A&E » Arts

Maxed out - Exposed and going over the edge


"E=MC 2 " Albert Einstein

"6.023 x 10 23 " Amedeo Avogadro

"Math is hard." Barbie

"*#@%!!&" G.D. Maxwell

It really doesn’t matter what happens to time as we approach the speed of light or how many molecules there are in a volume of gas, Barbie pretty much nailed it – math is hard. It’s not that addition or subtraction, or in this case division, or even polynomial equations for that matter, are really difficult. They’re just precise. They’re binary. Right or wrong. Pass or fail. A+ or F-. Until we get to the rarefied world of theoretical mathematics, there just isn’t any fudge factor in math. You can do math right hundreds, thousands of times in a row but sooner or later, your mind will wander, you’ll lose your train of thought and you’ll screw it up.

Of course, most people don’t enjoy the actual experience of standing in front of a class dream-naked and giving their wrong answer. Or printing their answer in the newspaper.

To the many of you who were kind enough to comment favourably on last week’s column and not draw my attention to the gaping arithmetic mistake I made, thank you. I’m sure you too noticed it and were just being kind. As if.

And to those who hurried to bring the error to my attention, thank you too. I’m certain "knucklehead" and "nyah, nyah, nyah" were meant affectionately.

For the vast majority of you who don’t know what the hell I’m talking about, take my word for it: 3,000 goes into 300,000 one hundred times, not one thousand. Mea culpa. That correcting the error renders my argument against the insanely cheap amenity swap council is considering more persuasive by an order of magnitude provides little succor because they’re probably going to go ahead and do it anyway, the knuckleheads.

There are, in my house, two computers, one of which actually works at any given time, two Hewlett Packard HP12C calculators, each of which has more number crunching power than the on-board computers of Mercury space capsules, a couple of throw-away, four-function calculators, and a slide rule. Had I used any of them for something more advanced than a paperweight last week, I would be writing today about Zippy the Dog or The Year of Amazingly Little Snow or the Cathartic Effect of Burning Public Figures in Effigy.

Instead, I chose to use my failing eyesight and my increasingly befuddled brain. That is because I am getting old and still denying it. In a little over two weeks, I join the great horde of boomers who have, in the words of a friend already there, "gone over the edge." I will, on February 27 th , celebrate the 21 st anniversary of my 29 th birthday. Yikes!