January 11, 2018


In mathematics, the word constant exists as both an adjective and a noun. As an adjective, mathematicians use the word to describe something as non-varying. As a noun, mathematicians will use the same word to identify either a fixed number or object. I was reading about Euler's constant (see below) this morning and was amazed to note that no one knows if this constant is rational or irrational. Personally, I like the mystery. If you are not aware, a rational number is any value that can be expressed as a quotient (e.g., 4 = (8/2); whereas, an irrational number is any value that can not be expressed as a quotient (e.g., 3.14). Some mathematician, no doubt at some point in the future, will discover if Euler's constant is rational or irrational. Until then, we will have to accept that the constant provides use to people in the STEM fields. I can, however, answer the question, "why was I thinking about the word constant?" The answer to that question is a grandfather's love.

Euler's constant image

Most parents love and want what is best for their children, but a grandfather's love is a different thing, altogether. His love is just constant, rational and irrational at the same time. One of our missions at STEM-VRSE involves providing education on VR to people within informal learning environments. Yesterday, we were fortunate to educate seven people with no prior experience in VR. In the course of our work with these people I noticed the constant nature of a grandfather's love. Let me explain.

We met with members of the public on Thursday (1/11/18) at the Blue Baker on University. After the usual "lunch rush", Dakota and I began the process of setting up the VR equipment. A regular customer, whom I had invited, showed up to participate in the VR experience. Like the other people we worked with yesterday, he spoke of the experience as "innovative" and how he saw "great potential across many applications." When asked about any concerns he might have in the use of VR, his response was immediate, "Could my grandchildren become addicted to this technology?" I am not proud to admit that I chuckled, not at the content of his response, but the rapid nature. He immediately began to explain how this was no laughing matter, to which I immediately apologized. He, however, was just warming up. We spent the next five minutes discussing how he appreciated the technology and was looking forward to the day when students, like his grandchildren, would learn through VR. He never dropped his concern, however, over the potential of his grandchildren becoming addicted to the technology. I can not tell this man that VR will have no detrimental impact on his grandchildren; no one could. I do know, however, of one person who will keep an eye out, just in case. Maybe, just maybe, mathematicians should consider a new constant, a grandfather's love.

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