.
When you don't know something, that's ok. It's a big universe, but when you don't want to know, that's fear of failure. That amounts to being intellectually dishonest. Here are examples of the disease Each of them, I've encountered:
The Man Who Would not Learn:
This man could be called handy at building things, but felt limited because he could not understand Trigonometry. It escaped him in the 8th or 9th grade.
To help, I spent some time putting all he would need for his projects on one side of a 3"x5" card.
Guess what? I gave it to him. He said "Oh I'll never learn that!" and discarded it. He was afraid.
The Creative Woman or I forget which side of the brain I use!
This instance of the 'Creative Mind' in particular astounded me. It was like watching a good British skit.
A woman running for political office kept fumbling with a microphone stand saying she was creative and not an engineer and claimed she used the left or right side of her brain, she forgot which it was. Not too soon for the audience, her time expired and she was 'gonged' off. Yup that's a sign of a creative mind.
The Odd Couple
I was introduced to a couple who did research, both being PhDs in their area. The conversation got around to mathematics and I mentioned something about carbon dating and nuclear decay.
The woman said that she never needed mathematics and real research did not depend upon it. Wow.... even her husband looked shocked. She must have gotten tutoring for the mathematics courses she was required to take.
The Anti-Nurds Speak
I could never be a Nurd, I'm creative, say many I've met.
I used to keep quiet, but now I say: "What do you think about all the 'stuff' you've accumulated like fancy cars, high tech phones, pads and laptops? Do you think that the people who 'created' them are not creative?" Are they just useful Nurds?
Can we offer a little respect for what we don't understand or better still let's try to understand something more about the world around us?
13.4 Billion Years Don't Count. Now, that's Creative.
I saw a debate between Bill Nye, the science guy and a representative of the Creationist Museum, Ken Ham. Ham was instrumental in building the the $27,000,000 museum.
Nye is not a scientist either, but a mechanical engineer and popular exponent of science education in public schools the world over..
The museum, which is just over the boarder from Ohio into Kentucky gets many visitors and it is a good venue for lectures.
The exhibits are interesting. Time gets crunched down so that creatures like dinosaurs exist in the same time and space as Adam and Eve and early man.
Carbon dating and half-life of nuclear materials don't count and are explained in other ways.
I've included the Ham-Nye debate on YouTube, but be warned. It's almost three hours long. Good luck, it's a good debate. There are no insults and very few interruptions.
The real message here is about education and the teaching of science. Ham would like a different model for education.
I do have to admit that Mr. Ham is very creative. He comes up with arguments galore. His most lethal one has merit. He says to Nye: "You were not there at creation, so you can't know for sure."
How can you argue with that? Again, be warned. This is a long video.
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Monday, March 10, 2014