Bare with me, for I don’t really know what I am about to talk about, but I feel that I’m on to something!

An idea sparked in my mind whilst listening to an audio-book entitled, The Universe in a Nutshell by Stephen Hawking. Not that I understood every word of it, but some ideas stuck out and stayed with me.

The main one being the idea, or creation, or rather discovery of imaginary numbers. In his book, Hawking goes on to say how imaginary numbers used to be looked at as fictitious, but have now (when he wrote the book in 2001) gained some traction and have been widely accepted as a true mathematical construct.

For those who don’t know what imaginary numbers are, I will give you my understanding of them (just take note that I suck at math). Originally coined by Rene Descartes, the term was popularized by the work of Augustin-Louis Euler, Leonhard Euler, Rafael Bombelli, and Carl Friedrich Gauss. The discovery came about by running into a mathematical problem that just couldn’t be solved (the square root of a negative number). That is until imaginary numbers came into play. They allowed the completion of said problem and that of many others. However, they do not exist on a normal number line. Rather they exist above and below it and are thus multi-dimensional, expressed by the letter i – which equals the square root of negative 1. (Gauss preferred the term lateral instead of imaginary, as imaginary numbers are very much real).

That is all you really need to know to express my point. You can learn more about them through this helpful series of videos by Welch Labs, by clicking here.

Now, listening to Hawking talk about imaginary numbers made me think of a book I read entitled, When Einstein Walked with Godel by Jim Holt. It is a fabulous book where every chapter covers something different, in terms of science, mathematics, philosophy and just life in general. One of the chapters discusses how mathematics (or even if you just look at simple numbers) are not such a human endeavor of creating and formulating equations, than they are discovering a secret to the world. It is an excavation of a universal law and understanding that is expressed through numbers and equations. The number two is not something we made up, but rather an archaeological figure that we discovered, which existed before we ever were here and will continue existing long after we are gone.

To me, looking at math this way completely changed my perspective and the way I look at numbers in general.

What other secrets are they hiding? What other symbols exists that we are unable to see?

The way imaginary numbers come into play are that when I heard Hawking talk about how they used to be viewed and how they are currently used and viewed, it made me think. If these numbers were so out of the box, because they are by no means normal computations (for the most part), what else could we see using our imaginations (or creativity) that isn’t as fictitious or crazy as you or others might think? And are other things we imagine so dreamlike? Do they not have some tangible applications?

Perhaps, our imaginations – or what have you – hold something deeper than dreams and wishes? Perhaps, they hold a truth that shows us a world that is realer than we may think? Perhaps, our imaginations themselves are realer than we may think?

Perhaps, it shows us a world that isn’t so imaginative, after all?

Maybe they are real and multi-dimensional. Just like imaginary numbers.


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