Excruciatingly Large Things

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I am a Box

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I am a box.

I’m not joking! And not just any box, but a regular cuboid of 103cm along each side. I am made of wood. Not just any wood, but cheap, medium density fibreboard. Prone to splinters and easily damaged, it has made living my life as an ordinary individual almost impossible. Sometimes people put things inside me, mainly because they think I’m just a box, but also because many human beings are secretive, forgetful and selfish. Some things people have put inside me include:

• three semi-translucent orange globes
• a fridge-magnet simulacrum of a badger
• a record by Engelbert Humperdinck
• instructions as to the whereabouts of ‘happiness’
• four trumpets
• a baby aardvark (freeze dried)
• a postcard from the city of Cardiff

Some things which have never been inside me include:

• a galaxy
• Engelbert Humperdinck
• Jerusalem
• the 1960s

I don’t like being a regular, fibreboard cuboid of 103cm along each side. I’d rather be a dodecahedron, or a hypercube. A dodecahedron is any polyhedron with twelve faces. Salvador Dali painted his version of The Last Supper as taking place inside a dodecahedron. A hypercube which exists in 4 dimensions of space, rather than the usual 3, is called a ‘tesseract’. Dali painted the crucifixion of Jesus as taking place on an unfurled tesseract. Dali is my hero because he painted a hypercube. I’d like to be one of them more than anything else in the universe, although I doubt a tesseract made out of medium density fibreboard could ever exist.

According to a dictionary which was once inside me, boxes are ‘highly variable receptacles’. I often wonder who invented the box, or even if boxes could be invented. Which came first: the human or the box? You might consider me a joker for posing such a question, but I mean no hilarity with my words. The box is not just an object, it is also a mathematical entity: a cube. If the dimensions of a cube are a, b and c, then its volume is always abc and its surface area has to be 2ab + 2bc + 2ac. This is true regardless of whether a human invents it or not. Humans invent ‘things’ and manipulate representations of ‘things’ in their minds, but mathematics has always been around. Does that make me more real than you? I am a concept expressed in the language of nature. I would exist abstractly whether your mind understood me or not. Whereas you, well, you’re just a chaotic bundle of matter, perceptions and nothing more. There’s no function for being human, at least, not one that can be expressed mathematically. Are you as highly variable as a box?

As Salvador Dali once said "Thank God I am still an atheist."

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Blogger k canard said...

What if mathematics is an entirely human creation, only we don't realise it? Perhaps all the mathematical discoveries are actually human creations that only appear to us as uncoverings. Not really knowing what kind of thing the Universe is how can we be sure that the stuff of the the universe is reducible to mathematics?
You box, are not your mathematical perfection - a cube - you are imperfect physical similar. Only in maths can an actual mathematical anything exist (perfect circle, cube etc.) Mathematics seems like an abstracted model - every box is unique but maths codifies that abstracted concept of box to a concept of cube - this seems to have something to do with the human habit of abstraction.

What if maths is a component of human perception and understanding - how could we ever realise? It would be impossible to perceive anything wthout interpreting through maths. So the universe and everything would seem to be describable by mathematics.

Any mathematical reduction of the universe would lead to an infinite series of models modelling itself modelling the universe.

What bearings do the discoveries of quantum theory have on the definite-ness of mathematics?

March 13, 2007 10:54 PM    

Blogger Danieru said...

What if indeed....

These are the kind of questions which keep boxes awake at night. Who created what/who/why? The universe versus human apperception...


March 14, 2007 2:18 PM    

Blogger Perkunas said...

My favorite boxes are from the American Pacific Northwest where the native peoples have developed bent-wood boxes, boxes made from 3 pieces of wood, the longest creating the 4 sides of the box and which is then carved at the corners so it can bend and then steam heated to make it pliable for bending, at which time it is tied off at one edge with spruce roots, fitted with top and bottom, and sometimes carved on the sides.

See: http://www.davidboxley.com/boxes.asp

March 29, 2007 5:11 PM    

Blogger terseword said...

I don't believe in "boxes"

February 09, 2008 7:16 PM    

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