View Full Version : What would be the first thing to fail?

Nereid

2006-Oct-16, 03:17 AM

Suppose a strange and terrible new disease breaks out, affecting the brains of the species Homo sapiens. It has the unfortunate consequence of dramatically reducing the capacity of the affected brains to 'do math', and it spreads 'like wildfire', infecting all individuals within, say, 24 hours.

What would be the first things to fail?

01101001

2006-Oct-16, 03:44 AM

What would be the first things to fail?

Students taking math tests.

Ronald Brak

2006-Oct-16, 03:55 AM

All home loans become fixed rate because otherwise the maths is just too hard. Mathematicians make big money doing long division for companies. Just how much money they make they're not sure because they can't count that high. Programmers who work in machine language do well because they only have to count to two. Vaccine against virus fails to work because someone made a mistake with a few zeros and they try to inject people with one liter of the stuff.

Chuck

2006-Oct-16, 04:08 AM

The Internal Revenue Service would fail. They'd have to go back to the old method of collecting taxes, sending the army around to take stuff.

Damien Evans

2006-Oct-16, 04:41 AM

and then eventually, life, the universe and everything would fail, but first any scheduled maths competitions would fail

Van Rijn

2006-Oct-16, 05:03 AM

I'd say the markets would be some of the earliest things to fail - stocks, commodities, and so forth. Calculators and computers help, but there is a limit.

Ronald Brak

2006-Oct-16, 05:16 AM

If doing maths becomes harder we will:

1. Put more resources into doing maths.

2. Do less maths.

Eventually a new equilbrium will be reached. Some things would "fail" as say power plant engineers suddenly became unable to determine just how much power they should generate, but as their instincts would generally be to play it safe we would probably have power outages rather than exploding transformers. In general things would slow down as people learned to cope with their new limitations.

"Do you have this month's sales figures yet?"

"No, it's just too hard!"

"Okay, call in the entire accounting department. We're going to work through the weekend and get this sorted out. I want your team to take addition, we'll handle subtraction. Once that's sorted we'll tackle divsion."

People would learn to get by on rules of thumb, similar to what many people do already.

"How many bottles of milk do we have to deliver?"

"One truck load."

"Big truck or small truck?

"Small truck."

sarongsong

2006-Oct-16, 07:04 AM

What time is it again?

Ronald Brak

2006-Oct-16, 07:13 AM

The big hand is on the four, the little hand is on the six. It must be forty-six o'clock.

Maksutov

2006-Oct-16, 07:27 AM

Suppose a strange and terrible new disease breaks out, affecting the brains of the species Homo sapiens. It has the unfortunate consequence of dramatically reducing the capacity of the affected brains to 'do math', and it spreads 'like wildfire', infecting all individuals within, say, 24 hours.

What would be the first things to fail?Nothing significant, based on my experience in my career, and trying to buy something for $1.17 while tendering $1.27.

It's all in the computers now, so 99% of us don't have to think mathematically.

Nereid

2006-Oct-16, 08:38 AM

Nothing significant, based on my experience in my career, and trying to buy something for $1.17 while tendering $1.27.

It's all in the computers now, so 99% of us don't have to think mathematically.Ah, but 1% of us do ... and we can't all be fixing the computers, figuring out why the power grid failed (especially those darn nuclear power stations), collecting taxes, making sense of the stock markets, checking the 'account records' of everyone who has money in the bank, repairing the 'telephone' systems, ... :)

More seriously, there are lots of things which are engineered to be quite robust, and lots of maintenance that can be done by 'reading the manual', but there is also a great deal that depends on 'just in time', or which has a safety margin that assumes mathematically-minded monitoring.

sarongsong

2006-Oct-16, 09:05 AM

...It must be forty-six o'clock.Thanks---just in time to file for bankruptcy... http://www.bautforum.com/images/icons/icon6.gif

Ozzy

2006-Oct-16, 09:58 AM

Cash money would take a bit of a dive.

Cashiers would have trouble figuring out what notes and coins would be required to make up your change.

And you would have to take their word for it was the right change. We would probably go all plastic.:doh:

Ronald Brak

2006-Oct-16, 10:30 AM

Assuming people still have the ability to compare prices and decide which number is larger it would be possible to manage finances, but prices might need to be rounded to the nearest round number by law to help people deal with change. Picture charts could be put up in shops explaining in pictorial form various transactions. For example: Cost $7 = Pay $10 get $3 change!

Jeff Root

2006-Oct-16, 11:09 AM

Weird. I was thinking, briefly, about almost this same question

just yesterday. I was wondering what people would do if we

realized that those now alive would be the last people ever born

with sufficient intelligence to support civilization. As in the short

story 'The Locusts' by Larry Niven and Steve Barnes.

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis

Jeff Root

2006-Oct-16, 11:39 AM

there is also a great deal that depends on 'just in time', or which

has a safety margin that assumes mathematically-minded monitoring.

Can you cite some examples? I can't think of anything obvious.

Although most people would probably discover their reduced math

ability within a few days, some could probably go for weeks or

longer. I doubt that anything would break down. Some people

would have to do things differently, and some would no longer

be able to do what they had been doing, but I think that any

operational technology would remain operational.

Oh! Another story connection: 'Brainwave' by Poul Anderson.

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis

Argos

2006-Oct-16, 01:36 PM

Suppose a strange and terrible new disease breaks out, affecting the brains of the species Homo sapiens. It has the unfortunate consequence of dramatically reducing the capacity of the affected brains to 'do math',

Looks like that disease is already among us (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2006/10/15/nweight15.xml). :)

Ronald Brak

2006-Oct-16, 01:45 PM

Looks like that disease is already among us.

That's a relief. I thought you were going to link to mathematical errors I had made in this forum.

Moose

2006-Oct-16, 03:26 PM

Commercial aviation would fail on the spot. Even if you could program your GPS from a pre-established chart, then leave the rest of the navigation job to the autopilot, you still need to be able to compute how much fuel you're going to need to make the trip and/or how much you have left. Then you have to make sure the weight of the cargo won't unbalance the aircraft.

These are all things you pretty much have to be able to do in realtime.

Without math, we'd be back to coastal sea travel on rafts or dugout canoes within a generation.

Moose

2006-Oct-16, 03:26 PM

That's a relief. I thought you were going to link to mathematical errors I had made in this forum.

We still could, you know. :p :D

Nereid

2006-Oct-16, 04:32 PM

there is also a great deal that depends on 'just in time', or which

has a safety margin that assumes mathematically-minded monitoring.Can you cite some examples? I can't think of anything obvious.

Although most people would probably discover their reduced math

ability within a few days, some could probably go for weeks or

longer. I doubt that anything would break down. Some people

would have to do things differently, and some would no longer

be able to do what they had been doing, but I think that any

operational technology would remain operational.

Oh! Another story connection: 'Brainwave' by Poul Anderson.

-- Jeff, in MinneapolisThese may not be very good examples:

- load balancing in power grids; I don't think it's anywhere near automatic, especially in the face of unpredicted events (storms, major feeder failures, ...)

- most retail supply chains; many stock/re-order systems are automatic, but there is also considerable 'manual intervention', both in various parts (e.g. not all suppliers run JIT software) and to handle unexpected events

- ditto, manufacturers' supply chains

- many electronic markets (e.g. stocks, futures, forex) have triggers which 'pull the plug' on automated trading, when certain bounds are exceeded; if traders had to revert to 'manual' trading in these circumstances, they'd quickly have to 'do the math', especially in derivatives trading (esp options)

- air traffic control; Moose has touched on one aspect of this, another example: how much math was needed to 'clear the skies' on September 11th?

- harbour pilots; in busy waterways, ships are moved around by (ultimately) a teamwork effort between controllers and pilots ... and math plays a very big part in that movement not resulting in gridlock or worse

- pesticide, herbicide, fertiliser, etc application in agriculture; much of the measuring and some of the calculating may be automatic, but much is still calculated 'manually', and the margin of safety relatively small (only a few tens of percent too much, or too little, can be devastating).

swansont

2006-Oct-16, 04:35 PM

If it happened now, it would only be a matter of weeks before your computer automatically reset your clock to standard time, and you wouldn't be able to figure out why half of your clocks were an hour different from the other third. ;)

High-precision clocks and timekeeping would eventually fail, and with it goes GPS and communication.

mike alexander

2006-Oct-16, 05:10 PM

A major conflict would break out between the United Knigdom and the United States over whether they were doing 'math' or 'maths'.

WaxRubiks

2006-Oct-16, 05:17 PM

the solution is to make the leaf the standard for all currency, and then WE COULD ALL BECOME INCREDIBLY RICH!!!!!

edit-ref. to H2G2 of course.

Ozzy

2006-Oct-17, 04:34 PM

Skydivers might get a few grey hairs, as would mothers with lots of kids.

Any activity that requires a head count would have to be scrapped for saftey reasons. Hmmm, lots of tourists forgotten by dive boats??

Doodler

2006-Oct-17, 05:10 PM

Forget any kind of space program. At the same time, ballistic missile forces would be offline in a few days because their computations require a pretty complex jumble of parabolic math, along with a reasonable ability to compensate for the Earth's rotation under it.

New building construction would have to be halted as structural engineers lost the ability to compute design loads on their frameworks. Good luck EVER getting an air conditioning system properly balanced again, and you don't even want to think about the issues that'll occur with the electrical systems.

Oh yeah, careful when you flush that toilet...

Jeff Root

2006-Oct-17, 08:58 PM

- load balancing in power grids; I don't think it's anywhere

near automatic, especially in the face of unpredicted events

(storms, major feeder failures, ...)

What math would be involved?

- most retail supply chains; many stock/re-order systems are

automatic, but there is also considerable 'manual intervention',

both in various parts (e.g. not all suppliers run JIT software)

and to handle unexpected events

Three scenarios, in order of increasing complexity:

1) "Were'e out of twiddlythickers. Order another box."

2) "The box of twiddlythickers is more than half empty.

Order another box."

3) "According to the new sign we got from the Department of

Commerce Office of Mathematics Assistance, which is sitting

beside the calculator, the number of days until we run out of

an item is the number of items we have left divided by the

average number sold per day. I don't quite follow that, but

it sounds about right. The sign also says the average number

sold per day is the total number sold in a period of several

days, divided by the number of days in that period. The tally

shows that we sold twelve twiddlythickers this week. I know

there are five days in a week, so twelve divided by five is...

two point four, according to the calculator. There are sixteen

twiddlythickers left in the box, so 16 divided by 2.4 is...

six point six six six, and more sixes, all the way across.

That's the number of days until we run out. Somewhere between

six days and seven days. According to the supplier, it takes

three to five days to get a new box. So we don't need to order

a new box yet, but I expect it will be sometime real soon."

- pesticide, herbicide, fertiliser, etc application in agriculture;

much of the measuring and some of the calculating may be automatic,

but much is still calculated 'manually', and the margin of safety

relatively small (only a few tens of percent too much, or too

little, can be devastating).

"The instructions say 'One cup of Zxathianixor Plus in two

gallons of water.' But according to the table, our rutabegas

need eight gallons. So how much Zxathianixor Plus do I put in?

Well, the instructions say to divide the number of gallons

needed by two, and that gives the number of cups of Zxathianixor

Plus. Where's the calculator? Okay... eight divided by two...

is four. So four cups of Zxathianixor Plus in eight gallons of

water."

Things might slow down a bit. They wouldn't be broken.

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis

Jeff Root

2006-Oct-17, 09:34 PM

Commercial aviation would fail on the spot. Even if you could

program your GPS from a pre-established chart, then leave the

rest of the navigation job to the autopilot, you still need to be

able to compute how much fuel you're going to need to make the

trip and/or how much you have left.

The fuel guage shows how much fuel is left. No computation

needed for that.

You compute the fuel needed to complete the trip before

the trip starts and whenever conditions change significantly.

Just get the numbers you require, plug them into the formula

which is on the card in your pocket as well as taped to the

instrument panel and on the back of the calculator and inside

the front cover of your flight log... and there you are. You

don't need to understand why the numbers work.

Then you have to make sure the weight of the cargo won't

unbalance the aircraft.

You use math to do that??? How???

These are all things you pretty much have to be able to do in

realtime.

A pilot calculates cargo weight distribution in real time

during a flight to be sure it won't unbalance the aircraft???

He doesn't just say, "The left wing is low, and I'm having a

hard time correcting for it. Obviously there is excess weight

on the left side. I think you'd better announce that the Grand

Canyon is visible out the right-side windows, too." ???

Without math, we'd be back to coastal sea travel on rafts or

dugout canoes within a generation.

I don't see why. If you need to do a calculation in-flight,

you read the formula, read the instruments, and calculate with

a calculator. It isn't necessary to do any math in the head.

Designing new planes might be a challenge. Building planes

on existing assembly lines shouldn't even slow down.

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis

Moose

2006-Oct-17, 11:19 PM

I don't see why. If you need to do a calculation in-flight, you read the formula, read the instruments, and calculate with

a calculator. It isn't necessary to do any math in the head.

*snips the rest of Jeff's rather collosal strawman*

Nereid's proposition says nothing about being impared doing math "in the head". It says that everybody is "dramatically" impared doing math. Period. It doesn't matter who or what crunches the numbers, it's knowing what to crunch and how to apply the result that really counts.

You use math in just about every field that is even remotely technical, including all forms of transportation. About the only form of non-footmobile transportation you don't need math for to use over the long term is building coastal rafting, dugout/birchbark canoes, and riding animals.

Navigating requires math. Coming up with a flight plan requires math. Knowing how much fuel your plane consumes in a stiff headwind requires math. Knowing how far you're going to be travelling requires math. Knowing how much weight you're putting on the plane (and where) requires math. ATC requires math. Building the parts and tools needed to maintain your plane requires math. Knowing how much food to stock given the number of passengers requires math. Doing all of that when your airline wants to minimize the turnaround and maximize profits requires a great deal of realtime or pseudo-realtime math.

Suppose I were to give you a computer and ask you to compute an eigenvalue (assuming you don't know how to calculate an eigenvalue. If you do, pretend you don't.) It can certainly be done on a computer, or by hand slowly, but if you don't know how to do it (anymore?), you can't do it no matter what tool you have to hand...

... Unless it's an existing idiot-proof device with the task hardcoded. Which will work until the moment the device breaks down.

That's really the point: air travel will break first, while animal husbandry and rudimentary coastal or river trade are about the only transportation options that don't require math to build, breed, or use over the span of a generation.

If you redefine the premise in the OP and assume everybody can still do math anyway, then you have status quo and a question that's been nerfed into meaninglessness.

Moose

2006-Oct-17, 11:29 PM

Originally Posted by Moose:

Then you have to make sure the weight of the cargo won't unbalance the aircraft.

You use math to do that??? How???

This suitcase weighs 20 pounds. That box weighs 25 pounds. How much does the cargo weigh so far?

What's the volume of the cargo? How much torque will it apply to the left side of the plane if I put it there, and how far to the right of the centerline do I have to place (non-uniform) weight to counterbalance that torque?

If I have five hundred suitcases and 300 pax of varying weights and volumes, and so many tons of fuel, have I overloaded the max takeoff weight of the plane, and will it all fit?

How can you not use math to do this sort of thing? :eh:

ASEI

2006-Oct-18, 12:34 AM

How do you get rid of people's ability to do math though? Are there examples of people who simply can't? It seems that math is a highly unnatural and learned skill to begin with. If any area of the brain that did it were damaged, wouldn't some other be able to pick it up?

Ronald Brak

2006-Oct-18, 01:29 AM

How do you get rid of people's ability to do math though? Are there examples of people who simply can't? It seems that math is a highly unnatural and learned skill to begin with. If any area of the brain that did it were damaged, wouldn't some other be able to pick it up?

It's a very unrealistic scenario that just maths ability could be affected. Many people with frontal lobe damage have their ability to think abstractly damaged. They might still be able to add, subtract, times and divide, but they might have trouble applying the results of these operations, but they also have deficits in areas other than maths. Algebra and other maths that are less concrete may become impossible. Children are often unable to grasp abstract maths. For many this ability doesn't really mature until they are teenagers.

Maths comes from human general intelligence and is unlikely to have been specifically selected for by evolution. It is interesting to speculate that alien species may be wizzes at mental maths, or they may be much worse than us while still possessing advanced technology.

Jeff Root

2006-Oct-18, 04:38 AM

Then you have to make sure the weight of the cargo won't

unbalance the aircraft.

You use math to do that??? How???

This suitcase weighs 20 pounds. That box weighs 25 pounds.

How much does the cargo weigh so far?

You said "unbalance" not "overload". I was asking about your

comment on making sure the weight of the cargo won't unbalance

a plane, not about some comment you didn't make on overloading.

What's the volume of the cargo? How much torque will it apply

to the left side of the plane if I put it there, and how far to

the right of the centerline do I have to place (non-uniform)

weight to counterbalance that torque?

If I have five hundred suitcases and 300 pax of varying weights

and volumes, and so many tons of fuel, have I overloaded the max

takeoff weight of the plane, and will it all fit?

How can you not use math to do this sort of thing?

I don't believe that those things are routinely calculated.

I've only flown once in recent years in February/March 2002,

from Minneapolis to Orlando and back, via Chicago. Two 737s

and two 757s. I still have the routing labels the airline

put on my luggage. The weight of the luggage may be encoded

in there somewhere, but I don't see it. Are the weights on

the labels, or do the baggage handlers weigh everything again

just before loading it into the planes, or do they not keep

track of the numbers and not do any calculations?

I was not weighed. My carry-on luggage was not weighed. I was

allowed to put my carry-on luggage anywhere I could. On one or

two legs of the trip I was allowed to change seats during the

flight if I wanted to. No measurements were taken, nobody did

calculations, nobody applied any results.

I suspect that the total allowable mass per seat is determined

beforehand, that passengers are assumed to have a gaussian

distribution of weights which the people at the check-in desk

and on the plane do not keep track of and are mostly unaware of,

and that each passenger is allowed a certain weight of luggage

which is set for each aircraft type. Possibly the total weight

of checked-in lugged is tracked. That merely requires adding

a long list of numbers on a calculator. The person doing it

needs to know absolutely no algebra whatsoever, and needs to

be able to do absolutely no arithmetic whatsoever. Just punch

in numbers and get the total. Or more likely: put the luggage

on the scale and press the "Add" button.

Even if weights are coded on the routing labels, I question

whether the numbers are used to balance the load.

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis

Jeff Root

2006-Oct-18, 04:39 AM

If you need to do a calculation in-flight, you read the formula,

read the instruments, and calculate with a calculator. It isn't

necessary to do any math in the head.

Nereid's proposition says nothing about being impared doing math

"in the head".

Hello, Moose, do you read?

Suppose a strange and terrible new disease breaks out, affecting

the brains of the species Homo sapiens. It has the unfortunate

consequence of dramatically reducing the capacity of the affected

brains to 'do math'

It says that everybody is "dramatically" impared doing math.

Yes. You got that right. :)

Period.

Well, not quite "period". It does say that it affects "brains",

which in Homo sapiens, are normally located inside the head.

It doesn't matter who or what crunches the numbers,

Clearly, Nereid did not imply that calculators are affected.

it's knowing what to crunch and how to apply the result that

really counts.

"Counts"? Even after the math bug eats everyone's brains,

people will still be able to count.

What do you mean by "counts"? You want to find out whether you

have enough fuel to reach East Podunk? You need a formula and

several numbers. The formula is written down. You no longer

understands what it means, but you can still read it. With the

formula is a list of the numbers you need, having to do with

distance, airspeed, and whatnot. You know where to get those

numbers. Some you wrote down before the flight started; some

you read from your instruments; some you get over your radio.

You punch the numbers into your calculator in the same order

that they are written out, and punch the function keys that

the instructions tell you to punch. Out comes the answer:

You need twelve gallons. Your fuel gauge indicates that you

have about eight gallons. You can still count. You know that

eight is less than twelve. So you know you need more fuel.

How much more do you need? You can look up that formula.

You know exactly where to find it because it is a formula you

look up frequently.

Navigating requires math.

It requires an understanding of what one is trying to do, an

ability to read, an ability to follow instructions, a map,

paper, pencil, and a calculator.

Coming up with a flight plan requires math.

Same as above.

Knowing how much fuel your plane consumes in a stiff headwind

requires math.

A number previously calculated and recorded in your log.

Knowing how far you're going to be travelling requires math.

I frequently measure distances on paper maps. I put two pencil

marks on the edge of a piece of paper, transferred from the

map's distance scale, usually indicating a mile or a kilometer.

I place one mark on the starting point on the map and align

the paper with the route. Then I note where the second mark

falls on the map, and move the paper so the first mark is at

that point. Even though I can't do any math, I can still count

the number of segments. If a segment is a mile, and I count

seven segments, then I know the distance is seven miles. If a

segment is 50 miles, then I read the instructions for how to

find the distance: "Multiply the distance represented by the

map scale by the number of segments you counted". I punch "50"

into the calculator, followed by the "multiply" button, followed

by "7" and the "equals" button. The instructions tell me that

the result is the number of miles.

Knowing how much weight you're putting on the plane

Completely automated.

(and where) requires math.

I doubt that balancing a load uses any calculations.

ATC requires math.

I won't argue that because I don't know enough about it except

that I wouldn't take the job at any pay rate.

Building the parts and tools needed to maintain your

plane requires math.

Designing them does, anyhow. They can use calculators and

computers.

Knowing how much food to stock given the number of passengers

requires math.

Fifty-eight passengers who want meals would mean... lessee...

fifty-eight prepackaged meals. What math???

When I shop for groceries I never need to calculate anything.

Very rarely I will need to be sure that I have enough of

something called for by a recipe, but almost always I can and

do estimate the amount by look and feel, or all I need is one

standard-size package. At most I will need to count items.

Doing all of that when your airline wants to minimize the

turnaround and maximize profits requires a great deal of

realtime or pseudo-realtime math.

I do not believe it. Such math that is required is almost

entirely automated.

Suppose I were to give you a computer and ask you to compute

an eigenvalue (assuming you don't know how to calculate an

eigenvalue. If you do, pretend you don't.) It can certainly

be done on a computer, or by hand slowly, but if you don't

know how to do it (anymore?), you can't do it no matter what

tool you have to hand...

Excellent example! Perfect example! At the moment, I have

not the slightest idea how to calculate an eigenvalue. I also

have not the slightest idea what an eigenvalue is, other than

knowing that it can be calculated mathematically and is used

in physics.

If you want me to compute an eigenvalue, you need to give me

whatever numbers are required for the input, and tell me which

number goes into which variable. I don't need to understand

what they represent.

Since I already have a computer, you don't need to give me one.

But I do need an appropriate program. Will this do?

http://www.arndt-bruenner.de/mathe/scripts/engl_eigenwert.htm

Or this?

http://www.bluebit.gr/matrix-calculator/

Or this?

http://www.math.ubc.ca/~israel/applet/matcalc/matcalc.html

... Unless it's an existing idiot-proof device with the task

hardcoded. Which will work until the moment the device breaks down.

"Hardcoded"? Does that describe the above programs? I don't

know whether they are "idiot-proof", but I suspect that I could

use them if you gave me the appropriate input values and I

followed the instructions.

By "the device breaks down" you mean like the monitor dies and

needs to be replaced? I may have added a few numbers together

when looking for a new monitor, but I could do that with a

pocket calculator. No higher arithmetic or algebra needed.

That's really the point: air travel will break first, while

animal husbandry and rudimentary coastal or river trade are

about the only transportation options that don't require math

to build, breed, or use over the span of a generation.

Nereid didn't say we couldn't use math. He said the capacity

of our brains to 'do math' is dramatically reduced. I think

I understand exactly what that means, because I have a terrible

time with math. I am math averse. Looking at a complex formula

makes me want to look away, unless I'm just examining the

typography or the layout of the characters. The scenario that

Nereid described is just like what I live with all the time,

only even worse, so that I wouldn't even be able to do six

times seven without a calculator or a multiplication table,

and couldn't even solve for c in a=bc without it being written

out in front of me.

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis

Moose

2006-Oct-18, 12:25 PM

Clearly, Nereid did not imply that calculators are affected.

And exactly how old is your oldest functional calculator? They conk out, you know. That's why I said within a generation. By then, electronic equipment and the tools for making them will be inoperable (and/or treated like religious relics and not used casually).

It requires an understanding of what one is trying to do, an

ability to read, an ability to follow instructions, a map,

paper, pencil, and a calculator.

So does computing an eigenvalue (it's linear algebra, so it's not a matter of plugging in a formula, but in applying math in a way that involves a very large number of steps), but you've never had the ability to do one. I've lost that ability since college and its complicated enough that I doubt I could do one by hand even with a better book than I had on the subject.

That's the point. Computing an eigenvalue is beyond our abilities. And that's the assumption of the OP. If Nereid allows that math is still doable, why ask what will fail first? Seems a rather pointless interpretation to me.

I frequently measure distances on paper maps. I put two pencil

marks on the edge of a piece of paper, transferred from the

map's distance scale, usually indicating a mile or a kilometer.

Uh huh. And if I tell you the wind is averaging 20 knots from the northwest (roughly 300deg), and you know you need to travel east, what direction do you need to fly? And if the wind shifts to 30 knots from the southwest while you're in the air? Now what direction do you fly? How fast are you flying? Because that counts huge in terms of navigation.

It also counts in terms of fuel consumption. Hence being able to take the weight of your fuel and translate that into available flight time.

More importantly, where's magnetic north and how far away from true north is it at your current location? A flight from New York to Berlin will see the difference between magnetic north and true north shift a full 20 degrees. (Around 25, give or take a few.)

I doubt that balancing a load uses any calculations.

:eh: Some people doubt Apollo happened. Reality is not constrained by our expectations.

Have you ever flown commercially? Ever notice that airlines have weight and size restrictions for luggage (generally 55lbs per bag, above which you're paying extra)?

Yeah, you can use statistics to average things out so you don't have to individually weigh your pax. But statistics is math too.

Designing them does, anyhow. They can use calculators and

computers.

Which requires advanced mathematical knowledge.

When I shop for groceries I never need to calculate anything.

Someone does.

"Hardcoded"? Does that describe the above programs? I don't

know whether they are "idiot-proof", but I suspect that I could

use them if you gave me the appropriate input values and I

followed the instructions.

I mean more along the lines of the automated menus at fast food restaurants which are so simplified they could be operated by someone in a coma.

Even with that software, you couldn't set up an eigenvalue without a significant amount of competence in math.

By "the device breaks down" you mean like the monitor dies and

needs to be replaced? I may have added a few numbers together

when looking for a new monitor, but I could do that with a

pocket calculator. No higher arithmetic or algebra needed.

You're assuming only one person is impaired, Jeff. We're talking the whole world. Yes, you can scavenge another monitor, but sooner or later, they'll run out. Monitors are a finite resource.

That's the point if this thread, if you'll recall.

He said the capacity

of our brains to 'do math' is dramatically reduced. I think

I understand exactly what that means, because I have a terrible

time with math. I am math averse. Looking at a complex formula

makes me want to look away, unless I'm just examining the

typography or the layout of the characters. The scenario that

Nereid described is just like what I live with all the time,

only even worse, so that I wouldn't even be able to do six

times seven without a calculator or a multiplication table,

and couldn't even solve for c in a=bc without it being written

out in front of me.

That's the point. Technology requires math to operate in the long term. We could limp along for a while with what we have, but it'll all break down eventually.

Air travel is more dependant on immediate math, however, and would likely break down first.

Jeff Root

2006-Oct-18, 10:39 PM

Clearly, Nereid did not imply that calculators are affected.

And exactly how old is your oldest functional calculator?

I think I got it in 1997, so, using my brain to subtract,

although the calculator is just inches away (closer than the

computer keyboard, in fact), it is 9 years old.

They conk out, you know. That's why I said within a generation.

By then, electronic equipment and the tools for making them will

be inoperable (and/or treated like religious relics and not used

casually).

Why? You give absolutely no reason whatsoever. There is no

reason under the Sun why electronic equipment or tools for

making them would be any less operable 40 years after the math

bug hit than before.

It [navigation] requires an understanding of what one is trying

to do, an ability to read, an ability to follow instructions, a

map, paper, pencil, and a calculator.

So does computing an eigenvalue (it's linear algebra, so it's

not a matter of plugging in a formula, but in applying math in

a way that involves a very large number of steps), but you've

never had the ability to do one. I've lost that ability since

college and its complicated enough that I doubt I could do one

by hand even with a better book than I had on the subject.

Okay. You totally changed the subject, but okay. Your point

seems to be that computing eigenvalues isn't important to us.

That's the point. Computing an eigenvalue is beyond our abilities.

And the scenario described by Nereid would have no effect on

that. We can't compute eigenvalues now, and we couldn't do it

after the math bug hit.

And that's the assumption of the OP. If Nereid allows that math

is still doable, why ask what will fail first? Seems a rather

pointless interpretation to me.

Your interpretation of Nereid's scenario is that electronic

devices stop working for no reason.

I frequently measure distances on paper maps. I put two pencil

marks on the edge of a piece of paper, transferred from the

map's distance scale, usually indicating a mile or a kilometer...

Uh huh. And if I tell you the wind is averaging 20 knots from

the northwest (roughly 300deg), and you know you need to travel

east, what direction do you need to fly?

I punched the numbers into my calculator the same way I always

do when I need a heading, and it reminded me that it required

additional info. It suggested an airspeed of 100 knots, so I

went with that, and the result was a heading of 84.2.

And if the wind shifts to 30 knots from the southwest while

you're in the air? Now what direction do you fly?

My calculator says 102.2, again at an airspeed of 100 knots.

How fast are you flying? Because that counts huge in terms of

navigation.

My calculator says my ground speed is 97.7 knots.

I didn't have to know any math or do any math -- I just input

the numbers according to the instructions. Of course I've done

it so many times that I don't need to reference the instructions

any more, so it takes only a couple of seconds.

It also counts in terms of fuel consumption. Hence being able to

take the weight of your fuel and translate that into available

flight time.

I use those functions on my calculator constantly.

More importantly, where's magnetic north and how far away from

true north is it at your current location? A flight from New York

to Berlin will see the difference between magnetic north and true

north shift a full 20 degrees. (Around 25, give or take a few.)

My calculator has a bunch of numbers stored in it, so when I

tell the calculator where I am, it tells me the difference

between magnetic north and true north at that location.

I doubt that balancing a load uses any calculations.

Some people doubt Apollo happened. Reality is not constrained by

our expectations.

Provide some evidence that loading of cargo into planes often

depends on calculations done at the time of loading.

Have you ever flown commercially?

I went into some detail in my other reply to you, describing

precisely such an experience. Perhaps you retained a faint

memory of reading it a few minutes earlier, prompting you to

suggest the idea...

Ever notice that airlines have weight and size restrictions for

luggage (generally 55lbs per bag, above which you're paying extra)?

Gee, I actually described such restrictions in my other reply.

It's spooky how you almost seem to know what I said in it!

Yeah, you can use statistics to average things out so you don't

have to individually weigh your pax. But statistics is math too.

No, statistics is not math if you aren't calculating anything.

Designing them does, anyhow. They can use calculators and

computers.

Which requires advanced mathematical knowledge.

Possibly. It is an unsupported assertion, though. I certainly

use calculators and computers without advanced mathematical

knowledge, but then, I'm not using them to design aircraft.

When I shop for groceries I never need to calculate anything.

Someone does.

No, no-one does. Your assertion was that "Knowing how much food

to stock given the number of passengers requires math." I was

giving a second example of how knowing how much food to stock

does not require math. Nobody has to do any calculations when

I shop for groceries in order for me to get an appropriate

quantity. I just fill up the cart.

"Hardcoded"? Does that describe the above programs? I don't

know whether they are "idiot-proof", but I suspect that I could

use them if you gave me the appropriate input values and I

followed the instructions.

I mean more along the lines of the automated menus at fast food

restaurants which are so simplified they could be operated by

someone in a coma.

It appears that what you meant was irrelevant, then.

Even with that software, you couldn't set up an eigenvalue

without a significant amount of competence in math.

With the software I linked to? I don't understand. Why do

you think that I would be unable to use it to set up an

eigenvalue?

By "the device breaks down" you mean like the monitor dies and

needs to be replaced? I may have added a few numbers together

when looking for a new monitor, but I could do that with a

pocket calculator. No higher arithmetic or algebra needed.

You're assuming only one person is impaired, Jeff.

I am? Are you replying to some other Jeff?

We're talking the whole world. Yes, you can scavenge another

monitor, but sooner or later, they'll run out. Monitors are

a finite resource.

Do you expect me to believe that when a low-paid assembly-line

worker in South Korea attaches the yoke to a CRT, she is

calculating differential equations in her head in order to

get it positioned correctly?

What gives you the idea that manufacture of computer monitors

or any other electronic equipment require the people making

them to do math in their heads? That is complete nonsense!

That's the point if this thread, if you'll recall.

Nereid asked a question. The thread has no point, but it

does reveal how different people have different ideas about

various things.

He said the capacity of our brains to 'do math' is dramatically

reduced. I think I understand exactly what that means, because

I have a terrible time with math. I am math averse. Looking

at a complex formula makes me want to look away, unless I'm just

examining the typography or the layout of the characters. The

scenario that Nereid described is just like what I live with all

the time, only even worse, so that I wouldn't even be able to do

six times seven without a calculator or a multiplication table,

and couldn't even solve for c in a=bc without it being written

out in front of me.

That's the point.

That isn't a "point".

Technology requires math to operate in the long term.

That idea does not follow from the passage you are replying to.

We could limp along for a while with what we have, but

it'll all break down eventually.

You haven't supported that notion.

Air travel is more dependant on immediate math, however, and

would likely break down first.

You haven't shown that air travel is at all dependant on

immediate math done in the head, though you did mention ATC

which I can't address because I don't know enough about it.

ATC does seem a likely candidate for requiring mental math.

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis

Moose

2006-Oct-19, 01:20 PM

Why? You give absolutely no reason whatsoever. There is no reason under the Sun why electronic equipment or tools for

making them would be any less operable 40 years after the math

bug hit than before.

I see. And exactly why is it there are thousands of mom-and-pop shops who do hardware replacements? Why did my previous two motherboards fail within a few years of purchase? Why did my father's hard drive die last month? Why did I have to replace a DVD player and VCR in the last six years? Why do consumer electronics require warranties?

Okay. You totally changed the subject, but okay. Your point

seems to be that computing eigenvalues isn't important to us.

Yeah, it actually is important. Triply so for gamers. (Eigenvalues have applications in graphics processing.) But thankfully we don't have to know how to do it personally, just like I don't have to personally know how to fly a plane when I fly commercially.

And the scenario described by Nereid would have no effect on

that. We can't compute eigenvalues now, and we couldn't do it

after the math bug hit.

You and I couldn't. But Nereid isn't talking about you or I. Nereid is talking about everybody.

Your interpretation of Nereid's scenario is that electronic

devices stop working for no reason.

Is it your position that electronic equipment never fails? That's... incredibly optimistic.

Electronics people even have a name for the statistical distribution of electronics failures (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bathtub_curve).

I punched the numbers into my calculator the same way I always

do when I need a heading, and it reminded me that it required

additional info. It suggested an airspeed of 100 knots, so I

went with that, and the result was a heading of 84.2.

Your calculator broke while you're in the air, and the wind shifted again. Now what?

Speaking of which, how exactly do you propose setting up the flight plan for a (charter) transatlantic flight without spherical trigonometry? You're in Indianapolis and you're going to Nantes. What's your heading?

Provide some evidence that loading of cargo into planes often

depends on calculations done at the time of loading.

Evidence. (http://www.airliners.net/open.file?id=0065821&WxsIERv=Obrvat%20747-433Z&Wm=0&WdsYXMg=Nve%20Pnanqn&QtODMg=Cnevf%20-%20Beyl%20%28BEL%20%2F%20YSCB%29&ERDLTkt=Senapr&ktODMp=Ncevy%2026%2C%201998&BP=1&WNEb25u=Qnlbg%20Wrna-Puneyrf&xsIERvdWdsY=P-TNTY&MgTUQtODMgKE=&YXMgTUQtODMgKERD=533194&NEb25uZWxs=2000-02-02%2000%3A00%3A00&ODJ9dvCE=&O89Dcjdg=24998%2F840&static=yes&width=945&height=472&sok=%20BEQRE%20OL%20ivrjf%20qrfp&photo_nr=18&prev_id=0523538&next_id=0191286) "That my friends is why you do your weight and balance. So next time one of you K-State kids complain, think about this"

More evidence. (http://www.airliners.net/open.file?id=0147788&WxsIERv=Obrvat%20747-283O%28FS%29&Wm=0&WdsYXMg=Cbyne%20Nve%20Pnetb&QtODMg=Qryuv%20-%20Vaqven%20Tnaquv%20Vagreangvbany%20%28Cnynz%29%2 0%28QRY%20%2F%20IVQC%29&ERDLTkt=Vaqvn&ktODMp=Znl%201999&BP=1&WNEb25u=Lhfgnf&xsIERvdWdsY=A921SG&MgTUQtODMgKE=Pnetb%20zvfpbasvethengvba&YXMgTUQtODMgKERD=218494&NEb25uZWxs=2001-03-10&ODJ9dvCE=&O89Dcjdg=21575%2F358&static=yes&width=932&height=740&sok=%20beqre%20ol%20ivrjf%20QRFP&photo_nr=24&prev_id=0016964&next_id=0209303&tbl=ACCIDENT)

Yet more evidence (http://www.airliners.net/open.file?id=0999782&WxsIERv=Obrvat%20747-4E7S%2FFPQ&Wm=1&WdsYXMg=Pnetbyhk&QtODMg=Funatunv%20-%20Chqbat%20Vagreangvbany%20%28CIT%20%2F%20MFCQ%29&ERDLTkt=Puvan&ktODMp=Wnahnel%2029%2C%202006&BP=1&WNEb25u=Wrssjryy&xsIERvdWdsY=YK-GPI&MgTUQtODMgKE=Vg%27f%20fb%20uneq%20gb%20haybnq%20n% 20shyy%20ybnqrq%20pnetb%20cynar%20yvxr%20guvf%2C%2 0gurl%20ner%20qbvat%20fbzr%20cercnengvba%20gb%20yv sg%20vg%20hc.&YXMgTUQtODMgKERD=99215&NEb25uZWxs=2006-02-07&ODJ9dvCE=&O89Dcjdg=30401%2F1311&static=yes&width=1024&height=693&sok=JURER%20%20%28ZNGPU%20%28nvepensg%2Cnveyvar%2C cynpr%2Ccubgb_qngr%2Cpbhagel%2Cerznex%2Ccubgbtencu re%2Crznvy%2Clrne%2Cert%2Cnvepensg_trarevp%2Cpa%2C pbqr%29%20NTNVAFG%20%28%27%2B%22pnetb%22%27%20VA%2 0OBBYRNA%20ZBQR%29%29%20%20beqre%20ol%20ivrjf%20QR FP&photo_nr=9&prev_id=0466006&next_id=0763399&tbl=ACCIDENT)

Another one. (http://www.airliners.net/open.file?id=0212166&WxsIERv=ZpQbaaryy%20Qbhtynf%20ZQ-11%28S%29&Wm=0&WdsYXMg=Xberna%20Nve%20Pnetb&QtODMg=Flqarl%20-%20Xvatfsbeq%20Fzvgu%20Vagreangvbany%20%28Znfpbg%2 9%20%28FLQ%20%2F%20LFFL%29&ERDLTkt=Nhfgenyvn%20-%20Arj%20Fbhgu%20Jnyrf&ktODMp=Wnahnel%209%2C%202002&BP=0&WNEb25u=Vna%20Obyyra&xsIERvdWdsY=UY7372&MgTUQtODMgKE=Ebgngvba%20ba%20gur%20gneznp%20ng%20F lqarl.%20Guvf%20Xberna%20Nveyvarf%20ZQ11%20Pnetb%2 0whfg%20pbhyqa%27g%20jnvg%20gb%20trg%20ubzr.&YXMgTUQtODMgKERD=23712&NEb25uZWxs=2002-01-10&ODJ9dvCE=&O89Dcjdg=48408%2F457&static=yes&width=1024&height=692&sok=JURER%20%20%28ZNGPU%20%28nvepensg%2Cnveyvar%2C cynpr%2Ccubgb_qngr%2Cpbhagel%2Cerznex%2Ccubgbtencu re%2Crznvy%2Clrne%2Cert%2Cnvepensg_trarevp%2Cpa%2C pbqr%29%20NTNVAFG%20%28%27%2B%22pnetb%22%27%20VA%2 0OBBYRNA%20ZBQR%29%29%20%20beqre%20ol%20ivrjf%20QR FP&photo_nr=31&prev_id=&next_id=0212050&tbl=ACCIDENT) "Seen here stranded in the "rotate" position on the International Freight Apron after an unloading mishap. Shot at around 7pm (8hrs after the incident) the aircraft was in the process of being lowered back to a more regular position. Incident was caused due by unloading with insufficient fuel in tanks to keep the C of G forward of the main gear."

Should I go on? I'm sure I can find others without too much effort.

Gee, I actually described such restrictions in my other reply.

It's spooky how you almost seem to know what I said in it!

Why exactly do you think those restrictions exist?

Part of the answer is occupational safety for the cargo handlers, part of the answer is keeping the plane profitable, but a third key part of the answer means you can use rules-of-thumb to streamline the loading procedures in commerical aviation while keeping your plane's tail off the ground. See my links above.

No, statistics is not math if you aren't calculating anything.

Okay, this may be the most ridiculous statement you've uttered yet. It's clear you know more than I do about actual piloting (at least small aircraft), but my professional background is about a third statistical analysis.

I'd love to see you try and come up with even a single instance of statistics (not the made-up stuff punters and politicians pull out of their butts, but real-world supportable statistics) that didn't require math to produce.

At your instistance, I've supported my assertions with this post. Will you do less?

Do you honestly think this (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bathtub_curve) isn't math?

Possibly. It is an unsupported assertion, though. I certainly

use calculators and computers without advanced mathematical

knowledge, but then, I'm not using them to design aircraft.

Or to maintain them, or to fly them, apparently.

However, in order for you to use your nintendo systems, someone has had to blaze the trail. And you'd better be ready to cope when your nintendo fails, because it eventually will.

No, no-one does. Your assertion was that "Knowing how much food

to stock given the number of passengers requires math." I was

giving a second example of how knowing how much food to stock

does not require math. Nobody has to do any calculations when

I shop for groceries in order for me to get an appropriate

quantity. I just fill up the cart.

I see. And the cashier doesn't have to ring up the total? The store manager doesn't have to budget the stock order so you can put food in your cart?

"Nobody has to do any calculations." Right.

With the software I linked to? I don't understand. Why do

you think that I would be unable to use it to set up an

eigenvalue?

Because I've done it before in my college days and know that it takes a lot more than a layperson's grasp of arithmatic to understand, let alone perform.

Do you expect me to believe that when a low-paid assembly-line

worker in South Korea attaches the yoke to a CRT, she is

calculating differential equations in her head in order to

get it positioned correctly?

Yet another strawman.

What gives you the idea that manufacture of computer monitors

or any other electronic equipment require the people making

them to do math in their heads? That is complete nonsense!

Do you honestly believe that people physically mass-produce chips? No. They service the machines that mass-produce the chips. But the machines require a huge amount of math in order to lay silicone in widths now measured in single-digit nanometers. Not to mention the math required to set up the production line in the first place.

You haven't shown that air travel is at all dependant on

immediate math done in the head, though you did mention ATC

which I can't address because I don't know enough about it.

ATC does seem a likely candidate for requiring mental math.

I've asked about this issue previously. An old college buddy of mine was having trouble getting his instrumentation certification because he was having trouble doing the trig accurately while in the air.

I later took a little training in sea navigation when I had the means to pursue a bit of sailing, although I already knew the trig from 9th grade physics.

I've also played every ATC simulation I could get my hands on (and even worked on designing one, although I never completed it.) They were, of course, heavily simplified. Planes only travelled in 45 degree increments along a fairly wide grid, in 1000-foot altitude increments, constant speeds, and the weather doesn't count. But that just means you can get away without doing vector addition in your head, unlike real ATC controllers.

Ronald Brak

2006-Oct-19, 01:32 PM

Maybe it would help to know what drastically reduced ability to do maths means?

If drastically reduced ability to do maths means it now takes me two hours and lots of scrap paper to do what used to take me ten minutes, we will muddle through. If drastically reduced ability to do maths means we can't count, then bye-bye technological society.

As a rough metaphor, you could drastically reduce my ability to see by taking away my glasses, but I could still function, hold down a job etc, although it would make many things very difficult. But if you took away my vision entirely I would be in a much worse situation. Being blind in two eyes is not twice as bad as being blind in one eye.

Nereid

2006-Oct-19, 07:25 PM

Of course the details are important - who would be affected, how affected, etc, etc, etc.

There's also the question of how sharp a shock it is ... if very sharp (within a few days, for example) the results would be very different than if it were a gradual decline, over a decade (say).

One aspect that's, so far, been rather thinly acknowledged: it's not so much a black/white change (though there may be some of those), as how disruptive to the smooth functioning of the economy (one country, the globe) any such change might be.

For example: retail stores like supermarkets are only profitable because of very high 'churn' (nothing much stays on the shelf for long; any one product line 'turns over' dozens of times in a year), so the marginal profit on any transaction (averaged) is tiny. This only works well because the supply chains are finely tuned ... a sudden drop in efficiency (no matter how defined) would devastate the store, or a chain. Or, if they could adjust in time, then the knock-on effects in the economy would be devastating (a full-blown depression, with massive unemployment, not least because the ability to do decent economic planning/pull economic levers would be lost).

Here's a thought: when things fail, we could say there are three tiers to response/resolution - fixing by 'reading the manual'; implementing "Plan B"; getting the experts to come in. A 'patch' may be possible, temporarily, but resolution in the long-term requires the senior engineers, the scientists, the architects/designers/whatever. So 'first to fail' is what needs this third tier the soonest. And when do you need such? When there's a big earthquake, or a hurricane, or a major accident, or a big bankruptcy, or ... and with an economy's resiliance completely gone, any incident like this will trigger a general collapse.

Well, that's how I see it ..

Jeff Root

2006-Oct-19, 10:19 PM

There is no reason under the Sun why electronic equipment or tools

for making them would be any less operable 40 years after the math

bug hit than before.

I see.

You do? If you did you wouldn't ask:

And exactly why is it there are thousands of mom-and-pop shops who

do hardware replacements? Why did my previous two motherboards fail

within a few years of purchase? Why did my father's hard drive die

last month? Why did I have to replace a DVD player and VCR in the

last six years? Why do consumer electronics require warranties?

You don't know what you are talking about. I'll remind you:

A bug eats everybody's brains so that math becomes extremely

difficult to think through. There are no other direct effects

of the bug. It doesn't make people stoopid. It doesn't make

people dyslexic. It doesn't make people think that red is green

or mistake three stripes on a resistor for two. It doesn't make

people try to fit the wrong end of a screwdriver into a screw.

It just makes people unable to think through math problems.

Okay. You totally changed the subject, but okay. Your point

seems to be that computing eigenvalues isn't important to us.

Yeah, it actually is important. Triply so for gamers.

(Eigenvalues have applications in graphics processing.) But

thankfully we don't have to know how to do it personally, just

like I don't have to personally know how to fly a plane when

I fly commercially.

Well, then, the example of eigenvalues didn't illustrate any

need for doing math in the head. If you can show how gamers

depend on doing math in the head which involves eigenvalues,

that would be fine, but so far all you've done is assert that

eigenvalues are important, and triply so for gamers. Those

assertions don't support the idea that the inability to do

math in the head would lead to the rapid decline and fall of

civilization as we know it.

And the scenario described by Nereid would have no effect on

that. We can't compute eigenvalues now, and we couldn't do it

after the math bug hit.

You and I couldn't. But Nereid isn't talking about you or I.

Nereid is talking about everybody.

My point was that you failed to make any point. Calculation of

eigenvalues may be crucial to civilization as we know it, but I

have seen absolutely no evidence of that, in this thread or in

real life. Even if it is crucial, I've seen no evidence that it

can't be accomplished by trained computer operators who know no

math but know how to read and punch keys.

Your interpretation of Nereid's scenario is that electronic

devices stop working for no reason.

Is it your position that electronic equipment never fails?

That's... incredibly optimistic.

Is it your position that you can't read what I have written?

That's... incredibly dumb. Way more dumb than I can believe.

Argue against what I have written, not some fantasy version

of what I've written.

Electronics people even have a name for the statistical

distribution of electronics failures.

Whoopie twang.

I punched the numbers into my calculator the same way I always

do when I need a heading, and it reminded me that it required

additional info. It suggested an airspeed of 100 knots, so I

went with that, and the result was a heading of 84.2.

Your calculator broke while you're in the air, and the wind

shifted again. Now what?

I'll reach behind the seat and pull out a spare calculator.

Or I'll radio the control center and tell them my problem.

They're set up to handle that kind of request. It's pretty

common, and a very minor nuisance compared to a broken

propeller or broken hydraulic line.

Speaking of which, how exactly do you propose setting up the

flight plan for a (charter) transatlantic flight without

spherical trigonometry? You're in Indianapolis and you're

going to Nantes. What's your heading?

I'll pull out the maps which show all the routes and headings.

Or I'll ask another pilot who has flown the route.

Or I'll look at a globe and measure the angles.

Or I'll use my calculator to do the spherical trig you don't

want me to do.

Provide some evidence that loading of cargo into planes often

depends on calculations done at the time of loading.

Evidence.

Oop! That link shows indirect evidence that loading of cargo

into planes does not involve calculations!

"That my friends is why you do your weight and balance.

So next time one of you K-State kids complain, think about this"

Support, but weak. What does this guy mean by "do your weight

and balance"? What does it involve?

More evidence.

That link also shows indirect evidence that loading of cargo

into planes does not involve calculations!

Yet more evidence

Oop again! That link shows a plane with a retracted or broken

nose gear. Despite the comment on the page, the accident had

nothing to do with unbalanced cargo.

Another one. "Seen here stranded in the "rotate" position on the

International Freight Apron after an unloading mishap. Shot at

around 7pm (8hrs after the incident) the aircraft was in the

process of being lowered back to a more regular position.

Incident was caused due by unloading with insufficient fuel in

tanks to keep the C of G forward of the main gear."

More indirect evidence that loading of cargo into planes does

not involve calculations!

Should I go on? I'm sure I can find others without too much effort.

You've shown photos of three planes which tipped backward

because the cargo handlers allowed too much weight behind the

wheels and not enough ahead of them. The only evidence you

provided that balancing cargo often depends on calculations

done at the time of loading is a single vague comment from an

anonymous poster.

Gee, I actually described such restrictions in my other reply.

It's spooky how you almost seem to know what I said in it!

Why exactly do you think those restrictions exist?

Why do you think I brought them up in the first place?

Part of the answer is occupational safety for the cargo handlers,

part of the answer is keeping the plane profitable, but a third

key part of the answer means you can use rules-of-thumb to

streamline the loading procedures in commerical aviation while

keeping your plane's tail off the ground. See my links above.

So, in a roundabout way, you are saying cargo handlers don't

actually do calculations at the time of loading? Or what?

There is nothing in the linked pages about "rules-of-thumb".

No, statistics is not math if you aren't calculating anything.

Okay, this may be the most ridiculous statement you've uttered

yet. It's clear you know more than I do about actual piloting

(at least small aircraft), but my professional background is

about a third statistical analysis.

I'd love to see you try and come up with even a single instance

of statistics (not the made-up stuff punters and politicians pull

out of their butts, but real-world supportable statistics) that

didn't require math to produce.

At your instistance, I've supported my assertions with this post.

Will you do less?

Do you honestly think this isn't math?

Again, you have forgotten what you are talking about.

I brought up the idea of statistics when I said in post 33:

I suspect that the total allowable mass per seat is determined

beforehand, that passengers are assumed to have a gaussian

distribution of weights which the people at the check-in desk

and on the plane do not keep track of and are mostly unaware of,

and that each passenger is allowed a certain weight of luggage

which is set for each aircraft type.

I could tell that you understood this because you used the word

"statistics", which I had not.

The reason for using such statistics is that it avoids the need

to calculate anything at loading time. The fact that math is

required to produce (or more accurately, analyze) the statistics

is both absurdly obvious and completely irrelevant.

The statistics have already been produced for the 747. There

is no need to generate them again unless modifications are made

to the aircraft. It will be fairly simple and straightforward

to follow existing instructions on how to generate similar

statistics for new aircraft introduced after the math bug hits.

The people who do the calculations don't have to understand why

they work. They only need to know what the proceedure is, and

follow that proceedure. Ha! Like computers!

in order for you to use your nintendo systems, someone has had

to blaze the trail. And you'd better be ready to cope when your

nintendo fails, because it eventually will.

I'm sure it would. So? Is there some reason that math-impared

people aren't allowed to repair electronics?

Your assertion was that "Knowing how much food to stock given the

number of passengers requires math." I was giving a second example

of how knowing how much food to stock does not require math. Nobody

has to do any calculations when I shop for groceries in order for

me to get an appropriate quantity. I just fill up the cart.

I see. And the cashier doesn't have to ring up the total?

Yes, but that doesn't require anyone to do any math, and it has

no relevance to my determination of how much food to get.

The store manager doesn't have to budget the stock order so you

can put food in your cart?

Maybe so, but it has no relevance to my determination of how

much food to get, and it doesn't have to be done while I'm in

the store, and it probably doesn't require the manager to do

any mental calculations.

"Nobody has to do any calculations." Right.

Right. What I said.

With the software I linked to? I don't understand. Why do

you think that I would be unable to use it to set up an

eigenvalue?

Because I've done it before in my college days and know that it

takes a lot more than a layperson's grasp of arithmatic to

understand, let alone perform.

Well, we are talking here about doing it without understanding

it. If someone were to pose a specific problem suitable for

this calculator:

http://www.arndt-bruenner.de/mathe/scripts/engl_eigenwert.htm

I could attempt to solve it and get a data point that supports

either your assertion or mine.

Do you expect me to believe that when a low-paid assembly-line

worker in South Korea attaches the yoke to a CRT, she is

calculating differential equations in her head in order to

get it positioned correctly?

Yet another strawman.

This is the problem. You keep asserting that technology would

break down and imply that it couldn't be repaired, but you give

no reason whatsoever. Why was my example a strawman? What was

wrong with it as an example? You've given several examples

meant to support your position which do not. Why don't you

give any examples that support your position?

What gives you the idea that manufacture of computer monitors

or any other electronic equipment require the people making

them to do math in their heads? That is complete nonsense!

Do you honestly believe that people physically mass-produce

chips? No.

I don't know what you mean by "physically mass-produce chips".

What do you mean by it?

They service the machines that mass-produce the chips.

But the machines require a huge amount of math in order to lay

silicone in widths now measured in single-digit nanometers. Not

to mention the math required to set up the production line in

the first place.

Calculators and computers do exist. They won't vanish when

the math bug hits.

Nanometers or furlongs, the values and units are irrelevant.

You haven't shown that air travel is at all dependant on

immediate math done in the head, though you did mention ATC

which I can't address because I don't know enough about it.

ATC does seem a likely candidate for requiring mental math.

I've asked about this issue previously. An old college buddy of

mine was having trouble getting his instrumentation certification

because he was having trouble doing the trig accurately while in

the air.

The rules will need to be adjusted after the math bug attack.

I later took a little training in sea navigation when I had the

means to pursue a bit of sailing, although I already knew the

trig from 9th grade physics.

I've also played every ATC simulation I could get my hands on

(and even worked on designing one, although I never completed

it.) They were, of course, heavily simplified. Planes only

travelled in 45 degree increments along a fairly wide grid, in

1000-foot altitude increments, constant speeds, and the weather

doesn't count. But that just means you can get away without doing

vector addition in your head, unlike real ATC controllers.

Do air traffic controllers actually have to do mental vector

addition, or do they just have to add angles? I would think

that vector addition is an appropriate task for a calculator.

I'm sure things would get a bit hectic in the ATC the month

the bug hits.

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis

Moose

2006-Oct-19, 10:46 PM

If you can show how gamers

depend on doing math in the head which involves eigenvalues,

that would be fine, but so far all you've done is assert that

eigenvalues are important, and triply so for gamers.

Wow. No, just wow.

Look Jeff. I've tried to be polite up to this point, but it's clear you haven't a clue what's involved in electronics beyond the pretty plastic buttons of your little toys.

I can say, however, that I never ever want to be in or near a plane you're flying. I'm honestly not saying this to be deliberately offensive, but I don't believe flying with you to be safe. You're far too reliant on your technology working properly and apparently don't have a clue how to navigate without it.

Do air traffic controllers actually have to do mental vector

addition, or do they just have to add angles? I would think

that vector addition is an appropriate task for a calculator.

Again, wow.

Just wow.

Yeah. I'm retiring from this thread. This is getting ridiculous.

sarongsong

2006-Oct-20, 06:32 AM

...reducing the capacity of the affected brains to 'do math'...What would be the first things to fail?"He-e-e- re's Bobby!"...

Anyone who cannot cope with mathematics is not fully human. At best he is a tolerable subhuman who has learned to wear shoes, bathe and not make messes in the house.

– Robert Heinlein, science fiction writer San Diego Union-Tribune (http://www.signonsandiego.com/uniontrib/20061019/news_lz1c19eureka.html)Oofdah!

Jeff Root

2006-Oct-20, 02:29 PM

If you can show how gamers depend on doing math in the head

which involves eigenvalues, that would be fine, but so far

all you've done is assert that eigenvalues are important,

and triply so for gamers.

Wow. No, just wow.

Look Jeff. I've tried to be polite up to this point, but it's

clear you haven't a clue what's involved in electronics beyond

the pretty plastic buttons of your little toys.

I haven't said anything at all about what is involved in

electronics, so any guess you could make about my knowledge

of that subject would be baseless.

I can say, however, that I never ever want to be in or near a plane

you're flying. I'm honestly not saying this to be deliberately

offensive, but I don't believe flying with you to be safe. You're

far too reliant on your technology working properly and apparently

don't have a clue how to navigate without it.

So when you fly, you don't rely on the engines working properly?

What gave you the idea that I'm too reliant on some "technology"?

I have said almost nothing that would tell you how reliant I may

be on any technology. The main evidence you have of my reliance

on technology is the fact that I post these messages, so you can

be sure that I depend on the Internet, the power grid supporting

the Internet, and some computer to connect to the Internet. Same

as you. Since I say that I live in Minneapolis, you can guess

that I rely on technology to keep me warm. Same as you.

What gave you the idea that I don't have a clue how to navigate

without that "technology"? I have said nothing that would tell

you the extent to which I rely on "technology" to navigate.

Do air traffic controllers actually have to do mental vector

addition, or do they just have to add angles? I would think

that vector addition is an appropriate task for a calculator.

Again, wow.

Just wow.

Yeah. I'm retiring from this thread. This is getting ridiculous.

The idea that air traffic controllers do vector addition in

their heads while directing air traffic is pretty ridiculous.

Sure, if the numbers are simple, it can be done, but the numbers

usually aren't simple and opportunities for errors would be

enormous.

Moose, the majority of assertions you made in this thread are

unsubstantiated. Some of them are wrong.

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis

mugaliens

2006-Oct-20, 06:00 PM

Most things would keep humming right along, as most of us rarely, if ever, use more than very basic math throughout our lives.

I think advances in some of the sciences would bog down, but many would keep going.

Nereid

2006-Oct-21, 02:17 AM

Most things would keep humming right along, as most of us rarely, if ever, use more than very basic math throughout our lives.

I think advances in some of the sciences would bog down, but many would keep going.The point is not how much (or how little) 90+% of the people who are engaged in paid employment use maths to do their jobs successfully; it's more about what the consequences are of those who do (use maths in the jobs) suddenly stop such use, completely.

At one level, how would the benchmark interest rate be set (Bank of England, Federal Reserve, ....), without the use of maths?

At another level, how would the 'bill of materials', required for use in repairing a bridge that got washed out by a flood/demolished by an earthquake, be calculated, without the use of maths (this is trickier than just replacing that which is obviously gone/broken, it also involves estimating what needs to be replaced, of the structure that is still standing and apparently sound)?

The Backroad Astronomer

2006-Oct-21, 02:49 AM

well my thoughts there goes jeopardy.

and what about people converting from on set of units to another

(oops somebody already had a problem there).

Nereid

2006-Oct-21, 03:11 AM

well my thoughts there goes jeopardy.

and what about people converting from on set of units to another

(oops somebody already had a problem there).Thanks for this; it brings to the fore a point made by someone else* earlier in this thread - just what is this 'math' that the disease impacts?

If it were all but the simplest of arithmetic (the kind that several other primates apparently have), then all but the simplest of purchases would become nigh impossible ("the price is $xxxx, you gave me a piece of paper with $yy written on it; how much change should I give you?"), and catastrophic collapse happens within days, if not hours.

But suppose the mysterious disease still allows arithmetic, even including 0 and negative numbers (this isn't, perhaps, much of a concession; you could still 'do' arithmetic sufficiently well - maybe - without 0 and negatives), but not (explicit) algebra, calculus, ...? While a great many applications of these branches of 'real math' appear in the jobs of the '~10%', at least some of them can be re-cast as 'arithmetic', with tolerable efficiency wrt the instances where they're actually needed.

My OTBB question then becomes, with this clarification wrt 'math', what activities do the ~10% who use 'real math' do that would, without an ability to do 'real math', result in a devastating collapse?

*Apologies that I don't recall who, and am not in the mood to go check right now ...

The Backroad Astronomer

2006-Oct-21, 03:17 AM

Nasa mars orbiter in 99 crashed because one sub contracter used imperial and nasa used metric.

The Backroad Astronomer

2006-Oct-21, 03:26 AM

if you mean arthmetic for a while they will be problems with change at tills but most people would probably relearn to do that. If you mean geometry calculus and other abstract forms of math or maths, actually depends on if any were trained to use computer programs that does calculus or not, or if the can relearn what is lost. If they can not be retrained to do it it might take a couple of generations to get enough retrained to those maths.

Nereid

2006-Oct-21, 03:26 AM

Nasa mars orbiter in 99 crashed because one sub contracter used imperial and nasa used metric.But that's a failure of Project Management 101, not of maths, surely?

I mean, if we ask the BAUT members who do (or have done) project management - "from what you know of that NASA Mars mission failure, to what extent do you think the root cause is failure of the relevant project managers to do their work according to the basic principles of the area of expertise for which they were supposedly hired?" - how many would say (something to the effect that) "the root cause had nothing to do with a failure of key people to properly apply 'textbook' project management!"? I suspect very few (i.e. it's an almost classic case of failure to apply principles and approaches that key people supposedly were trained in, and supposedly highly experienced at).

The Backroad Astronomer

2006-Oct-21, 03:40 AM

It was meant to as a point of humour, but I keave on the border with united states and once and while you get confused driver who either drives too slow or too fast because they are not use to the change of units. but you are probably it was management type who was not paying attention the details of the project.

Jeff Root

2006-Oct-21, 01:05 PM

Nereid,

Several people speculated on the specific reductions in math

abilities. I did in the last paragraph of post #34, but I was

not the first.

Going back to your original description of the calamity, I want

to revise my own description slightly. You specified that it

reduces the capacity of our brains to do math. "Doing math" is

to me the ability to figure out unknown quantities from known

quantities. I have memorized that six times seven is forty-two,

so when I recall that fact, it should not be considered math.

It is merely the recollection of a memorized fact, the same as

I recall that "94" is the designation of the interstate freeway

that runs east-west through the Twin Cities, or that the apparent

magnitude of Sirius is -1.45. But if I want to know what is the

product of seven times thirteen, I have to do math.

This seems borderline to me: If I know that A=BxC, do I then

know that B=A/C, or is that a bit of algebra that might be too

hard for me after the math bug? Perhaps I would remember that

I can transform the equation, but I would have to reference a

slip of paper in my wallet that specifies the various algebraic

equalities, each time I needed to do a transformation.

In reality, I have memorized that tan=opp/adj, but I don't have

reliably memorized that sin=opp/hyp and cos=adj/hyp, so I check

the slip of paper I keep in my wallet when I need to calculate

something from a hypotenuse. After the math bug hits, would I

forget that tan=opp/adj? Or is it a bit of rote memorization

that would not be affected?

The point is not how much (or how little) 90+% of the people

who are engaged in paid employment use maths to do their jobs

successfully; it's more about what the consequences are of those

who do (use maths in the jobs) suddenly stop such use, completely.

Completely stopping use of math is a quite different scenario

from the one first presented. Do you mean that if my job is to

measure the length and width of a room and multiply the numbers

together in order to determine the amount of carpet required,

I will no longer be able to do my job? I can't follow the

proceedure: Measure the length; punch number into calculator;

press "x"; measure width; punch into calculator; press "=";

write down result?

At one level, how would the benchmark interest rate be set (Bank

of England, Federal Reserve, ....), without the use of maths?

I wonder if they make the slightest difference.

Would the math inhibition be so severe that if the rate was 4%

and it needed to be lowered, they wouldn't know whether to make

the new rate 3% or 5%? If it is merely a matter of not having

the tools to decide whether a reduction to 3% or 2% is more

appropriate, then there would be very little difference from

the way things are actually done now. They would reduce the

rate a small amount and see if things improve. If not, they

may then want to try reducing it further.

At another level, how would the 'bill of materials', required for

use in repairing a bridge that got washed out by a flood/demolished

by an earthquake, be calculated, without the use of maths (this is

trickier than just replacing that which is obviously gone/broken,

it also involves estimating what needs to be replaced, of the

structure that is still standing and apparently sound)?

If the people can still count and do arithmetic on paper or with

calculators, then I see no problem. If they can't figure out

how to keep a tally or do arithmetic on the tally marks, then

everyone's intelligence has fallen dramatically along with the

ability to do math in the head.

If it were all but the simplest of arithmetic (the kind that

several other primates apparently have), then all but the

simplest of purchases would become nigh impossible ("the price

is $xxxx, you gave me a piece of paper with $yy written on it;

how much change should I give you?"), and catastrophic collapse

happens within days, if not hours.

I have seen tables of the amount of tax to charge posted at

cash registers, for use by the clerks, so that they do not have

to do any math. The tables show the amount of tax from one cent

all the way up to hundreds of dollars. Of course, with modern

cash registers, not only the amount of change but the tax is

calculated automatically.

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis

Ronald Brak

2006-Oct-22, 06:58 AM

If you wanted me to bake a quiche then I would have to do maths. I would have to measure ingredients in the right proportions and if I wanted to make more or less than the amount described in the recipe I would have to scale up or down. But a professional chef doesn't have to do any calculation. A skilled chef will just "know" how much of the ingredients are needed and will adjust the ingredients according to their quality, and the colour, texture, smell and taste of the mixture. Mathematical calculation is not used. It is all pattern recognition that comes from long experience. Engineers and others also rely on this pattern recognition process. So even if their mathematical ability was drastically decreased they should still have a fair amount of ability to function in their jobs. Of course they would have difficulty when the time came to do something new.

mugaliens

2006-Oct-22, 09:53 AM

The point is not how much (or how little) 90+% of the people who are engaged in paid employment use maths to do their jobs successfully; it's more about what the consequences are of those who do (use maths in the jobs) suddenly stop such use, completely.

At one level, how would the benchmark interest rate be set (Bank of England, Federal Reserve, ....), without the use of maths?

At another level, how would the 'bill of materials', required for use in repairing a bridge that got washed out by a flood/demolished by an earthquake, be calculated, without the use of maths (this is trickier than just replacing that which is obviously gone/broken, it also involves estimating what needs to be replaced, of the structure that is still standing and apparently sound)?

I think the key, here, is in the original post, which talked about "reducing" people's ability to do math, not eliminating it.

That's why I maintain most things would keep humming along just fine.

As for the math-intensive tasks that are still done by humans, I'm quite sure we could formulate work-arounds, even if that took longer.

But no, the world wouldn't grind to a halt. Might take a bit longer at the checkout counter, though...

Nereid

2006-Oct-23, 12:41 AM

'just take longer', and 'they would have difficulty when the time came to do something new' ... I think these are two aspects whose impact we may not have properly considered.

If there were enough time to make adjustments, it might, just might, be 'all right' in the end.

However, I feel there is an underestimation of just how finely balanced so much of modern life (in 'advanced economies') is.

Take the supply chain for your favourite local supermarket. A sudden, serious degradation in math ability, globally, will have an effect that is far more dramatic than just longer lines at the checkout counter ... goods will start to run short, or be oversupplied, or arrive too early, or too late; there will be insufficient space to put the goods, or too much; employees will start to get paid late (or early), with incorrect amounts deducted for taxes, for social welfare, for ...; local contractors will be similarly affected; ... those who can, will build buffers and reserves, to alleviate these effects (though in the case of a strong supermarket chain, they will be largely in vain - even with, or perhaps enhanced by, degraded math, these retail entities have vast purchasing power). The standard market response is, of course, to raise prices (or lower them, in the case of oversupplies), and the net effect of the now much less efficient supply chain will be a big, big (general) increase in prices. Now whether there are economics gurus at the helm of the nation or not, and even if the rest of the economy were operating as efficiently as today, the price hike would very likely trigger a recession (or worse).

And that's just the effects from 'maths degradation' in one part of retail commerce!

Consider that there will be serious disruptions in all industries - telecommunications, aviation, electric power generation and distribution, fuel (gas, petrol, diesel, ...) production (extraction, refining) and distribution, banking, insurance, manufacturing, ... - and a major economic shock is certain.

If it were just a local disaster (an earthquake, a 2-day nation-wide power grid failure, another Katrina, ..), no worries; however, a global failure of math ability would not produce just one or two, limited, local problems ...

ASEI

2006-Oct-23, 02:23 PM

On the plus side (and no small disadvantage at that), the IRS will have it's ability to monitor your every item of inventory for obscene taxation seriously impaired. :D

Cuddles

2006-Oct-24, 03:34 PM

Suppose a strange and terrible new disease breaks out, affecting the brains of the species Homo sapiens. It has the unfortunate consequence of dramatically reducing the capacity of the affected brains to 'do math', and it spreads 'like wildfire', infecting all individuals within, say, 24 hours.

What would be the first things to fail?

Are you sure this hasn't already happened?

danscope

2006-Oct-26, 02:08 AM

Suppose a strange and terrible new disease breaks out, affecting the brains of the species Homo sapiens. It has the unfortunate consequence of dramatically reducing the capacity of the affected brains to 'do math', and it spreads 'like wildfire', infecting all individuals within, say, 24 hours.

What would be the first things to fail?

In short: The economy.

Nereid

2006-Oct-26, 09:15 AM

Are you sure this hasn't already happened?Hmm, let's see now ...

Let x = at2 + vt + x0

d2x/dt2 = d (dx/dt)/dt = d(2at + v)/dt = 2a

I can no longer tell if this is right or wrong, let alone what it means! ;)

How about this ....

What are the roots of ax2 + bx + c =0 ? ("solve for x")

If a = 0, then bx + c = 0, and x = -c/b

Otherwise, divide by a: x2 + (b/a)x + c/a = 0

move the constant to the other side: x2 + (b/a)x = -c/a

add (b/2a)2 to both sides: x2 + (b/a)x + (b/2a)2 = (b/2a)2 - c/a

(x + b/2a)2 = (b/2a)2 - c/a

....

Hmm, now you people reading this, did you follow? Could you do it yourself (without looking up your notes, or a textbook, or googling)?

Does this represent "dramatically reduc[ed] capacity [...] to 'do math'"? :razz:

So, if your talent is essential to the continued smooth running of the economy, how come you aren't being paid a million times as much as a barber? :D

BigDon

2006-Oct-26, 10:05 AM

Okay, I have some personal anecdotes I'd like to present here. Neried stated greatly impared math functions. I move furniture for a living and some of the guys I move furniture with do so because its the only thing they CAN do.

One man in particular comes to mind right away. He had a bad motorcycle accident sans helmet. The doctors had to perform a partial hemispherectomie on him. Actually the accident did most of it, the docs just trimmed it up a bit. A hemispherectomie is the removal of one half of your brain. He no longer has ANY mathematic reasoning at all and relies on the rest of us to fill out his timecards and make sure his paycheck is correct. Though curiously enough he also lost the letter "W" in his spoken vocabulary. If you engage him in conversation and get him to use a lot of "w" words he sounds like a badly spliced movie. (I don't do that. Some of my younger coworkers are rather insensitive.)

Anyway my point is he CAN'T use a calculator. The numbers mean nothing to him. And its even deeper than that. He can't go, "Well, let's see, the 2 was the second number. 3 the third..." Because second and third are also mathmatical functions. Its not like they replaced the numbers with squiggles and left them in the same place. So instead of, "The 2 was the second number... It's more like "The what is the what what?" So Neried's original problem would be very dramatic right away.

BigDon

2006-Oct-26, 10:06 AM

Okay, I have some personal anecdotes I'd like to present here. Neried stated greatly impared math functions. I move furniture for a living and some of the guys I move furniture with do so because its the only thing they CAN do.

One man in particular comes to mind right away. He had a bad motorcycle accident sans helmet. The doctors had to perform a partial hemispherectomie on him. Actually the accident did most of it, the docs just trimmed it up a bit. A hemispherectomie is the removal of one half of your brain. He no longer has ANY mathematic reasoning at all and relies on the rest of us to fill out his timecards and make sure his paycheck is correct. Though curiously enough he also lost the letter "W" in his spoken vocabulary. If you engage him in conversation and get him to use a lot of "w" words he sounds like a badly spliced movie. (I don't do that. Some of my younger coworkers are rather insensitive.)

Anyway my point is he CAN'T use a calculator. The numbers mean nothing to him. And its even deeper than that. He can't go, "Well, let's see, the 2 was the second number. 3 the third..." Because second and third are also mathmatical functions. Its not like they replaced the numbers with squiggles and left them in the same place. So instead of, "The 2 was the second number... It's more like "The what is the what what?" So Neried's original problem would be very dramatic right away.

Ronald Brak

2006-Oct-26, 10:23 AM

It is very difficult to discuss the topic without knowing just what the phrase "drastically reduced ability to do math" actually means. An arrogant blowhard like myself might read that phrase and think, "So my mathematical ability would be reduced down to what's currently above average then?"

Moose

2006-Oct-26, 10:43 AM

Okay, I have some personal anecdotes I'd like to present here. Neried stated greatly impared math functions. I move furniture for a living and some of the guys I move furniture with do so because its the only thing they CAN do.

Interesting story, BigDon. I guess I was assuming that basic arithmatic was still possible, say up to sixth grade math (long division, able to use rulers or calculators for simple arithmatic, _maybe_ arithmatic precedence rules), but no further (no geometry/trigonometry, algebra, or functions of any kind).

Nereid

2006-Oct-26, 12:11 PM

Back in post #47 (http://www.bautforum.com/showpost.php?p=849897&postcount=47), I suggested a more specific definition:

[...] just what is this 'math' that the disease impacts?

If it were all but the simplest of arithmetic (the kind that several other primates apparently have), then all but the simplest of purchases would become nigh impossible ("the price is $xxxx, you gave me a piece of paper with $yy written on it; how much change should I give you?"), and catastrophic collapse happens within days, if not hours.

But suppose the mysterious disease still allows arithmetic, even including 0 and negative numbers (this isn't, perhaps, much of a concession; you could still 'do' arithmetic sufficiently well - maybe - without 0 and negatives), but not (explicit) algebra, calculus, ...?That's why I added "the calculus and algebra test (http://www.bautforum.com/showpost.php?p=853436&postcount=59)", in response to Cuddles' very good question.

I'd like to add something to davidlpf's metric-imperial conversion post (http://www.bautforum.com/showpost.php?p=849900&postcount=48): good project management (or good management in general) does not, it would seem, require 'math' (of the 'algebra, calculus, etc' kind). But it does require the ability grasp its limits - how long tasks take, how capable a resource (person) is wrt a particular task, what the dependencies between tasks are, ... and I suspect that this would be degraded if there was a general degradation of 'math ability' (not by the mysterious disease, but as an inevitable consequence of management of 'math workers' becoming more difficult).

Another comment about the economy: economists have a term 'total factor productivity' (TFP) which supposedly captures the ability of an industry, an economy, ... to convert inputs into outputs. Small changes in TFP have big consequences, just as small changes in interest rates do. In many sectors, the 'labour' component of TFP would certainly fall (a unit of labour would be less productive) with a degradation of math skills, with the consequence of a fall in rate of economic growth (e.g. instead of growing at, say, 3% pa, the economy would not grow, or even decline - a depression).

suntrack2

2006-Oct-27, 04:26 PM

the man will lose his memory first, even he will forget his "own home address" and who are residing in his home and their names. a cronic demensia may be observe in such case!

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