Math and Infatuation
Joe Clark ~~ Feb 17, 2004

L*** == true iff L(X,Y) > Fs and L(Y,X) > Fs

These two topics -- math and infatuation -- have been on my mind of late in one way or another. I am going to try and take a "giant leap of thought" and see if I can relate the two to each other. Let's get ready to..... rummmmmm-inate about these thoughts. :-)

So I'm in this cryptography class. It's an okay class -- lots of interesting stuff to learn in it. On the other hand, because of the subject matter it turns out that it is to a large degree about math concepts and equations and formulas and proofs. Those sorts of things are important to the field, but they are not my specialty. I'm realizing that my...intellectual high point, if you will...lies in logical reasoning, the kind of reasoning that (hopefully) allows me to write well-structured, well-thought out, well-designed computer software (this may sound like a math-oriented topic, but I find it fairly different).

I think the difference may be characterized by the uncertainty involved (which for the sake of irony is a mathematical term itself). :-) I find *for myself* that when I immerse myself in these mathematical ideas I am often left on...shaky ground. I may think I know what I'm talking about (sometimes), and I may think that I have the right answer, but after more careful investigation (or someone else's thoughts on the matter), I realize that I have missed some important assumption or theorem or corollary or some jot of a pen that changes the whole problem. Other times, I simply have no clue what to think -- I have resources (TAs, smart coworkers, lecture notes, the Internet, etc.) to remedy that problem, but the fact remains that I'm surprised just how easy it is to craft a problem that I have very little if any idea how to solve. I don't consider myself stupid, but sometimes on some things I wonder. :-)

Now, my connection point...I have not thought about infatuation too deeply for awhile, but with Valentine's Day and all that events like that entail, it has been on my mind in at least a hypothetical sense. I have been realizing that in some ways the uncertainty of math problems is in a way similar to an uncertainty involved in infatuation. Infatuation, we might say, is a sort of love for someone without having all the facts, without understanding all the markings in the formula, without realizing all the theorems that play a role in the equation. A strange definition, I'll admit, but it seems to have some bearing. So, my problem with my hypothetical spasms of infatuation (I likened it to sliding off the edge of a slippery slope in a previous wise thought) is that it's easy to make assumptions.

For me, I don't always think critically enough about math problems. I tend to look for solutions based on the most obvious explanations. If there are no obvious explanations, I'm not sure what to think. Likewise with infatuation I think I search for reasons and truth-facts based on the most logical and face-value observations. However, the face-value observations can and often are simply completely wrong. Just as mathematical observations can be invalidated by 1% of error, so infatuous (sp?) observations can be just as easily found to be wrong. Probably an even greater factor is that in both math and infatuation there is an expected and desired outcome. The math student wants to find the right answer (which is often estimated beforehand); the infatuational person wants (usually) to find requitedness in the heart of the other. This is a powerful force, probably, in not thinking deeply enough about the true truthfulness of the preliminary surface observations.

So, how do you like my connection? Make any sense? I guess the valuable point here is that some things in life -- math and infatuation included -- are confusing and easy to handle incorrectly. I realize in my school life that not thinking correctly about math stuff will often lead me to an incorrect conclusion. I realize in my "real" life that making assumptions and false observations while under the influence of infatuation is a recipe for bitterness and pain -- I have learned that from past experience, and I feel the closeness of it whenever I consider that infatuous "slippery slope". I guess I would consider this another contemplation on my "resolution #4" for the year, and a warning for myself in areas such as this that I am notorious for being stupid. So: don't be stupid! Always a valuable reminder for me.

And for those of you who don't need this reminder, I'll leave you with a broader view of this topic: things are not always as they appear. Sometimes they *are* as they appear, so it's best not to immediately discount the assumptions we make, but the assumptions must be validated to be of any use. Until assumptions can be proven true or false to your own realistic and honest satisfaction, be careful to treat them as they are -- assumptions. So be a truth-seeker, not a "this makes the most sense to me" seeker. Perfect logic is hard to master, and truth is often elusive, so be careful. That's all for tonight. :-)