Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Mathematics messes with your brain

Though, in my line of career, knowing complex mathematics is a big plus but I some how have never been able to come to terms with it. By the Invisible Pink Unicorn's grace I have passed all my academic maths exams and that too with flying colors in most. Despite of that there is no denying that it confuses the shit out of me.

Do I heard you say "how???"?. Ok let's have an example:

Two trains 100km apart, are coming towards each other. One is running at a speed of 60 Km/h while the Other is running at 40 Km/h. A bird who can fly at 70km/h starts at one train, flies to the other train, then flies back to the first train and so on untill the trains crash. The question is how many complete trips does it make?

Any body who knows even the basic arithmatic realises that this one requires an expert in maths who knows his way in and out of calculas. And what does this expert find after three pages of calculas calculations (I won't put the content of those three pages here in view of the ill effects it might cause to readers' health)? INFINITY.

Now how is that possible? The time before collision is fixed (countable),i.e, 1 hr. The distance travelled by the bird is fixed (70 Km, since the train collide in 1hr so the bird keeps flying till then at 70 km/h speed). How the fuck does even mathematics have the guts to throw out Infinity as an answer????

Yesterday, googling through the web, I came upon a thing called Zeno's Paradox which instead of solving the original problem created further confusions. Sample this:

Achilles and the tortoise
"You can never catch up."

"In a race, the quickest runner can never overtake the slowest, since the pursuer must first reach the point whence the pursued started, so that the slower must always hold a lead." (Aristotle Physics VI:9, 239b15)


You are welcome to go through that page for more such gems with supportive arguments. But be sure to keep some dispirin and zandu balm at hand. Also make sure that any substance which can be used as an instrument of sucide be kept out of reach.

Oh! Mathematics, when will you stop playing games with me...

2 Comments:

Anonymous Hiren said...

Mathematics has been responsible for many board exam suicides. Its a pity that maths is given so much importance in determining the intelligence of a human being whereas the reality should be to bring out the best in each individual.

7:14 AM  
Blogger Ranjan said...

@hiren,
Agreed board exams put a lot of pressure but singling out Mathematics will be wrong there. I have seen people crying before every test. Also like it or not the elementary mathematics is something without which you cannot hope to survive.
I think we lack a practical face for mathematics. Instead of having questions like x^3+4X + 2 = 32.... we should have questions like 'There are two water tanks with a hose of diameter 10 cm attached to it...'. Basically allow people to link them to practical life.

8:35 PM  

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