The IntMath Newsletter - 22 Apr 2008 (Earth Day)

By Murray Bourne, 22 Apr 2008

In this Newsletter

1. Earth Day Math
2. Math tips - (a) I dunno how to do; (b) Use the resources
3. From the math blog


1. Earth Day Math

Today is Earth Day. Let's think about our most basic needs.

Air: Humans are currently pumping around 27 gigatonnes of carbon into the air every year. (Source.) A gigatonne is 109 tonnes or 1012 kg. (In the old imperial system, a tonne is around 2205 lb.)

Petroleum is the biggest contributor to carbon pollution, followed by coal, natural gas and cement production. The USA is responsible for 20% of this pollution, followed closely by China at 18%. (Source)

Without air, we can live for about 3 minutes only.

Water: Over 1 billion people lack access to clean water and 2.6 billion have poor or non-existent sanitation (Source).

Without water, we can live for about 3 days only.

Food: Have you heard the term "agflation"? This describes what is happening in the world right now. Food costs are rapidly increasing, partly due to the use of grain to make biofuels. Urbanisation, droughts and floods also add to the problem. Already agflation is causing social unrest in many countries. As global warming gets worse, the amount of available food will continue to drop and prices will rise.

Without food, we can live for about 3 weeks only.

Energy: Many people believe that unlimited water, electricity and car use are essential. That's because our lifestyles have developed around these luxuries.

But do you really need that heater up at 28°C (82°F) in winter and that air-con down to 18°C (64°F) in summer? You can live for a long time at 23°C (73°F).

And, do you really need that gas-guzzling SUV (sports utility vehicle)? Around half of all vehicles sold in the USA are SUVs and because they are regarded as light trucks, they do not have to conform to the same pollution standards as cars.

Without an SUV, you can live a very long time. And the rest of us will breathe a lot easier too.

Happy Earth Day, 2008.

The decisions you make now will affect the world that you - and your children - live in.


2. Math tips

a. I dunno how to do: A lot of students take one look at their math homework and freeze up because they have no idea where to start.

Most of the time the answer is right there in your notes or in your textbook. You just need to go back a few steps and dive into the stuff you can do. Build up your skills and confidence first, and then attack the current homework.

b. Use the resources: Many students never go near their school library to check out the math books there. Sure, it sounds a nerdy thing to do, but do you want go well in math or what?

Most school libraries have a range of textbooks similar to the one you are using. It is amazing how helpful it is to read another version of the math you are studying. The new examples might be just a bit easier and will give you a better idea of what your own textbook (and teacher) are on about.

Try also the local library or the library of your local college. There's a good chance they have some useful math books too.

Also, be on the look out for 2nd-hand textbook sales. They are a good source for math books.

Finally, there are some good free math e-books available in the Open Directory.


3. From the math blog

1) Some cool number patterns - and how to give 100%
Here's some interesting number patterns - they could be good for a party trick!

2) Where did matrices and determinants come from?
Many of our mathematical discoveries are named after European mathematicians, even though they originated in China, India or the Middle East. Gaussian Elimination is one such example.

3) Friday Math Movie - Uncounted
Bush only just scraped through the 2000 election. What really happened? And what happened to keep the Bush team in power through the 2004 election? This disturbing documentary is about the fundamental math of democracy - correct, honest and incorruptible counting.

See the 1 Comment below.

One Comment on “The IntMath Newsletter - 22 Apr 2008 (Earth Day)”

  1. Miss Loi says:

    Regarding the SUV situation, most tai-tais believe that they won't last 3 minutes on Singapore's road without a big SUV chassis to protect them 😛

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