“To myself I am only a child playing on the beach, while vast oceans of truth lie undiscovered before me.” ~Isaac Newton
“Calculus” is a label we might use to signify impenetrable mathematics, egghead stuff that only nerdy professor types can understand, let alone use.
As of today, you will be using not just garden variety calculus in your day to day life but a special kind of calculus, vector calculus. You will wield it regularly and with ease. That’s right, vector calculus, “a branch of mathematics concerned with differentiation and integration of vector fields, primarily in three dimensional Euclidean space.”
You will find your inner genius and apply this vaunted knowledge in your very own life.
So which is it, you’re now laughing derisively or you’ve stopped breathing out of abject fear? Relax, there won’t be any exams. This is actually going to be pretty simple.
Let’s start with a definition: a vector is something with direction and magnitude. That’s not so hard, is it? Direction just means “which way”. Magnitude just means “how much”. If you don’t get “which way” or “how much”, just ask the nearest third grader, they’ll help you out.
Have you ever been on an airplane? Ok, you’ve at least seen an airplane, right? They vector all the time. That is, they start from somewhere, the pilot picks a direction, he picks a speed and voila! the plane is vectoring.
Right now you may be thinking, “I’m not a pilot and I still don’t like math. Why am I reading this?” Here’s where it applies to you. Every day you start from somewhere. You pick a direction. You put a certain amount of effort into going that direction. You, my friend, are vectoring.
Begin at the Beginning
Society puts great stock in the place you start from. It either respects you for it or it judges you for it. But one thing we all have in common is we start from where we are. Warren Buffett starts from where he is every morning, Brad Pitt does, and Bono does too. So does your garbage man, the MacDonald’s fry cook, and your worst enemy. So it makes no sense to judge starting points. Everyone starts from the same place: where they are. The beginning is the beginning. It doesn’t matter why it is the beginning at this point. No one controls it any longer, not you and not the President. It just is.
Where you have a choice, where you make all the difference is in direction and magnitude. So first, which direction will you choose? Will you choose a “more of the same” direction? Will you choose to head downhill? How about on a backward slide? You could also choose an upward climb or even straight up. It’s up to you.
What about magnitude? Will you head in your chosen direction listlessly, just puttering along? Will your effort be so weak that you don’t even move? Or will you rev it up and roar? Again, it’s your choice.
Opinions About the Irrelevant
You can allow the world’s opinion of your starting point to matter or you can even make it matter yourself. But there is nothing to be done about the starting point. The only action that can be taken now is on the direction you set and how robustly you will move in that direction. The same is true for others. Do you see them based on where they are starting or based on how they are vectoring?
Products and Sums
Another interesting thing about vectors in mathematics is that they can be multiplied, one vector with another. The result is a new vector, the one that truly determines where something is headed and how quickly it will get there. Let’s apply this to you. Are you vectoring both toward the gym and the 7-Eleven junk food aisle? Direction and magnitude are going to matter as to whether or not you end up with a great workout or a disappointing gaze at the bathroom scale.
Even vectors that are not at odds impact one another other. You vector toward loving your children and toward excelling in your career. The product of those vectors will reveal how your kids impact your career and your career impacts your kids.
“Now for some math you thought you’d never use” click to tweet
While the starting point is a variable in the equation, the vector is where all the action is. You can’t manage where you start. But it is completely up to you how you vector. So show those pocket protecting mathboys that you have vectoring down cold.
Tell us about your vectors by commenting below.
Photo credit: geko1973
One thought on “Now For Some Math You Thought You’d Never Use”
I had a professor who said one day I would use this stuff. I guess that day has arrived!