Love Among the Equations


Jennifer Ouellette over at SciAm's Cocktail Party Physics (image from xkcd):

Shortly after becoming engaged, my now-husband and I drove from a conference in San Francisco to our new home in Los Angeles via the scenic route along the Pacific Coast Highway. At sunset, we stopped briefly to refuel just north of Malibu and found ourselves admiring the brilliant orange, red, and purple hues stretching across the darkening horizon, savoring the peaceful sound of ocean waves lapping against the shore.

Against this idyllic Hallmark moment, Sean put his arms around me, pressed his cheek to mine, and gently whispered, “Wouldn’t it be fascinating to take a Fourier transform of those waves?”

A Fourier transform is a mathematical equation that takes a complex wave of any kind – water, sound, light, even the gravitational waves that permeate the fabric of space time – and breaks it down into its component parts to reveal the full spectrum of “colors” that are otherwise hidden from human perception.

Another woman might have been taken aback by Sean injecting a bit of cold hard math into the warm hues of a romantic ocean sunset – talk about over-analyzing the scene and spoiling the mood! Me? I found it charming, yet another intriguing color in the spectrum that makes up this multifaceted man with whom I have chosen to share my life.

My husband is a theoretical physicist. He spends his days pondering big questions about space, time, and the origins of the universe. It’s not just Fourier transforms that lurk in the nooks and crannies of our marriage. Our pillow talk includes animated discussions about Boltzmann brains, the rules of time travel, poker, phase transitions, and the possibility of a multiverse: the notion that there are an infinite number of universes out there, beyond our ken, perhaps containing carbon copies of ourselves – the same, and yet somehow different.

More here.