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The Playful Language of Math Abhijit Mehta Writing 20, Fall 2002

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The Language of Math and Physics Nice Elegant Trivial Well-Behaved Quark Charm Flavor Strange

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How can a function be nice? Mathematicians and physicists like to use common words to describe common ideas Mathematicians and physicists like to use common words to describe common ideas BUT - Popular stereotypes say that mathematicians and physicists are boring and uncreative BUT - Popular stereotypes say that mathematicians and physicists are boring and uncreative

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This is not only wrong. It is ridiculous!

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Mathematicians and physicists are playful, and their language shows it The use of common words shows a familiar, playful attitude towards complex things. The invention / adaptation of words into modern physics underscores this Quark Strange Charm

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Developing My Project Initially: topic for a short assignment Initially: topic for a short assignment Pointed out the humorous misunderstanding that math and physics lingo can cause Pointed out the humorous misunderstanding that math and physics lingo can cause Agenda Shift Agenda Shift Started as a basic description of vocabulary Started as a basic description of vocabulary Evolved to an analysis of how this vocabulary reflects a playful attitude in math and physics Evolved to an analysis of how this vocabulary reflects a playful attitude in math and physics Added examples to show how words originate Added examples to show how words originate IMO Example IMO Example Modern Physicists and Quarks Modern Physicists and Quarks Brought me into my essay Brought me into my essay Describing mathematicians and physicists in terms of us and we rather than they and them Describing mathematicians and physicists in terms of us and we rather than they and them

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The shift of my agenda D1 – Mere description D1 – Mere description Mathematicians and physicists often use common words to express ideas that are very complex. Mathematicians and physicists often use common words to express ideas that are very complex. D2/D3 – Analysis: Playfulness D2/D3 – Analysis: Playfulness The migration of these words from common usage to their specialized usage conveys some of the playful attitude that mathematicians and physicists have towards abstract, complex problems. The migration of these words from common usage to their specialized usage conveys some of the playful attitude that mathematicians and physicists have towards abstract, complex problems.

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From description to playfulness D1 As our society becomes more dependant on technology, the work of mathematicians and physicists comes closer to everyday experience. In order to have a basic understanding of many modern issues and technologies, people need to become more familiar with the language of math and science. However, mathematicians and physicists have a tendancy to use common words in a strange way. In math and physics, nice, elegant, trivial, well-behaved, charm, flavor, strange, and quark all have meanings that can be very different from their everyday meanings. Mathematicians and physicists often use common words to express ideas that are very complex. As our society becomes more dependant on technology, the work of mathematicians and physicists comes closer to everyday experience. In order to have a basic understanding of many modern issues and technologies, people need to become more familiar with the language of math and science. However, mathematicians and physicists have a tendancy to use common words in a strange way. In math and physics, nice, elegant, trivial, well-behaved, charm, flavor, strange, and quark all have meanings that can be very different from their everyday meanings. Mathematicians and physicists often use common words to express ideas that are very complex.D3 I find that even in our technologically dependant society, mathematicians and physicists are often misunderstood. Many people label us as unimaginative, dull and humorless. However, mathematicians and physicists actually make creative use of common words to describe complex things. For us, nice, elegant, trivial, well-behaved, charm, flavor, and strange all have meanings that can be very different from their everyday meanings. The migration of these words from common usage to their specialized usage conveys some of the playful attitude that mathematicians and physicists have towards abstract, complex problems. I find that even in our technologically dependant society, mathematicians and physicists are often misunderstood. Many people label us as unimaginative, dull and humorless. However, mathematicians and physicists actually make creative use of common words to describe complex things. For us, nice, elegant, trivial, well-behaved, charm, flavor, and strange all have meanings that can be very different from their everyday meanings. The migration of these words from common usage to their specialized usage conveys some of the playful attitude that mathematicians and physicists have towards abstract, complex problems.

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REVISION Helped me to bring myself into my writing Helped me to bring myself into my writing Helped me to clarify my agenda and to make it more interesting Helped me to clarify my agenda and to make it more interesting Helped me to figure out what I actually wanted my agenda to be! Helped me to figure out what I actually wanted my agenda to be! Helped to iron out awkward phrasings and inconsistencies Helped to iron out awkward phrasings and inconsistencies

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Revision did more than clarify the ideas in my paper for the reader: By helping me figure out what I wanted to say and how I could best express my opinions, revision actually clarified the ideas that I wanted to express for me!

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In Conclusion… The language used by mathematicians and physicists conveys their playful attitude The language used by mathematicians and physicists conveys their playful attitude In a society that is dependant on technology, it is important for people to understand this attitude In a society that is dependant on technology, it is important for people to understand this attitude Math and physics are very personally relevant to my life, and so this topic is very important to me Math and physics are very personally relevant to my life, and so this topic is very important to me Through multiple stages of revision, I was able: Through multiple stages of revision, I was able: To bring myself into my essay and To bring myself into my essay and To use my personal love of math to express my ideas about this topic effectively on paper To use my personal love of math to express my ideas about this topic effectively on paper

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