JaI know, yeah. Nobody really likes math, right? But I am grateful for math and all it does for me!
Really simple math, repeated many thousands and thousands of times (which is why we use computers to do it), generates really neat patterns like this one, and so many many others. The same math, extended and used with care, lets movie makers and game designers create amazingly realistic scenery of places that never existed, and ensures no two examples look alike, unless they want them to.
Calms My Fears
I’m sure most everyone has seen that picture on the Internet claiming to show that radioactive waste from the Fukishima Nuclear Reactors is contaminating the entire Pacific Ocean. It’s got tendrils of angry red sweeping out from a red and purple body trailing around the edge along the West Coast of the USA, and out across the rest of the ocean. Unfortunately, it’s a fake – it’s actually predicted wave heights from tidal waves caused by the earthquake that caused the Fukashima reactors to break down. Yay, Math helping to save lives! But I knew that things weren’t really nearly as bad as that chart was showing, because I did a bit of math in my head about the publicly announced leakage rates (I used the worst ones claimed by the people wanting it to be as scary as possible), and jotted a few numbers to figure out that it would take several trillion years for the Pacific Ocean to be that badly contaminated, by which time the radioactive half-life of the waste would have made it harmless!
Likewise, the scare stories about the Deepwater drilling rig disaster. Sure, in our normal experiences of pumping gas into our cars, it was a lot of oil. But when you compare it to how much water there is in the Gulf of Mexico, it’s just nothing! And since there’s normally oil seeps all over the world in the bottom of the oceans (and even on land – the La Brea Tar Pits, oil seeps in Pennsylvania that led to the first major oil wells being drilled there), there’s bugs that eat oil – and they would be feasting on the oil from the leak. Sure, a lot of it floats – it takes a very small drop of oil to make a really big shiny layer on a pool of water – but a lot of it gets eaten, making bugs that then get eaten by other things. It just wasn’t that big a disaster.
Or the horror of nuclear waste. Again, I dug up the worst claimed amounts of nuclear waste created per year. I made several estimates of the average density of that waste, and figured out how much space it would take up. I was actually rather surprised at how small it is! Then I went and dug up the size of some of the craters from nuclear testing in the 1950s and 1960s, and did some simple division. Would you believe we could stack all of that waste into just one of those already radioactive craters for over 100 years before it would fill up? And there’s quite a few of those craters still out there…
There’s all kinds of really fun little math puzzles I enjoy. Things like Sudoku, to really odd ones like the Kollatz Conjecture. I trawl YouTube looking for videos on them. Some of my favorite channels include Mathphile, Computerphile, Sixty Symbols, and Three Brown One Blue.
So, really, I love math, and I’m grateful for the beauty and safety it provides me. How about you? Do you hate math, or do you think it can be all kinds of fun?