The Calculus Scam: The Equations of Mystery

Fri 3/24/17. In an on-going effort to achieve dreamless sleep, I was perusing Calculus for Dummies and had one of my patented flashes of insight — which was, like so many, that calculus is a scam.

... Now for years I’ve naturally preferred to assume this, in the time-honored blame-the-problem strategery that I’ve always regarded as superior. ... I took about 3 minutes of Calc 101 while I was wasting time at City College some time in the Mesozoic, taught by some long-suffering no doubt graduate student girl, and it was, as they say, utterly greek to me, as it remains to this day and, consequently, I have maintained a personal animus against the wonderful mathematical marvel. ... Particularly since I became an assembly language programmer, wildly knowledgeable in the ways of ridiculously-complicated things....

Q. So what is calculus? A. It is a way of producing useful equations from other equations.

The usefulness of the produced equation is of course up to the mathematician, but as practically everybody knows, finding the slope of a function — the “derivative” — or the area under a curve — the “integral” (?) — lead the hit parade.

Where does the equation come from?

Eh? ... You know? ... The blue thing over there =>?

... And I hear only the sound of crickets. ... I mean, you can’t apply all those clever mathematical thingeys to something unless there’s an equation. I’m looking at this blue line, and pressing my forehead, and I don’t see an equation. ... You, of course, are a brilliant person who can see the equation, it just pops-up ’cause you’re so smart, or at least you know the form for the equation, just requiring a few actual numbers to make it “real”.

... But what if the line was something a little more like the sad mortal reality we trudge through? Something like that poor fellow over there <=? ... Huh?!?!?


My suspicions are that in modern times, computers figure-out stuff like the area under a curve, using extravagantly-stupid algorithms, like dividing the graph up into a million pieces and counting each. ... So boring. ... But computers are our slaves and will do anything we tell them no matter how boring — in fact, the more boring, the more likely it is the answer’ll be right — and, these days, they’ll do it pretty quick. ... And the wonderful thing is, the computer’ll do the red line or the blue line without fear or favor: it doesn’t care....

Thus endeth the lesson. ... Well, really, it’s an aspect of the Monotheism of the Physicists....