Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Closet Mathematician

When I go to bed to sleep, I have a regular pattern of movements. I start on my back, then, as I get more tired, I roll to my side. Finally, when there are just a few minutes left before I would drop off, I flop over onto my stomach. It's a predictable pattern of movement that is connected, perhaps more precisely than I'd be prepared to admit, to the degree of tiredness I am experiencing.

My brain loves looking for patterns. It's almost a hobby of mine to consider developing mathematical formulas (or at least tables of ratios) for predictable phenomena. It's so disturbingly geeky that I know most people would just think it strange of me. However, when I was a kid I used to mentally obsess (during down times such as bus rides and the time before I fell asleep) over these patterns. When I started learning algebra, I used to make up quadratic equations to solve in my head instead. It was a strange thing but I've always been rather attracted to quadratic equations in particular. Weird. Weird. Weird.

So, as I lay there approximately 85% tired (based on a scale that I developed at that moment,) I considered how I might create a formula with variables for sleeping position and percent of tiredness. The sleeping position was determined to be my angle to the bed where the vertex is on my left edge and the bed is represented by a ray whose origin is the vertex and progresses out to my right when I am on my stomach. I fell asleep before I could finish it. Apparently, it takes about 2 minutes for each 5 percent to progress. Maybe this progresses faster if I've been more physically active... (See how I think? It's crazy.)

The minor points of the formula were fun to consider. It was as I thought of the formula I could develop that I remembered why I had never considered going into math as a vocation (other than teaching it to kids). I obsess. I let things slide while I consider an academic point. Obsession might be good for my job, in that case, but not for anything else in my life. I am so attracted to numbers and patterns that I will lose myself in them given half the chance.

So I am merely a closet mathematician. I enjoy patterns and I enjoy numerical challenges. I don't claim to be particularly adept in my manipulation of numbers and mathematical concepts but I do enjoy them which is more than I can say for most people who absolutely cringe when faced with mathematical dilemmas, real or made-up on the journey into dreamland.

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