Trigo – NO – IT’S – A – LIE – ! – metry

Hitchcock was a genius. To really understand this, though, you have to put him in context. Like anything, put into context, it makes more sense. Al was, among other things, a brilliant cinematic innovator. He was always testing his audience.

One of his best works was a movie called “Psycho.” Everyone knows this film. It has bound itself in pop culture for decades. I once saw a screening of “Psycho” where they talked to other prominent directors and writers and actors about their experiences with “Psycho.”

What I learned is that Vera Miles, who played Lila Crane, was a small actress. Janet Leigh, who played Marion Crane, was a big star. She was a name to be sure. The film, in fact, opens with her. We follow her as she steals money from her boss and drives off. We feel the panick as she narrowly escapes a couple police offices on her way.

Finally she stops at the Bates Motel run by a very well acted Norman Bates, Anthony Perkins. After getting her room and setting up her stuff, she decides to take a shower and wash away her inequity. Big mistake! Norman Bates slashes her in the shower. BAM. The biggest name in the picture is done. She’s out. No more Janet Leigh – she’s dead and not even flashbacks can bring her off screen.

One man said that, after seeing this movie, he felt raped. This blatant disregard for audience expectations had left a lot of people angry and hurt and confused. I never really had a movie that did that me. I’ve never felt raped, until now.

Math Modeling is a nice class. So far there is no homework, no book, and so far very little life-jarring new ideas. That is until yesterday. I was sitting in class, on time for once, thinking about how cool Fibonacci Numbers are. Dr Palmer came in, solemn faced and quiet.

“Remember last week that we were talking about Imaginary Numbers. You remember these from High School. They were written in the form (3 + 4i). i = square root of one, remember?”

We nodded in blind, innocent agreement.

“Remember when you had trigonometry. We had these things like cosine and sine and tangent. You punch a magical number on your calculator and got an answer?”

We nodded, less sure of the innocence of what we knew.

“Well, it’s all a lie. Trigonometry IS the Imaginary Numbers. Trigonometry was just a pretty face used to teach Imaginary Numbers to High School kids.”

What? Murmurs over took the class. We turned, furrowed brow, to our neighbor and discussed this. No trigonometry? There is no trig?

“But that’s not all. There are no Imaginary Numbers. That one should have been easy. How can a number be imaginary? It’s a number or it isn’t. Imaginary Numbers are just a pretty face put on Complex Numbers.”

What?? Not only is there no Trig, but there are no Imaginary Numbers! We’ve been lied to TWICE by the math community. Everyone who teaches this stuff must know this, right? There isn’t a chance that they save it for professors, is there?

How often did your math teacher have to keep a straight face when saying “cosine”? How often did your math teacher have to stifle giggles at the thought of teaching “trig”? Get paid to teach nothing. Sounds like a deal to me.

“There’s one more thing. Complex Numbers are made up. They are actually a pretty face put on points on a complex plain. They are just coordinates, dressed up in formals, to dance in front of you and mock you. Forever.”

Things are looking glum. There is outrage in the class. Justin Luitjens walked out in tears, screaming curses through his clenched jaw. Two or three students had to be revived for class to continue on. Dr Palmer, himself, looked a bit upset. It might be that his conscience was getting to him after all these years.

Just like the moment when a mother tells her son that he is adopted (and I can’t wait for that day), so was this moment. The sweet and sour truth was out there, on the board. There were feelings of betrayal and angst. No one looked Dr Palmer in the eye when we left.

Learning is a dangerous thing. It stung that guy at the beginning of this post, it stung the adopted son, and it stung me. They say, “The truth will set you free.” It’s hard to believe in that statement anymore. This all proves that there is never a good time for news like this.

Especially not junior year in college.

[ math ]/[ lies ]

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