Monday, December 21, 2020

Teen: "Math isn't real" Revisited

Three months ago I commented on a teenager who made a video saying “Math isn’t real.” Link. The video went viral. She also said the math she learned in school is real. She was obviously confused and naive. She asked three related questions: 
1. How did people come up with algebraic formulas?
2. How did they know what they were looking for?
3. How did they know they were correct?

I gave answers to them then. However, yesterday something else occurred to me about the second question. Why did she assume one has to know what one is looking for in order to find it?

Maybe it is partly her age and experience. Being a teenager, searching on the Internet became a common activity before she was born. She likely does it a lot. For that activity, one does need to be aware of what one is looking for in order to find it. Sometimes when one is looking for something quite specific, one has to already be aware of exactly what one is looking for. Else the search engine returns can overwhelm what one is looking for. What you are looking for will be buried deep in the stack and thus hard to find. Whereas using optimal search terms will put what you are looking for at the top of the stack or close thereto.

I learned that when I did a search about myself and something specific. What I was looking for was very local news. Hence, it was reported in only one not widely read publication. Searching only for my name on Google, there were 1500 hits. That's with a very unique name (first and last together). What I was looking for was well below the middle of the stack. Searching for my name and two more terms, what I was looking for was on top of the stack. Imagine the more general search had millions of hits.  

This may seem like an insignificant point. However, it is more significant from a philosophical perspective. It is an aspect of Empiricism. Experience shapes and limits knowledge.

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