# Imaginary Numbers, Real World Results

By Mrstrongest @mrstrongarm

Did I ever share that I was a math major in college? Truth.

Perhaps that’s why I always read Eugenia Cheng’s “Everyday Math” column in the Wall Street Journal.

She wrote one called Abstractions Are Good for Goodness’ Sake.

(Does this really tie in with illustration and brands? Yes!— trust me here.)

Some excerpts:

Mathematical objects are abstract concepts that capture ideas about the world.

The number two, for instance, is an abstraction that comes from looking at two apples, two bananas, and so on, and finding what they have in common. Mathematicians see that commonality as an object: the number two.

People often ask if math is discovered or created. I think it is both: we discover math (in situations), and we create ways of expressing and studying those situations.

The imaginary number ‘i’ was dreamed up by mathematicians to represent the square root of -1. (The square root of -1 can’t be a real number because positive and negative numbers both square to positive numbers.)

This might seem like just a game played by academics with their heads in the clouds, but… imaginary numbers (help us understand) how the real world functions… Recent advances in quantum mechanics seem to indicate imaginary numbers aren’t just helpful but necessary.

Quantum mechanics, the study of subatomic interactions, is at the root of most modern electronic devices (and) is crucial to understanding the behavior of electrons in semiconductors, which are essential components of modern computers.

(Thus) the dreams of pure mathematics end up having a profound effect on our daily lives. Abstract concepts and real life are not so far apart after all…

Boil the above down to a single line, and I think it would be this: flights of fancy (imagination) help us express reality, and make sense of it.

That resonates for me, as an illustrator, because that’s really what I do: draw pictures which often “bend” (have a little fun with) time, space, and reality, but which nevertheless help express ideas or concepts that aren’t so easy to put into words.

Consider the illustration I created for this post (above): a smart phone rocket propelled by an imaginary number. Wacky, yes, fanciful, yes, but it gets your attention and captures what Ms. Cheng is saying: imagination pays off, imagination leads to insights and tangible results.

When you hire an illustrator or other creative, you’re investing in imagination to get prospects’ attention and communicate the unique value of your product or service.

Is there such a thing as a math joke? Believe it or not, yes– and I’m going to leave you with one.

Some years ago I went to see a play called Proof. It won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama back in 2001. Here’s the exchange (below). I was one of the few people who laughed, but I remember how excited I was, thinking: Hey, I got that!!– being a math major finally paid off!! 👍😅

Hal: Well, I’m gonna be late. Some friends of mine are in this band. They’re playing in a bar on Diversey, way down the bill, they go on about 2 to 2: 30. I said I’d be there.