Archive for September 8th, 2008

My Addiction


You have probably been so inundated with all of the previous talk on drugs that you think mine will be no different. Yet unlike the others I am here to talk about a drug so insidious, so addictive and so common that almost all of you have partaken of it, either of your own volition or due to ever-present peer pressure. And I am here to shed light on this terrible addiction that has consumed so many lives.

Today, ladies and gentlemen, I will expose the evil that is Mathematics. “But that isn’t a drug” you claim. This general lack of recognition among college student of Math as a drug is what gives it such an insidious nature. Let me demonstrate the horrors of math as an addiction. This is your brain , and this,  is your brain on math. 

So why do people do this algebraic anomaly? And why do so many majors suffer the cruelty of calculus? It could be peer pressure: “all of the other science majors are doing it”. It could be societal pressure; ever since Euclid and his geometries, Math has been considered the “cool” thing to do.

My math addiction started because the first few equations were free and easy. And so it didn’t seem like much of a problem. Then my addiction started to form. At first my friends and I were just “doing proofs” and “plotting functions”. Very soon after that first algebraic proof, I sat in my other classes waiting impatiently for a chance to differentiate a function. From there, my friends and I stopped participating in activities and we just did lines of integrals between classes.

My math dependence has only grown since high school. The end of calculus was the point where I realized my mind has been significantly altered. Even knowing about my problem I keep doing math, unable to quit. I look at people walking into and out of the dining commons and imagine them as the first derivative of the total people inside.

Thanks to my addiction I can no longer enjoy a simple bike ride across our lovely campus. When I start on the bike path I do enjoy it, then my math craving begins. I start to apply Fermat’s Principle of Least Time to my bike route. I consider if it would be faster to take a longer route, knowing that I will not be behind a knot of beach cruisers lumbering out of Campbell Hall. Considerations like these for an extra twenty seconds, all because of an insatiable desire for math.

I know I am not the only one who suffers this terrible addiction. If I asked you how many math addicts there are currently on this campus, you would probably guess around a few hundred. GOLD reports that there are currently sixteen hundred math addicts this quarter in just the first two math series alone! Sixteen hundred students. These students could be doing so much more with their time. They could be taking a class in acting. They could participate in a club or just leave their room once in a while.

The alternatives to this terrible addiction are plentiful, but they are not easy. I have found a way to wean myself, and hopefully others, off of math. It is through Science, and in my case Physics, as it allows for the students to “do” math without the hardcore computations. A gradual injection of approximations has lessened my desire for math. I can now calmly accept that the sine of an angle is that angle for small angles! I can think of physics problems and when calculations become involved pi divided by three, ehh, roughly one.

My anti-math is working well, but I am still addicted. For others who are suffering from less severe math addictions, little steps help. When counting ceiling tiles during that anthropology section, you can count them individually instead of doing multiplication. If you get your kick from matrices, try Sudoku instead, it looks like math since it has numbers, but it is only counting. It is never too late to find your anti-math.

If your friend is suffering from math addiction, or if they are so far gone they are declared a math major, you can help. Try to get them to do something that is non-math; sports work, just avoid pool. Television can be a wonderful asset, or take them to parties; there they can’t possibly do integrals in their head if the music is loud enough.

Just remember: Participate, don’t integrate.

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