The Number i

I once had a long talk with a Wiccan. She didn’t so much believe in her religion as think it would be a good thing if it were true. She liked the drama, the esthetic, and especially, the notion of a female deity.

sqrti

The number i always reminds me of this. The square root of negative one. By the rules of Algebra it cannot exist; either two positive or two negative numbers multiplied are always positive. The only other choice is zero…. We can, however, imagine such a number, so it is called an imaginary number.

Odd thing happen when you assume the imaginary number. Algebra is completed. Order falls out of the chaos of transcendental numbers. You get a really cool way to deal with periodic events.

e

Assuming that which is impossible leads to transcendent results.

That is the best metaphor for God I have ever come across.

e_to_the_pi_times_i

xkcd

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3 comments on “The Number i

  1. AMB says:

    Very interesting. Although I’m not a Wiccan, there are a lot of things about Wicca that are very appealing: the divine female and the drama (spells, rituals, long robes, etc) like you mentioned, as well as the connection to pre-christian european culture that we don’t otherwise hear much about. I could see why someone would want to be a part of that religion, even if they didn’t really believe it. I wonder how common that thinking is among people of different faiths.

  2. feralplum says:

    AMB, I am enough influenced by Wycliffe, Luther, Newton, and my Puritan fore bearers to have a problem with Wicca. God, reality, Truth, what you will is that which is really out there. Incumbent upon us is the search for truth. I see no basic conflict between science and religion anymore than I see a basic conflict between Quantum and Relativistic physics. Or linguistics and archeology. There are serious discrepancies, but such disciplines try to find the same answers by divers methods.

    I cannot take too seriously the method of telling a story so that I may believe it fervently. Perhaps were I a Platonist, I could convince myself that I was aperceptively receiving a higher truth. But that way is closed to me; it tastes too much like carving an idol.. Besides, I know enough of the old European religions to realize that Wicca is a very recent invention from far different roots than it’s practitioners hold.

    There seems to be a human need for ceremony and esthetic satisfaction. I cannot unravel that knot.

    • AMB says:

      I also don’t see any kind of incompatibility between science and religion. Religion, at least in one sense, is about worship. It is about organizing people together to praise and promote something they revere. It also seems to be about worlds we cannot see. However, I do not see this as unscientific, because there are many things I don’t fully understand but still believe in. For instance, I personally couldn’t tell you a lot about how the human body works, but I admit that I do trust what scientists say about it based on their-dare I say it- authority. But I don’t know, maybe that’s not a good example.

      Religion is a term that to me is very vague and hard to define, so when comparing it with science, I usually just compare science to different specific belief systems, called “religions.” Some of them seem to conflict with science, and others do not.

      Yes Wicca is definitely different than actual old religions of Europe. I don’t know all that much about all of them, but I know enough to be very interested in them. Even if Wicca is not the same thing, at least it reminds people of those old religions that are otherwise forgotten.

      And yes I agree. People do feel the need to have ceremonies and order and worship. Maybe that is a defining characteristic of “religion,” but then again I don’t know if I really know what religion is.

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