Dear Wigleaf,

I've been watching a series of YouTube videos about imaginary numbers. I don't have a desk, so I watch them on my laptop at the kitchen table.

Imaginary is sort of a misnomer, it turns out.

It's not that these numbers only exist in our minds, childhood friends who live in under the bed or have five arms. They exist in a different dimension, perpendicular to the numbers we're familiar with, even the complicated ones like irrational numbers. They exist not outside of real numbers but on top of them.

An imaginary number was used to solve this seemingly impossible equation. Mathematicians knew there was a solution, but no one could figure it out using real numbers. The imaginary number was vital to solving the equation, but it wasn't involved in either the solution or the answer. It just helped the mathematician make a connection that couldn't be made with the numbers he knew.

The other day my husband, who is a drummer, told me that sometimes drummers will insult someone's playing style by saying he plays like he's trying to solve a math problem. Those guys must not know about imaginary numbers.

Hope all your equations work out,


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Read her story.

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