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I take inspiration where I can get it. My girlfriend recently alerted me to a viral video in which a teenage girl //www.tiktok.com/foryou?lang=en#/@gracie.ham/video/6864198263063448837">complains about mathematics. “I was just doing my makeup for work,” Gracie Cunningham says while dabbing makeup on her face, “and I just wanted to tell you guys how I don’t think math is real.”

Some of the math she’s learning in school, Cunningham suggests, has little to do with the world in which she lives. “I get addition, like, if I take two apples and add three it’s five. But how would you come up with the concept of algebra?” While some geeks mocked Cunningham, others came to her defense, pointing out that she is raising questions that have troubled scientific heavyweights.

Gracie’s complaints struck a chord in me. Since last May, as part of my ongoing effort to learn quantum mechanics, I’ve been struggling to grasp eigenvectors, complex conjugates and other esoterica. Wolfgang Pauli dismissed some ideas as so off base that they’re “not even wrong.” I’m so confused that I’m not even confused. I keep wondering, as Cunningham put it, “Who came up with this concept?”

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