This morning I spent two hours proving (-1)a = -a. I tell my friends I finally figured it out and they stare at me a moment, narrow their eyes a bit, and say, “But isn’t it obvious?”
That’s the problem. It is obvious. We’ve been raised in a culture wherein elementary math education is spewed to the masses–but it’s all given in bits and bytes of data, none of which is strewn together with any understanding of the processes at work beneath them.
That’s why it took me so long to solve the problem–I kept getting stuck on claims of “This is obvious” and had to turn back to step one–to the rules that govern real numbers, the foundation upon which the world was built.
But figuring it out wasn’t the most amazing thing to happen today.