Jach's personal blog

(Largely containing a mind-dump to myselves: past, present, and future)
Current favorite quote: "Supposedly smart people are weirdly ignorant of Bayes' Rule." William B Vogt, 2010

The Cumber Manifesto

I propose we stop calling imaginary and complex numbers imaginary and complex numbers. I propose we throw them all in the same bucket called "Cumbers". This has several advantages, which I shall briefly enumerate.

First is the instant association with a cucumber. Now I don't have kids, so I don't know if Cucumbers are the new Broccoli, but when I was a kid I loved cucumbers as much as I do today. (Though I loved broccoli too, so...) Cucumbers are cool and green and friendly. When written down, Cumbers can even resemble a long cucumber: (3 + 4*j).

Second is just avoiding the names which can lead to confusion in children and some teenagers. I'd like young children to learn algebra, but young children may not be able to fully grasp that one word can have completely different meanings. So when they hear "Imaginary" they think "This doesn't correspond to anything real", or when they hear "Complex" they think "Oh no this is hard." This is compounded by the more important, sad fact that even high school calculus teachers don't know what complex numbers are useful for. I had a great teacher, he didn't know. He said vaguely "electrical engineering." Now I know better, know more, but that's a different subject. Calling them "Cumbers" gets rid of this potentially emotionally distressing situation in the names.

Third and finally is the humor aspect. When we're older we make jokes about Imaginary Friends and oh-so-sarcastically-hard Complex problems. But Cumbers are not without their humor. For example: "This problem is so cumbersome." You might want to call a Cumber with just rationals inside a "Q-cumber". There are also a couple dirty jokes to be had.

We don't even need to change the Set sign for Cumbers! I hope you'll join me in using that term in the future.

Posted on 2011-07-20 by Jach

Tags: math


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