Liberal Arts Blog — The Math of Orion — How Many? Who Cares? Who Should?

Liberal Arts Blog — Monday is the Joy of Math, Statistics, Shapes, and Numbers Day

Today’s topic — The Math of Orion — How Many? Who Cares? Who Should?

In a post last spring (4/20), I wrote about why Orion is only visible three months of the year. Today, a follow up post on my favorite asterism. The first fact to note about Orion is that it doesn’t exist. I mean objectively. It just exists in the human mind. It’s not a collection of celestial bodies, say like the planets of the solar system, or the stars of the Milky Way. It’s a figment of the human imagination. As such it is the perfect metaphor for the human quest for meaning. Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.

HOW MANY STARS IN ORION? YOU DECIDE.

1. To me, the answer is seven. Why? a random choice?

2. The seven stars that are most prominent and pop out from the night sky are the three of the central belt and the four on the periphery.

3. Together they form a bow tie — aligned vertically.

ORGANIZING THE SEVEN STARS TO REMEMBER THEM

1. Seven is the outer limit of human memory.

2. To remember the stars, you have to clump them. (Analogy: phone numbers, 3 + 4)

3. Start with the three stars of the belt. The brightest is the central star Alnilam. On its right is Alnitak, on its left Mintaka.

NB: The peripheral stars — moving clockwise from the upper right shoulder: Betelgeuse, Bellatrix, Rigel, and Saiph.

ASSIGNING MEANING TO EACH STAR TO IMPROVE YOUR LIFE

1. In the chaos of daily life, in its stormy seas, it is easy to lose your bearings, not to mention your lunch (and your cool).

2. How about using Orion as a moral compass? as a moral horizon line to steady your mind, stomach, and heart?

3. For me, alnilam is gratitude. Alnitak is kindness. Mintaka is courage. Reformulated: the quests for joy, friendship, and strength, respectively.

NB: The big idea here is to harness nature, and in particular your visual field at any moment, as mnemonics for what matters most to you.

ORION AS THE MASTER KEY TO THINKING IN GENERAL

1. The Rule of One: what is alnilam? That is, what matters most?

2. The Rule of Three: what are the next two things most worth saying about problem x, issue y, question z. What is alnitak? What is mintaka? How does Orion’s belt fit together?

3. The Rule of Seven: what are the next four things? and things usually come in pairs. What is Betelgeuse? What is Bellatrix? Saiph? Rigel?

NB: Every time you learn something new related to problem x,y,z. is a chance to re-assess that Orion — to reconsider the naming and positioning of each star. And then to exchange your remodeled version with others.

COMING UP ON WEDNESDAY: THE ORION OF THE HUMAN LIVER

Last three years of posts organized thematically:

Please share the coolest thing you learned this week related to math, statistics, or numbers in general. Or, even better, the coolest or most important thing you learned in your life related to math.

This is your chance to make someone else’s day. And to consolidate in your memory something you might otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply than otherwise about something dear to your heart. Continuity is key to depth of thought.