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Math diagrams for living?
What’s On in Madrid:
Virtual photo exhibit on women in the Spanish Civil War. Women took an active role in Spain’s Civil War, as part of the people’s militia as well as nurses and support system behind the lines; their role and level of participation was different on the two sides. This virtual exhibit has photos from some of the best photographers of the day as well as a lot of explanatory text (Spanish only, alas).
Link for exhibit / book with text and photos http://www.madrid.org/archivos/images/EXPOSICIONES_VIRTUALES/MUJERES_GUERRA/1_Catalogo.pdf#zoom=91
Ven a Venn (come to Venn)
When did you first learn about sets? My first experience was in second grade arithmetic. And while I did not know the name, that was also my first encounter with Venn diagrams.
At that early age, I still did not hate mathematics. It was still fun stuff, and I didn’t yet know that a) girls weren’t supposed to like numbers and b) my family is a words family, not a numbers family. That all came later and has stuck with me to this day. Except for story problems in algebra and proofs in geometry. Those were fun.
So I’m pretty sure Venn diagram concepts first came in arithmetic. I seem to remember a red set and a blue set, both shown as circles with common members shown as a slice of purple, though I don’t remember what the sets were. Knowing that our kid-intro to the concept of sets was in arithmetic, it shouldn’t have surprised me to learn that Venn diagrams have long been used in mathematics – but it did surprise me. The way my word-brain works, the concept now seems ideal for sociology, history or anthropology, subjects not in the second grade curriculum.
Curious about these diagrams, I checked with St. Google: it turns out that what we call Venn diagrams were popularized by John Venn, “English mathematician, logician and philosopher” (according to St. Wiki), who popularized the diagrams in 1880. Note he didn’t invent the idea, using diagrams to visualize concepts or organize information has been around a lot longer.
My research also turned up some Venn trivia: where two sets intersect is the ellipse, which I sort-of knew. And where three sets intersect (that round-sided triangle) is a Reuleaux triangle (that triangle exists elsewhere and has some interesting properties). And get this for true trivia: you cannot draw a four-set Venn diagram showing all possible intersections among the sets with circles, it has to be another shape (google that for the explanation).
Back to my personal experience with these diagrams, it’s interesting that I don’t remember using the sets concept or Venn diagrams again in grade school or even in high school, though we probably used in math, but by then numbers were definitely not my thing so I may be forgetting. I’m pretty sure we used the idea in college sociology, though don’t remember exactly how.
My more recent Venn experience is in thinking about how people I know fall into different groups (sets), sometimes with overlap, and sometimes not. My Madrid expat friends, for example, are my friends from long ago and friends from expat clubs – a larger set with two sub-sets? My hiking / biking friends are mostly Spanish, but some from previous group of expats. My Camino friends are both people met on the trail and people who have walked in my group trips. My Facebook friends are some real-life, others just online (for now), and sometimes Camino, sometimes cultural, and sometimes other. There’s enough overlap in some of those “sets” that I have to think whether Janie knows Joanie knows Mary, or not. Sometimes it seems so obvious that people SHOULD know each other, because they would probably be friends if they did know each other, but there is no connection between them except me, as a mutual friend.
So all those sets, some with overlap and some not, come together with one tiny intersection of all that is just….. me, reflecting all the different parts of my life and my interests (by the way, that diagram is undrawable so not even going to try). This is sort of a very strange or somewhat profound idea, and while I didn’t read it anywhere, surely others have thought of this in similar or different words. If you haven’t thought about friends like this, maybe you could. At the very least it could help in planning the guest list for a party, pondering whether you can mix set A and set Q, or whether two friends might or might not enjoy each other’s company.
Ancient history and personal pondering aside, you’ve probably also notice Venn diagrams on social media. The big Venn-surge was in 2009-2010, though has declined since then – I don’t remember seeing them that long ago though yes recently, usually silly GIF’s or memes to explain our current social or political situation, or a concept so obscure it is unusable, or to define words that are similar but not the same.
Anyway. Social media and personal reflections aside, Venn diagrams could be quite useful in daily life, especially for people who are visual thinkers. Even for word people (like me) this could be a tool for brainstorming ideas, for evaluating travel options, for comparing opinions on an important topic, for some kinds of presentations, or for seeing overlap between apparently random ideas.
Funny how Venn diagrams almost completely dropped out of my mind, brought back mainly by the social media craze. Now they’re going into my toolbox, together with random jottings, task-organizer apps and mind-mapping.
More ideas on Venn, including some examples from social media