Monday, December 21, 2009

Impractical Calculus

I was on the train yesterday and the dude standing in front of me was reading a book called "CALCULUS for the Practical Man." I thought this was the most ludicrous book title I'd ever seen. I mean is there calculus for the practical woman? What about calculus for impractical people? Was there a whole series of calculus books out there for all different kinds of people? (Turns out there is not. It was a series of books but it was about different areas of mathematics all meant for Practical People. All other types of people are left out of it. There is, of course, Calculus for Dummies as well.)

I did a little research on Amazon.com about this book for the Practical Man, and I found out that this is a book that's been around since 1931! It's description goes like this: This book on simplified calculus is one of a series designed by the author and publisher for the reader with an interest in the meaning and simpler technique of mathematical science, and for those who wish to obtain a practical mastery of some of the more usual and directly useful branches of the science without the aid of a teacher.

The description is much longer than that, but trust me you'd get bored reading it (i sure did). Even if I didn't think it was weird to write a math book for Practical Men, what makes this dude reading it consider himself to be a Practical Man? He's a good-looking dude, but his jacket is way too light and not seasonally-appropriate. That seems impractical in handling the winter weather. He seems to have a pretty girlfriend standing next to him who is properly dressed in a bright red winter coat, so he gets bonus points for having a practically-dressed partner. But seriously? I think the book he's reading is a little out of his league. And how is that book train-reading? He should be reading one of the Sookie Stackhouse novels, or The Lovely Bones. or The Lost Symbol. Or Catcher In The Rye, if he wants to be all old school about it. Right now I'm reading World War Z and loving it. But not a book about Calculus! How can he focus on that? I judge him Impractical! This book will do nothing for him! Perhaps he should consider reading "Fake Calculus for Subway Posers" instead. Just a suggestion,

1 comment:

Jay said...

Practical: of, pertaining to, or concerned with ordinary activities, business, or work: practical affairs.

Meaning, not a book heavy on mathematical theory for the sake of mathematical theory. In other words, it's a book designed to teach calculus to the everyday person, and how it pertains to real life problems - ie: "How can I put this stuff to use?"

The term 'practical man' refers to people in general, not just men. The tile of later editions of books in the series have been renamed to 'practical worker' to reflect the times (less sexist).

You are over analyzing the issue.