Math Shmath

Mariner read once that truth is not a constant. Truths don’t last forever even if it takes a million years to change them. Truths are not forever.

It is often perceived that mathematics, by its disciplined procedures, always provides a truth given truthful beginning values.  The conclusions of mathematics will conform to its own discipline for dependable evaluation but it is rare for humans to think in such disciplined ways. No matter the mathematical truth, the perception of that truth by humans is flawed.

For example, in his family whenever a birthday occurs, he drags out an algorithm about who is growing old the fastest. His family members suffer this ritual knowing it will pop up in conversation for each and every member of his family on their birthday.

He will say to his daughter “When you were born, I was forty times older than you. With this birthday, I am only three times older than you; you are growing older faster than I am.” This truth is derived from a mathematical equation ‘mariner’s age divided by daughter’s age’,   M/D = a diminishing percentage, e.g., 60/20 = 3.

This, of course, is the wrong formula; it should be M – D, which would provide a constant difference of 20 years, each growing older at the same rate.

Which brings us to the point of this post. Mariner cited recently that the Hispanics were growing faster than any other race in the U.S. He was challenged with a reference to Census findings which said the Asians were the fastest growing race. [80 percent for Asians, 70 percent for Hispanics]. In the Census, it is important to know specific information about each race individually. New growth of Asians is measured with a formula similar to mariner’s where a percentage is desired rather than an absolute count, which would mean little.

On the other hand, there are 20 times as many Hispanics as there are Asians. 70 percent of Hispanics would be double the total number of Asians.

One will find that paradoxes and conundrums are common when using mathematics.

Ancient Mariner


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