Math it up.
October 27, 2011 11:27 AM   Subscribe

I used to be math nerd, but I've forgotten most of it because, despite what I was told in high school, I don't use vector calculus in the Real World. I've used textbooks to brush up on old topics before, but self-imposed homework just isn't very fun. What hobbies/projects/??? can I take up to take advantage of any derive enjoyment again from my math background?

If the specifics are important, I went to a math and science magnet high school where I went as far as differential equations, vector calculus, AP physics, some light electricity and magnetism, and just for fun, some mental math competitions. Despite this and to the weeping and gnashing of old teachers I became an artist who doesn't do anything much related to math. So, major bonus points if your suggestion involves producing a thing of some kind.
posted by cmoj to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (16 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
Pick up metalworking for sculpture or making functional things. If you want to be out on the edge of what's possible (i.e., what looks good and won't fall apart) you'll use lots and lots of math.
posted by introp at 11:32 AM on October 27, 2011

Design fast sailboats. They can be model-sized, R/C sailboat racing is a thing. Every time I even try to understand anything about this I get lost in the fluid dynamics almost immediately (surfboards too, which I think have even more complicated interactions with the water).
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 11:57 AM on October 27, 2011

Sailing, if you're intersted in vector calc again.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:57 AM on October 27, 2011

Processing is the perfect programming language for you!
posted by Tom-B at 12:22 PM on October 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Go to the websites of several colleges and take their math placement/study practice tests/study guides.
posted by TinWhistle at 12:29 PM on October 27, 2011

Want to make pretty pictures of things blowing up? Ever thought about CG visual effects? You can grab a free version of Houdini and give it a whirl. It is becoming *the choice* of VFX houses everywhere, and strong math background gives you a leg up as a CG effects artist.
posted by shino-boy at 12:42 PM on October 27, 2011

I used math when I designed some stained glass projects. The first one was just figuring out the dimensions of a rectangle 1 square foot in area with a 5-pointed star touching the edges, but one was a lampshade that was an icosahedron.
posted by MtDewd at 12:47 PM on October 27, 2011

Math jokes!

Q. What's up?
A. North cross west.

Q. What do you get when you cross a mountain climber with a mosquito?
A. Nothing, you can't cross a scalar with a vector.
posted by maryr at 2:43 PM on October 27, 2011 [3 favorites]

Programming! Totally scratches the "math homework itch" in my head. Agree with commenter who suggested proccessing, it's a good place to start.
posted by beyond_pink at 3:12 PM on October 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

More intricate forms of origami require math skills; the documentary Between the Folds is a great exploration of this.
posted by carrienation at 3:16 PM on October 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yeah, programming. My husband writes computer games for fun. Depending on whether he wants to put in a decent physics model or not, he can end up needing minimal maths, or really complicated stuff.
posted by lollusc at 4:44 PM on October 27, 2011

Control theory uses diffeq, vector calculus, statistics, and matrix math, and can be used to build graceful robots / reactive objects. If you want to combine your artistic impulse with your mathy impulse, there's a lot of room to explore there, where the line between sculpture and robotics is blurry.
posted by hattifattener at 10:13 PM on October 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Sewing things - especially things that you design yourself - requires incredible spatial reasoning that you can't appreciate until you try it.
posted by corn_bread at 9:26 AM on October 28, 2011

I second programming. There are also many areas of "pure math" for which you have quite a bit more background than necessary, and which have fairly obvious aesthetics. For example, if you're interested in reading something, this book on algebraic topology is, while ostensibly a textbook, a readable story that makes the aesthetically nice aspects of the subject pretty easily apparent. (This subject is closer to spatial intuitions that seem to arise just from being human than, say, differential equations, especially if you are a visual artist.)
posted by kengraham at 12:50 PM on November 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Also, if you're an artist, these functional sculptures might interest you, as might this knitting. This person does interesting explicitly mathematical sculpture, which might serve as a good point of departure for a project.
posted by kengraham at 12:54 PM on November 20, 2011

I dunno, kengraham, differential equations is a pretty spatial-intuitive subject for most people I know. (Er, among the people who think about diffeq, that is.)
posted by hattifattener at 12:16 AM on November 21, 2011

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