There are days when the kids ask me to help them with their 6th grade Math homework, that I am puzzled at how I ever managed to graduate with a Mechanical Engineering degree. If long division is a struggle for me now, derivatives, and differential equations may as well be hieroglyphics scrawled across a page. No, my engineering degree is a testament to the elasticity of the human brain. Stretch it often enough in any one direction and you can expand its volume. Let it sit still and it will shrivel until it is the size and shape of a raisin.
It amazes me that once upon a time my brain was more trained in the complexities of science, and mathematical logic, than it was intuition and cognition. How could it have been so different? Did the fact that my neurons flowed through other portions of my brain effect my personality, or change the core of who I am? These are the questions that keep me up at night.
I should have seen it coming. The indications were there even during the height of my engineering studies. The clues were written in my textbook:
“Like all other physical laws used in classical thermodynamics, the second law cannot be proved but is a statement of observed phenomena.” – Howell & Buckius, Fundamentals of Engineering Thermodynamics, (1987) pg. 183
I can remember the effect that the 2nd law of thermodynamics had upon me at the time. I began to realize the presence of entropy all around me, yet it took me another 2 years to come to a full understanding of them.
Science is the application of mathematical logic to explain the way that the world operates. Every equation we learned for determining strength, stress, or motion included a small fudge factor to account for losses & friction. The problems we were given to solve required us to ignore the world around the problem, and focus on an arbitrary ideal system.
But no system is ideal, no process is completely reversible. The world is non-linear.
By the end of my senior year I was pointing it out to class mates with incredulity. “This is bullshit. You cannot leave out the effects of friction and losses on these problems. You cannot isolate a system from the world around it for the simplification of calculating an answer.”
They looked at me and shrugged. “So what? Go along with it and get your diploma.” So I did.
But I knew the hollowness of it all. Logic could only approximate what actually happened around us. Reality often defies logic. We become so conditioned to ignoring the effects of chaos and loss that we block out their presence in our life, and pretend they do not exist. And when we are faced with events that do not fit into our neat definition of the world, we kick and cry like spoiled children.
Not fair! Not fair!
Life is not fair. Human behavior is not completely predictable. We are constantly choosing to do things that we know are illogical, that we know will lead to results that are not in our own best interest.
Emotion is not logic.
Love is not beholden to mathematics.
So I learned to not ignore intuition. We need it as much as reason and logic to function in this world.
This is why there are two halves to our brains.
This is what makes us human.
In the end, everything