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Imaginary Numbers, Real World Results

April 27, 2022

Mobile phone rocket blasting into space, powered by abstract mathematics concepts including imaginary numbers

Did I ever share that I was a math major in college? Truth.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Perhaps that’s why I always read Eugenia Cheng’s “Everyday Math” column in the Wall Street Journal.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

She wrote one called Abstractions Are Good for Goodness’ Sake.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

(Does this really tie in with illustration and brands? Yes!— trust me here.)blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Some excerpts:blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

Mathematical objects are abstract concepts that capture ideas about the world.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

The number two, for instance, is an abstraction that comes from looking at two apples, two bananas, and so on, and finding what they have in common. Mathematicians see that commonality as an object: the number two.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

People often ask if math is discovered or created. I think it is both: we discover math (in situations), and we create ways of expressing and studying those situations.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

The imaginary number ‘i’ was dreamed up by mathematicians to represent the square root of -1. (The square root of -1 can’t be a real number because positive and negative numbers both square to positive numbers.)blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

This might seem like just a game played by academics with their heads in the clouds, but… imaginary numbers (help us understand) how the real world functions… Recent advances in quantum mechanics seem to indicate imaginary numbers aren’t just helpful but necessary.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Quantum mechanics, the study of subatomic interactions, is at the root of most modern electronic devices (and) is crucial to understanding the behavior of electrons in semiconductors, which are essential components of modern computers.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

(Thus) the dreams of pure mathematics end up having a profound effect on our daily lives. Abstract concepts and real life are not so far apart after all…blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

Boil the above down to a single line, and I think it would be this: flights of fancy (imagination) help us express reality, and make sense of it.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

That resonates for me, as an illustrator, because that’s really what I do: draw pictures which often “bend” (have a little fun with) time, space, and reality, but which nevertheless help express ideas or concepts that aren’t so easy to put into words.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Consider the illustration I created for this post (above): a smart phone rocket propelled by an imaginary number. Wacky, yes, fanciful, yes, but it gets your attention and captures what Ms. Cheng is saying: imagination pays off, imagination leads to insights and tangible results.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

When you hire an illustrator or other creative, you’re investing in imagination to get prospects’ attention and communicate the unique value of your product or service.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

blank vertical space, 16 pixels highIs there such a thing as a math joke? Believe it or not, yes– and I’m going to leave you with one.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Some years ago I went to see a play called Proof. It won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama back in 2001. Here’s the exchange (below). I was one of the few people who laughed, but I remember how excited I was, thinking: Hey, I got that!!– being a math major finally paid off!! 👍😅blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Hal: Well, I’m gonna be late. Some friends of mine are in this band. They’re playing in a bar on Diversey, way down the bill, they go on about 2 to 2: 30. I said I’d be there.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Catherine: Great.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Hal: They’re all in the math department, they’re really good. They have this song called ‘i’, you’d like it. Like lower-cased i. They just stand there and don’t play anything for three minutes.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Catherine: Imaginary number.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Hal: It’s a math joke… You see why they’re way down on the bill.
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About Mark: I’m an illustrator specializing in humor, branding, social media, and content marketing. My images are different, like your brand needs to be.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

You can view my portfolio, and connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Questions? Send me an email.blank vertical space, 40 pixels highRecommendation testimonial for Mark Armstrong Illustration from Christopher Richards, business book ghostwriter, Christopher Richards Ink

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