## Primary Topic

This episode delves into the intersections of mathematics and drag culture, illustrating how math can be both fun and enlightening when explored through unique lenses.

## Episode Summary

## Main Takeaways

- Math and drag, seemingly different, share common themes of creativity and rule-bending.
- Educational approaches can be revolutionized through unconventional teaching methods.
- The backlash against drag culture highlights the intersection of art, identity, and politics.
- Exploring mathematical concepts like infinity can help us understand and appreciate its vast complexities.
- Kyne Santos uses her platform to challenge stereotypes and encourage a deeper understanding of both math and drag.

## Episode Chapters

### 1. Introduction to Kyne Santos

Kyne Santos discusses her dual life as a mathematician and drag performer, using her unique position to make math accessible and enjoyable. **Emily Kwong: "Kyne, how do you blend math and drag?"**

### 2. The Appeal of Math in Drag

Kyne explains the impact of her TikTok videos on her audience, illustrating math's hidden beauty and complexity through drag. **Kyne Santos: "I realized that math is a drag queen; it’s fabulous and mysterious."**

### 3. Mathematical Concepts as Drag Performances

Discussion on how mathematical concepts can be seen as performances, each with their own rules and surprises. **Kyne Santos: "Infinity is smaller than we thought and queerer than anyone ever imagined."**

### 4. The Social Impact of Math and Drag

Kyne addresses the societal challenges and risks associated with being a drag performer in a time of increased anti-drag legislation. **Kyne Santos: "It’s about not taking life so seriously, breaking away from gender expectations."**

### 5. Conclusion: Embracing Uncertainty

Kyne and Emily discuss how embracing the uncertainties in math can parallel embracing uncertainties in life. **Emily Kwong: "How can we leverage the unpredictability in our lives using math?"**

## Actionable Advice

**Explore New Perspectives**: Try learning from sources that use unconventional teaching methods.**Challenge Stereotypes**: Engage with content that breaks traditional norms to expand understanding.**Appreciate Creativity in All Forms**: Recognize the creative aspects of fields like mathematics that may seem rigid.**Support Inclusive Education**: Advocate for educational content that includes diverse perspectives.**Stay Curious**: Always be open to learning more about the world in innovative and unexpected ways.

## About This Episode

Kyne Santos was a student at the University of Waterloo when she began her math and her drag careers. She compares her double life to Hannah Montana, doing math equations at school by day and drag at night. You may already know Kyne from TikTok, where she makes educational videos about math, science, history and drag. And now, in her new book Math in Drag, Kyne explores the connections between math and drag: How both can be creative, beautiful and most of all, fun.

### People

Kyne Santos, Emily Kwong

### Companies

None

### Books

Math in Drag

### Guest Name(s):

Kyne Santos

### Content Warnings:

None

## Transcript

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This message comes from NPR sponsor WW Norton and company with the catalyst rna in the quest to unlock life's deepest secrets. From Nobel laureate Thomas R. Czech, exploring the most transformative breakthroughs in biology since the discovery of the double helix.

Emily Kwong

Available now, you're listening to short wave from NPR.

Kyne Santos was a student at the University of Waterloo when she began her math career and her drag career.

Kyne Santos

And I was like Hannah Montana at the time, living a double life, you know, doing my math equations by day and doing the splits and some gay bar by night.

Emily Kwong

If you watched the first season of Canada's Drag race, you know kine, or maybe you're one of her 1.5 million followers on TikTok, where she makes educational videos about math, science, history and drag.

Kyne Santos

0.9 repeating equals one. Let's see a quick proof. Let x equals 0.9 repeating.

Emily Kwong

Kyn has always had a knack for math. Her dad was an engineer, and teachers were always telling her to enroll in math contests to challenge her skills.

Kyne Santos

You know, in math class, the questions you're given on a test are ones that your teacher prepared you for. But these math contests would have questions that were a little bit more about problem solving.

Emily Kwong

And later in life. She started doing those math videos on TikTok while dressed in dragon.

Kyne Santos

I just thought it was camp, to be honest.

And then I got so many messages from people saying that they loved learning math through this fun new lens. I think that's when I realized that math is a drag queen. You know, it's fabulous, it's mysterious, it can be controversial, and there's a hidden universe underneath the surface.

Emily Kwong

And in her new book, Math in Drag, Kine explores those connections from the very first page, which features a photo from her catholic high school's Christmas concert in Canada. She is lip syncing to Lady Gaga's applause.

Kyne Santos

That performance was sort of my first time in drag. It was half drag. I was in full makeup but no wigs, sort of just leather pants, some combat boots. It was what I call drag back then, just my way of sort of playing, experimenting with gender, experimenting with makeup and performing.

Emily Kwong

And you landed in the splits on the gymnasium floor.

Kyne Santos

Oh, yes. And everybody in that audience gagged.

Emily Kwong

So today on the show, the drag queen of Math as performed by kine, how math can be mystical, creative, beautiful, and most of all, fun.

I'm Emily Kwong, and you are listening to short Wave, the science podcast from NPR.

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Emily Kwong

Your book is called infinite possibilities.

Blew my mind. Honestly, I never really thought deeply about infinity.

But you say that in equations, infinity is actually represented by something called a transfinite number. And the transfinite number that represents infinity is aleph null or l of zero kine. How's this number used in math? Break that down for me a little bit.

Kyne Santos

Yeah. You know, when I was a kid, I used to have a girl in my class. She'd say, kyne, what's one plus one? Two. What's two plus two? Four. What's four plus four? Eight. And then she'd keep asking me questions like this and catch me once. I couldn't come up with the answer. And I think that was my first time realizing, yeah, the numbers really go on forever. And I think we all have this, this intuitive notion of infinity as just a never ending process.

But then it was Georg Cantor who said, actually, there are different levels of infinity, and aleph null is actually the smallest level of infinity, and Aleph Null is the number of natural numbers. So if you think 12345, all the whole numbers, those are all natural numbers. And the number of natural numbers is, of course, infinite. But that level of infinity, infinity is aleph null, right?

The way that Cantor described it when he was trying to convince the world that there were different levels of infinity is he introduced this idea of matching. So if you have two large groups and you want to see which group is larger, instead of counting them one by one, and then comparing the numbers, you could match them up and pair them up. And then in the end, you see if there's anybody left over, that's how you can tell which group is larger.

Emily Kwong

And you did this with imagining an infinite number of drag queens needing to be matched up with an infinite number of wigs.

Kyne Santos

I believe exactly exactly. You know, if you have a huge group of drag queens and a huge group of wigs, you say each drag queen, go get one wig.

And then at the end, if you have more wigs left over, then that means that you had a larger number of wigs.

And it showed that this is a mechanism we can use to compare two very large groups, even infinite groups.

Emily Kwong

Right.

In the example you provide, you're saying that basically you could have this infinite number of wigs all numbered, and if you were to remove the odd wigs, there would still be as many wigs as needed to match an infinite number of queens. Because that's how infinity works. It never ever stops. So you never have a problem with infinity.

And I don't know, there's something kind of liberating about that idea. Maybe it's just the scarcity mindset of our day and age, but when you are living in the world of infinity, theres always enough for everyone, and everything can go around and every queen can be wigged.

Kyne Santos

Exactly.

Emily Kwong

You write at the end, it turns out that infinity is smaller than we thought it was, larger than we thought it could be, and queerer than anyone ever imagined. It doesnt follow rules in any way. It has its own rules, which are not rules at all.

Kyne Santos

Yeah. And you know, its a great analogy to, you know, being a drag queen, being a human. And in the 21st century, we're always breaking rules. And that's really the running theme throughout the whole book, that math can break rules and math can be strange and mysterious, and we don't have it all figured out, which is, I think, the complete opposite narrative that people are getting in school, which is that math is all figured out. We know all the answers, everything is either right or wrong, and it's all black and white.

Emily Kwong

I want to look at the section that's called slaying uncertainty. And you give so many examples of how a person can use probability to make calculated risks. But you also write that, of course, life is always uncertain, and that's kind of fun and beautiful, and it's worth it to experiment without saying tell with probability, essentially, some of those things.

How can we leverage the unpredictability and randomness in our lives using math?

Kyne Santos

Well, I think that's what's great about math, is that it gives us the tool to say, I don't know what's going to happen today, but I can use math to sort of work out what's likely to happen. And for most of human history, we have been living with rules of thumb. But math has just given us more precision.

And with more precision, we can take more calculated risks and get that error to be very small.

Emily Kwong

I mean, you even write in chapter seven, illegal math, which I think was one of my favorite chapters of the whole book.

You write about how youre writing this book during a time when dozens of anti drag bills and measures were being introduced by politicians in more than 14 states in the US. I mean, that added a layer of risk, for sure. I imagine coming out with this book at a time when critique of drag is just getting very, very loud.

Kyne Santos

Totally. And listen, I mean, you bring up a great point. And for me, sort of being a drag queen in this climate, I'm weighing the risks of saying what's gonna happen if I spend the next year or two trying to be a full time drag queen? The past couple years, it's been scary, and we've had lots of corporate sponsorships pulling out and people sort of being scared to work with drag queens. And so you have to sort of take a gamble because I don't know if this is going to be a sustainable career long term, doing full time drag.

Emily Kwong

Yeah. What do you feel like you want people to know about drag and those who are afraid of it or think it's somehow dangerous? What do you wish they would understand, especially when you're up there teaching math and science?

Kyne Santos

I wish they would understand that it's just fun and it's just about not taking life so seriously, not taking gender expectations so seriously.

Anybody who's been to a drag show knows it's just a fun concert of your favorite songs.

I recently was doing a drag story time in Texas, and we had a group of protesters across the street, which was my very first time, you know, being protested in person. And people have strange views about what goes on at a drag show. And I just wish they would come in. I wish they would just read the book and see for themselves what we're doing. You know, people think that we have this agenda and that we're all, like, getting in meetings, talking about how we can, you know, make this next generation of kids transition.

It's really not about that. You know, I could care less if people want to be lgbt. I want people to be themselves. I want people to.

To embrace the things that we have in common instead of being scared of the things that make us different.

Emily Kwong

Yeah, absolutely. And I suppose something you're doing throughout the book really is pulling back the curtain on drag itself, how it works, how queens are judged based on these tiny details, like the length of their gown and the height of their heels, how that is constraining but can also spark creativity.

I'm wondering, how do you see that show up in math? Like creativity within the rules?

Kyne Santos

Yeah. You know, and people always think that math and drag are such polar opposites. On one hand, you have a subject that's full of rules, and on the other hand, you have a subject drag. And drag is art, and art has no rules. But I think when you look a little bit deeper under the surface, you see that they actually have a lot in common.

On one hand, as you mentioned, drag does have rules, or at least drag has standards and constraints. You know, drag queens want to fit within a particular archetype of what you expect to see when you come to a drag show, which is, you know your lyrics and you are exaggerating gender with makeup and with costume.

But of course, drag queens also break the rules a little bit. And math is like that, too. You know, math has constraints, and constraints don't necessarily have to have to be restrictive, and sometimes the constraints are meant to be broken.

You know, our idea of what a number is is an example that I like, because we used to think that numbers were just things you could count.

Emily Kwong

Yeah.

Kyne Santos

And then another level of abstraction beyond that is the idea of imaginary numbers and complex numbers and taking the square root of a negative number. You know, you can encounter things like that and say, no, that doesn't fit my definition, but maybe we can change the rules. Maybe there are new types of numbers that we didn't know about before, and maybe actually the rules need to expand to it to include these other types of numbers. And every time that a mathematician changes the rules and questions what we thought to be true, math becomes all the more larger, all the more beautiful, all the more powerful.

Emily Kwong

Kine. Happy pride month, and thank you so much for coming on short wave.

Kyne Santos

Oh, thank you so much. Well, thank you for having me.

Emily Kwong

This episode was produced by Rachel Carlson and edited by our showrunner, Rebecca Ramirez. It was fact checked by Rachel and Rebecca. Gilly Moon was the audio engineer, Beth Donovan is our senior director, and Colin Campbell is our senior vice president of podcasting strategy. I'm Emily Kwong. Thanks as always, Duderinos, for listening to shortwave, the science podcast from NPR.

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