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Solutionism is the new Optimism?
September 21, 2011 4:07 PM   Subscribe

A giant equation is taking form over the course of a few days, on a 46-ft tall "chalkboard" at the corner of Crosby and Broome in NYC. Sponsored by Dow Chemical, it's a mathematical brain teaser with the significance of each term left for the solver to discern. In the first term, for example, the '755' is the length in feet of each side of the great pyramid. Solutions to pieces of the puzzle can be submitted via twitter to @GiantChalkboard. I'm not clear about the commercial aspect of this, or even what exactly "solutionism" is. But if you're a math/puzzle nerd, you'll likely waste lots of time on enjoy it.
posted by ancillary (48 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
Allow me to be the first to solve it: 42.
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 4:19 PM on September 21, 2011 [6 favorites]


I used to live right around that corner. Nice to see that Le Orange Bleue is still there. Place is fucking delicious.

No clue what's up with the equation though.
posted by Lutoslawski at 4:22 PM on September 21, 2011


I don't get it. Why is it important what the numbers represent? It's all just fairly basic math that sums up to a final solution, isn't it?
posted by starvingartist at 4:23 PM on September 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


I don't get it. Why is it important what the numbers represent? It's all just fairly basic math that sums up to a final solution, isn't it?

That doesn't sound like solutionism™ to me
posted by 2bucksplus at 4:24 PM on September 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Dow Chemical, huh? I'm going to assume this is for evil.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 4:26 PM on September 21, 2011 [9 favorites]


I'm going to assume it's something like this.
posted by gracedissolved at 4:31 PM on September 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


*sigh*

Is that even an equation? I don't see an equals sign.
posted by King Bee at 4:31 PM on September 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


It is not an equation.
posted by mr_roboto at 4:35 PM on September 21, 2011


Ooo, I know. The answer is how much money they still won't be paying victims of the Bhopal disaster they are responsible for. With compound interest.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:38 PM on September 21, 2011 [18 favorites]


Most of the "pieces" of that expression are not hard to write as a decimal number. Simple integrals of polynomials, some geometric series, hell, 9!/362880 is just a fancy way of writing 1.

The rest of the pieces are trivia. (The year the pyramids were formed, atomic number of oxygen, etc.)

I am very much not impressed by the people who wrote this "equation".
posted by King Bee at 4:39 PM on September 21, 2011


If you're not part of the solutionism, you're part of the precipitatism.
posted by hippybear at 4:46 PM on September 21, 2011 [9 favorites]


I am very much not impressed by the people who wrote this "equation".

Usual last words of people who don't believe in the existence of the Matha Nostra.
.
.
.
Or people who make fun of mathematicians that work for all-powerful dow.
posted by hal_c_on at 4:47 PM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I grew up on the corner of Broome and Crosby. I'm probably not going to help solve the equation, but I can tell you where you have to stand on the roof of my ancestral manse and huck an egg to hit the far corner of Broome and Broadway. Hit me up on the skypager.
posted by Divine_Wino at 4:47 PM on September 21, 2011


hal_c_on, I would think that if mathematicians were involved, there'd be some Lebesgue integrals in there, possibly the Riemann zeta function might make an appearance, or maybe something more advanced than a power of 2 minus some other power 2.

Also, it might have actually been, you know, an equation.
posted by King Bee at 4:52 PM on September 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Man, corporate branding stuff is always so weird and cringeful. Looks like Dow filed for a new "Solutionism" trademark in July; the actual site here is registered to DRAFTFCB, a big old honcho of an ad/media firm.

In the mean time, "Solutionism" looks like it's recently been the rallying philosophy of some sort of yoga activist movement thing HQed at 2thenthpower.com, see also. Interesting study in contrasts vs. the big money approach.

In the mean time, the word itself seems to have come up as a one-off in a variety of contexts over the years, and the inflection "solutionist" as in solver-of-puzzles actually goes back to the late 19th century according to the OED.

None of this is particularly exciting stuff, but researching it for a few minutes at least felt a little like I was learning something, which will presumably be more than most folks get out of this "equation", the decoding of which will come down either to a platitude or something to do with Ovaltine or a little of both.
posted by cortex at 4:54 PM on September 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


To be fair, if it's a work in progress, it'll be only an expression until five minutes before the end, when the artist gets to "= 0".
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 5:14 PM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


4 8 15 16 23 42
posted by uncanny hengeman at 5:22 PM on September 21, 2011


So is it megabyte of RAM like 220 or megabyte of disk like 106?
posted by rlk at 5:31 PM on September 21, 2011


To be fair, if it's a work in progress, it'll be only an expression until five minutes before the end, when the artist gets to "= 0".

In smiley speak, =0 is already an expression.
posted by hippybear at 5:34 PM on September 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Hey! You got platitudes in my Ovaltine!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:43 PM on September 21, 2011


A few years ago there was a banner hanging in the Harvard Square T station that said something like

{90th through 100th digits of pi in hexadecimal}.com

Dow Chemical, you're no Google.
posted by benito.strauss at 5:46 PM on September 21, 2011


Okay, I've solved a good portion of it and I get an bunch of hex that ends up being this:

Does your husband
Misbehave
Grunt and grumble
Rant and rave
Shoot the brute some


I just can't get the last part of it.
posted by eyeballkid at 5:52 PM on September 21, 2011 [10 favorites]


It looks like it's not done yet, so an equals sign may yet appear.

But add me to the "it's not math" chorus.
posted by madcaptenor at 5:52 PM on September 21, 2011


If Metafilter's software allows for multiple choruses, add me to the "if it's Dow this is for evil" one.
posted by JHarris at 6:02 PM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm going to assume it's something more like this
posted by Lukenlogs at 6:28 PM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


"BE SURE TO DRINK YOUR ALKYL ALKANOLAMINE"
posted by hanoixan at 7:00 PM on September 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


gracedissolved: "I'm going to assume it's something like this."


Topless Pulp Fiction reading would distract me more.
posted by symbioid at 7:02 PM on September 21, 2011


What's so evil about Dow Chemical? They might do evil things, but perhaps not all they do is evil.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 7:07 PM on September 21, 2011


I'm a math doofus, but...the last thing on that--whatever it is--is a divided by symbol. No equal sign. Is this unfinished? I don't understand the equation, if it is an equation. More like a rebus, I'm guessing.
posted by zardoz at 7:28 PM on September 21, 2011


What's so evil about Dow Chemical? They might do evil things, but perhaps not all they do is evil.

Refresher on the Bhopal Disaster.

You could say this about anyone who has ever lived. You can generally find someone who will benefit from anything that is done, evil or not -- to them, an evil act may not seem so evil. It doesn't change the fact that a lot of people may have been killed by those actions, than an objective observer (whatever that means) might find it reprehensible, and that our society finds it necessary to stamp those actions as evil so as to provide whatever social pressure is available and willing to discourage it. So it is with Dow Chemical.

You could claim that they do good in the world. You might even say that good outweighs the bad. For the sake of argument, let's grant that. It doesn't mean, however, that the absence of Dow Chemical isn't better than the presence. For we all compete in a market of sorts, and were Dow Chemical missing, leaving its market niche vacant, you can bet there'd be someone else around to take its place. They might be better or they might be worse; the question is, is Dow Chemical worse than the average?

Considering most companies, even most chemical companies, have not been directly responsible for over 14,000 deaths, and over 40,000 injured, I would say yes.
posted by JHarris at 7:40 PM on September 21, 2011 [6 favorites]


This seems so obviously like something Wolfram Alpha was designed to do that I'm going to guess this is a viral ad for Wolfram Alpha.
posted by albrecht at 8:00 PM on September 21, 2011


I donno why people make stuff like math clocks without even including an integral. You know, the integral of exp(-x^2) over (-∞,∞) equals √π, which you may easily turn into another value.
posted by jeffburdges at 8:03 PM on September 21, 2011


Pepsi Cancer
posted by OverlappingElvis at 8:12 PM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


*mumble mumble* ...equation... *mumble* ...takeover...

Seriously, yeah, Dow is evil.
posted by BlueHorse at 8:13 PM on September 21, 2011


Guys, it's Dow Chemical. The answer is either "fake boobs" or "poison".
posted by Pastabagel at 8:24 PM on September 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


eyeballkid: "Okay, I've solved a good portion of it and I get an bunch of hex that ends up being this:

Does your husband
Misbehave
Grunt and grumble
Rant and rave
Shoot the brute some


I just can't get the last part of it
"

Oh! I figured it out! Be sure to drink your… hmm. I can't quite get that last bit.
posted by DoctorFedora at 9:05 PM on September 21, 2011


true story: if my father had started his first job out of college a day earlier, he would have been on the Bhopal design team.

When the news of the disaster broke (he was working somewhere else at the time), he took the day off and sat in the basement in the dark and didn't really respond to anything at all.
posted by mephron at 9:51 PM on September 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


Oh! I figured it out! Be sure to drink your… hmm. I can't quite get that last bit.

Pepsi Blue.
posted by eriko at 3:54 AM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: took the day off and sat in the basement in the dark and didn't really respond to anything at all
posted by uncanny hengeman at 3:59 AM on September 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


http://www.smbc-theater.com/?id=164
posted by erniepan at 5:12 AM on September 22, 2011


Bhopal was caused by Union Carbide, Dow didn't acquire Union Carbide until 2001.
posted by dabug at 5:42 AM on September 22, 2011


And once a corporation is bought by another, every bad thing that corporation did evaporates immediately into a whiff of fragrant potpouri.

Dow, having purchased everything that was Union Carbide, also inherited responsibility for their actions; if this weren't true, it would be simple to immediately erase any corporation's ethical slate clean. (Oh, that wasn't EvilDudes Inc. XII's fault! That was caused by EvilDudes Inc. XI, which we purchased yesterday.)
posted by JHarris at 7:41 AM on September 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


JHarris that is totally what people are willing to believe though. Sometimes a simple name change will do it. Blackwater becomes Xe becomes Ares (after the next massacre). Fie on the word solutionism.
posted by Peztopiary at 8:10 AM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Dow Chemical: Perhaps not all they do is evil.

We'll just run that by the marketing guys.
posted by Wolfdog at 8:13 AM on September 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


It isn't what people are willing to believe; it is what the companies hope people don't notice. When "Xe" is mentioned in the news, it'll require an extra link in the chain of connection to get back to Blackwater. Most knowledgable people will have heard about the name change and won't be fooled, but most knowledgable people already know that the company is pretty much made of enough concentrated evil to turn everyone nearby into fiddler crabs. It's not knowledgable people who are meant to be fooled by this, it's the masses who get their current events from cable news channels.
posted by JHarris at 11:35 AM on September 22, 2011


When I was a teenager, on the outside of my bedroom door I had a 4-foot (black and white) poster of a mushroom cloud. At the bottom it read "Better things for better living through chemistry."

Who knew.
posted by Twang at 7:10 PM on September 22, 2011


They finally posted the end of the equation (yes, it has a result) with the answer:

"... Giant Chalkboard has been telling the story of what science and humanity can achieve when they work together. Every number in this equation is significant to discoveries, accomplishments, and advances that live at the intersection of science and humanity.

And that total is 7 billion. That’s all of us together. As our 7 billionth member of the world’s population is born at the end of next month, let’s celebrate and remember that together, the elements of science and the human element can solve anything. That’s solutionism. The new optimism.
"

So... platitude, not Ovaltine.

Cue eye roll. I guess I'm just dense, but I don't get at all how this helps Dow, other than attracting a tiny bit of passing attention (and mostly negative at that) from the geeks who would actually give a rat's ass about a wall-sized equation.
posted by ancillary at 10:18 AM on September 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


So... platitude, not Ovaltine.

I think a platitude is sort of inherently Ovaltined by a TM, but that's splitting hairs probably.
posted by cortex at 10:33 AM on September 26, 2011


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