Complex conversations

Complex numbers are incredibly useful. Alas, as we’ve said before in these pages, because they are called “complex numbers”, people get scared away. To make things even worse, in the standard terminology, going from a “real” number to a complex number requires adding an “imaginary” number.

Clearly complex numbers need a better press agent.

On the other hand, this odd terminology is very useful in other spheres of discourse. Say, for example, a psychologist is explaining the Id, Ego and Superego to someone who has never even heard of Freud. Or a Catholic priest is describing the Holy Trinity to an atheist. Or a string theorist is explaining the ten dimensions of spacetime to a non-scientist.

In each case, the two conversants have very different ideas of what is Real. The speaker believes he is expanding the listener’s mind by describing something Complex. Alas, all the listener may hear is something that sounds Imaginary.

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