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Echoes of Radio Lab: Numbers

Radio Lab is an internet radio show that's beyond fantastic. Beyond inspirational. After listening to this particular show titled "Numbers" I've been meaning to respond in some way. Though it is typical for my mind to automatically lean on game design, I think the Mixed-Media blog is the appropriate place for my thoughts. I can't guarantee that any of the following will make much sense to you unless you listen to the show. 


Innate Numbers: How to Get from 3 to 9

I've always wondered about people who profess to hate math. Not just people who hate it, but people who are more than devoted to living a life without numbers, operations, formulas, and equations. A life where the majority of one's configuring occurs when it's time to leave a tip. 

I've said before that addition may be the most profound operation known to man. And because it's so elementary, I thought it might even be universal. From this humble beginning, numbers add up to create a wonderful and strangely poetic yet quantifiable language. With this language I found unique similarities between a calculus problem and witty romantic poem. What was once just a colorful comparison, after listening to "Numbers" the metaphor of math as a language seems frighteningly apt. If there is an innate sense of numbers and basic integers are nothing more than a man made construction, I have to wonder if I'm missing something.

If it's all too late for me to feel numbers innately like Amazonians and babies do so effortlessly and freely, can I learn to? If learning to count on my fingers and toesies spirited me away from a universal yet limited world where half of 9 feels like 3, can I return for a visit somehow. If ignorance is a road, bliss a destination, and innate numbers a natural tourist attraction, can you tell me about it? I have to wonder if letting go of these innate numbers makes it impossible for me to relate to someone who can't speak in derivatives, divisors, and deviations. With the math I know and love mankind can fly to the moon. From the cosmos I'll see the innate world and it'll see me and we'll both wonder how the other got there. 


Erdös Numbers: A Map To A Better Future

The Erdös number has charmed my imagination. What a unique way to model the influence of one mathematician in the world of mathematics. When you put everything in perspective, we can see a web of influence that spans the math world. The Erdös number is more than just citing credit or tracing a bibliographic trail. The number represents the intersection and collaboration of people. It other words, it's not just the ideas that can travel around the world but the people themselves. It's a human network defined by branching relationships and focused on the function of publishing in mathematics.  

Is it odd that I dream of a life similar to that of Erdös? I'd love to be able to randomly show up at some game developers home and work on design problems and innovations. I can see myself doing research late into the night and then banging on game controllers or turning the TV up loud so everyone wakes up and we can continue working.  What a world. What a life. What an impossibility.

Or is it? Perhaps the real world is too big, too foreign, and too afraid to support a roaming game designer/consultant. But maybe the wide web can be bigger and more accessible. I've instant messaged across states, peered beyond national borders via Skype, and emailed around the globe. Maybe the lawn that I'll walk along first in the gaming industry is that of the indie movement. The grassroot game designers. 

What would your Erdös number be a model of?


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