Abusing Math for Fun and Profit 3: You’re the Saddest Bunch I’ve Ever Met.

According to math, I’m as swift as the coursing river and all the rest of it. (You should probably read that one first if you haven’t already.) But what if I’m not trying to brag? What if I’m trying to impugn the manliness of a hated rival? (If they’re using math for this, then I probably don’t hate them in the first place. We’ll ignore that.) If they used those calculations to prove how awesome they are, then I can’t argue with math. There’s nothing I can do, right?

Wrong. If someone used those numbers and I wanted to disagree with them, of course it’s possible. I am going to use math to prove that that whoever dared use my numbers against me is not up to the Fictional Ancient Chinese Imperial Army’s standards.

1. Swift as a Coursing River.
So you can run a nine-minute mile. Good for you. But ask yourself: What’s so special about one mile? The Yellow River runs for 3400 of those. Could you keep that pace up for one hundred and twenty-nine consecutive marathons? Run for three weeks straight? I didn’t think so. The river easily wins this race.

Swift as a Coursing River: Nope.

2. All the Force of a Great Typhoon:
Nice try. More force than a few square inches’ worth of typhoon is plausible. But the song clearly specified “all the force of a great typhoon.” Not just “as much force as a great typhoon applies over the cross-sectional area of a human fist.” That would sound terrible in a song.

The force applied by wind is still F=1/2*A*d*v^2*Cd. And I’m not going to argue with most of the numbers. A fist has a cross-sectional area of about .08 square meters. A hurricane is maybe 300 miles wide and 9 miles high. It’s got a cross-sectional area of 2700 square miles, or seven billion square meters. Keeping the rest of the numbers the same as in the last calculation, ½*(7*10^9 m^2)*1.225kg/m^3*(70 m/s)^2*1.17 = 2.46*10^13 kg*m/s^2 = 2.46*10^13N. That is a better estimate for all the force of a great typhoon. It’s the amount of force needed to lift about five trillion pounds. That’s the weight of a small mountain. That’s what you get for switching force and pressure when it clearly said force.

Here’s a simple reality check: Can you lift a cathedral? No? A category five hurricane can. It can exert that much force, you can’t. You do not have all the force of a great typhoon.

All the Force of a Great Typhoon: Nope.

3. Strength of a Raging Fire.

Seriously? You think strength has to be measured in Newtons? Fire obviously doesn’t push anything; don’t be so literal. It’s clearly supposed to be measured in Joules.

What we’re comparing in this case is the amount of energy. If you use as much energy as a raging fire then you can say you’re as strong as one, and if you don’t then you can’t. You don’t.
Your metabolism, assuming you’re a human which you probably are, works similarly to combustion. The food you eat gets oxidized inside your cells, and that’s where they get energy. Coincidentally, oxidization is the same type of reaction used by a fire. This is how people who care about this kind of thing measure how many calories are in a food item: They put one of that item in an enclosed box and burn it. The energy released is equal to the amount of energy your body can get from it.
Now think about how much stuff gets burned in your average raging fire. It’s a lot. Like, really  a lot. There is no way you could eat that much stuff that fast. At least I hope you couldn’t, or else you should probably see a doctor and I’m sorry for making fun of you.

Let’s say the raging fire is burning one cord of wood. A cord is neither an agreement nor a small Honda; it’s a unit of volume for measuring wood. Why there are special units for this I have no idea. It’s 128 cubic feet: 4x4x8. For a “raging fire” you’d think of something bigger, like, say, a building, but we’ll understate it. Depending on what type of wood it is, burning one cord of wood releases ten to thirty million kiloJoules. That’s a lot of energy. It’s about equal to (at least) 2,500,000 food calories of energy, which is more than you eat in a year. Nobody can intake that much energy in that little time, let alone actually use all of it. The raging fire uses more energy faster than you do.

Strength of a Raging Fire: Nope.

4. Mysterious as the Dark Side of the Moon.

“Mysterious” is hard to quantify. But you defined it wrong. It’s true that there has to be unknown information, but I would say that the person who doesn’t know it has to want to know it, or at the very least know that they don’t know it. Someone might ask “I wonder who that mysterious figure in the trench coat is,” and they would be right to call the figure mysterious. They know that they don’t know who he is. On the flip side, you can’t have the mystery surrounding the cookie jar unless you already know that a cookie has been stolen.

But, as you pointed out, most people haven’t even heard of you. Not only does that make it very difficult for them to care about all that information they don’t know, but it means that they don’t even know what information they’re missing. Nobody can wonder about the answer to any question about you if the idea of your existence never crosses their mind. And probably only a few thousand people have ever heard of you.

The dark side of the moon, on the other hand, was very well known to be something that nobody knew about. Entire civilizations have wondered what is on the other side of it, and knew that they didn’t know. Clearly that’s more mysterious than you are. Even now, when it has been photographed and publicized, not very many people can say they know everything there is to know about the dark side of the moon. And those people are some of the ones who care about the other things about it that are currently mysterious. I’m still not sure why “mysterious as the dark side of the moon” is a good thing, but whatever.

Mysterious as the Dark Side of the Moon: Nope.

So you do not have all the attributes that that song says you should. It’s not your fault; you’re not superhuman. I recommend a good training montage.
As you can see, if you twist math’s arm the right way, or maybe even ask nicely, you can almost pick your own result. Either that or you’re exactly the opposite of literally as awesome as that song says you should be metaphorically. But it’s the first one.


One thought on “Abusing Math for Fun and Profit 3: You’re the Saddest Bunch I’ve Ever Met.

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