In prior blogs I noted that the terms Turing Test and Prisoner's Dilemma have been used in articles for non-math people. In the age of Google people can look things up (recall that Google makes us smarter). I have since seen Prisoner's Dilemma used as the name of an episode of the TV show White Collar. They used it mostly correctly in the show.
I have spotted some more math term in a non-math context.
In an article entitled Rachel Uchitel is not a Madam., which is about the world Tiger Woods was involved in, the following was mentioned. (The context is a comparison between the options men have for affairs: a prostitute or a civilian.)
Both methods of slaking the hunger have their pros and cons. Men like to hunt, and there is no need to hunt a prostitute. Men like to cheat without strings, and you can't stop a civilian from falling in love. But (Tiger) Woods found a way to enjoy the best of both worlds in one type of woman, a Venn diagram of sexual satisfaction. Most of his women lived in a nebulous in-between world.Will this enlighten the masses as to what a Venn diagram is? If they look it up then yes; however, the actual statement is wrong. What they really mean is an intersection of sexual satisfaction, or, as it is commonly known, an intersextion.
An article entitled Harry Potter and the Dragged out final act began as follows.
When Warner brothers announced that the seventh and final book of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, would be two movies, it occurred to me that the company had been insufficiently ambitious. If, as reported, Warner executives are scared of running short of tentpoles (i.e., the so-called franchises that prop up a studio), they should at the very least divide the next half in half. Following Zeno's paradox, they could even turn Deathly Hallows into an infinite number of sequels with Becket-like arcs of nonaction: "Let's apparate." [They do not move.]Is this the correct usage of Zeno's paradox? Becket? Apparate? I was inspired to look up apparate and put in a pointer so that you can learn what it means too!
There is a general interest magazine called n+1. I emailed the editors to ask why they chose the name and got this enlightening response:
Well, as a non-math person and one of the founding editors of n+1, I can tell you that we still don't know very much about math, but we did have some vague high school memories of set theory and algebra and knew that n+1 could mean, if it were a set, an infinite series or open-ended expansion, or just that for any quantity (n), there's often more than meets the eye, or is commonly thought or known (+1). That was the sense that Chad Harbach, another founding editor, had in mind when he first thought of the title as a placeholder, a math metaphor for human potential, back when he was a Harvard undergrad. Over time, the title also seemed to work in response to the "End of History" crowd, all those people who told us that no new ideas were really possible in the humanities, no new writing was possible, that it was foolish to start a magazine of politics, literature, and culture in these times. So we took on n+1 as a rallying cry, of sorts. Someone might also hear it as "end+1," after the end, a new beginning, that sort of thing. We did have a math PhD friend who suggested that, if we really wanted to designate an infinite universe of possibilities, we should have called it omega plus one, but that seemed too much for us non-math types. As far as I know, omega plus one is still available as a title.I wish them well too!
Thanks for writing in to ask and best of luck with the blog and other endeavors,
Will any of these terms enter the common vocabulary? I suspect that Prisoner's Dilemma will as it is a nice shorthand for a common phenomena. I suspect that Turing Test, Venn Diagram, Zeno's Paradox, and n+1 do not come up often enough to break out into common use.
What math terms have you seen used in articles for non-math people? Were they used correctly? Will they become common? Are they common already? If so have then are they related to the original meaning?