Friday, February 27, 2009

Alms: Not Just Good in Theory

Before getting to my Lenten reflection, I just want to mention the bizarre dream I had last night (mostly for Rich's sake, so he can reply): I dreamed that I was asking Rich if imaginary numbers had any practical application or were they purely theoretical, and could there be negative imaginary numbers, and he gave me a comic book about imaginary numbers. Then I realized that they could be used to solve the most puzzling questions of quantum physics! Wow! In my dream I used negative imaginary numbers to explain the ENTIRE cosmos! But of course I forgot the answer before waking up...

Huh, according to Wikipedia, you CAN use imaginary numbers in quantum physics. Well, maybe YOU can... I know as much about quantum physics as I do about brain surgery, despite my dream of solving The Equation. (Thanks to Douglas Adams, we already know the answer is 42; we just don't know the question.)

Today I am reflecting on almsgiving. As a little girl in Catholic school, I learned that we should always take just what we need and less than we want, so that others can have what they need. For reasons I can't explain, I somehow related this to indoor plumbing and thought I should never finish a glass of water, but instead poured the last third back down the sink so the "people down the line" could also have water. It seems crazy now, but I was seven so it didn't occur to me that I was actually wasting water, nor how incredibly disgusting it would be if people got water down the line from other people. The important thing is that those nuns instilled in me the idea that I should always think of others, and we should always do so, but during Lent we are called to do so in practical ways. One idea I had, which other friends have picked up on, is that if I go out to eat during Lent, I then have to give an equal amount to charity. However you decide to give alms this Lent, make sure it is something concrete, time or money or goods, because while imaginary numbers may have practical applications, theoretical charity is pointless.

Famous Hat

1 comment:

Richard Bonomo said...

Yes, indeed, imaginary numbers are used in a number of ways in science and engineering, including, indeed, quantum physics. Typically, imaginary numbers are used in combination with non-imaginary numbers in constructs called "complex numbers," which usually have a form such as 1.0+j2.0 (or 1.0+i2.0, the use of "i" or "j" varying with discipline). "j" refers to the square root of negative one (-1), which is an imaginary number, by definition. Complex numbers are often used to express phase relationships or other sorts of angles. They are often used in system stability analyses as well.