Prime Eval, Part 1


Some weeks ago, I was out in Kagoshima, watching a local festival event and trying to find things to video for my other blog. It was a hot, humid day, with occasional rain, and after a couple hours I felt that I needed a snack. In Japan, bottle coffee is extremely popular. This stuff is high in caffeine, may have artificial sweeteners and creamer, and is probably made in bulk from very low-grade beans. But, it tends to be more expensive in Kyushu than in Tokyo, between $2 and $5 USD for one liter. So, when I found a 1 liter carton for 149 yen ($1.20 USD), I figured I’d get that rather than a fruit juice with a lot of corn syrup, plus a package of grocery store donuts. I retreated to the roof top of the Maruya Gardens department store and scarfed everything down before returning to the street to shoot more video. My stomach got gurgly in the afternoon and stayed that way all evening. That night, I went to bed and completely failed to fall asleep AT ALL. My mind was racing, thinking up all sorts of stuff for hours. At about 4 AM I started revisiting my complex numbers blog ideas, and realized that I may have the beginnings of my next series of entries. My thoughts were very vivid, and the concepts felt like they were being etched in place. Naturally, when I finally sat down to start writing everything down on paper a couple days later, I was too tired to remember any of it.

But, I’ll try anyway.

It’s been said before that language colors perception, and culture colors language. If you live in the desert, you’re going to place great importance on finding water, avoiding direct sunlight, and trying to figure out what to eat. You’re going to have clear, open skies at night and you’ll almost always be living with the constellations as they change during the year. Things like glaciers, overcrowding, waste disposal and being late for a dinner appointment aren’t going to be gnawing at the back of your mind very much. Time will be elastic and more relaxed. And the words you use to describe time probably won’t sound like “the days are just ticking away, aren’t they?” And vice versa, if you live in a crowded city filled with trains and buses running on tight schedules, your language may not include “look at the grand flow of space and the dance of flickering stars year upon year”.

In science and math, the idea is to remove that tinted perception and look at the underlying principles driving various phenomenon, or to create a “pure” mathematical language of symbols that transcends cultures and national languages. But, there’s still a cultural bias that permeates certain words in English that, I think, gets in the way of those fundamentals. Things like “real” and “imaginary” numbers, “color” (“green and blue” for Americans and Europeans is “blue” for the Japanese), and “planet” have historical baggage that should have been discarded long ago, but probably never will. What I want to do is identify some of that baggage and determine if there’s a way to “measure” it’s impact on what we understand of reality and the universe around us.

Looking back on that sleepless night, I really have to wonder just how much sugar and caffeine is healthy when binge snacking.

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