Thursday, October 7, 2010

Math to the rescue

How many times has a student, bored to tears, in a math class, said "When am I ever going to use that?"


Now I have been a part of that group, but that was in fifth year university and the formula in question looked as though someone had thrown up a bowl of alphabet soup on the chalkboard. And, "No" I have never had call to use one of those formulas, but I think it did build character or something.

A formula one does have call to use though, are the simple geometric formulas for various shapes. My latest hike out to Kenna Cartwright Park proved this as I pondered the plethora of pocket gopher spoils. The spoils being the dirt pushed out of the burrows that they are constructing with great fervor these days out in the grasslands.

I said to myself - "Self," I says, "Just how long are those burrow?" One could find a long bendy stick I guess and shove it down one of the holes but that process is fraught with danger (especially for the pocket gopher). So instead I turned to math.

I calculated the volume of the spoils, and then calculated the length of the cylinder that had the diameter of the burrow and the volume equal to the volume of the spoils.

The result was that a relatively small volume of dirt was representative of a very long burrow. Of course there are a bunch of assumptions as to the compaction of the soil and the lack of variance in the size of the burrow, and a host of other things that some masters student can tackle when they write their definitive work on the burrowing habits of the pocket gopher.

The video below demonstrates both the math and the fact that I have too much time on my hands.

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Please feel free to leave a comment. Ever since old Rebel rolled on me and I've been strapped to this old hospital bed I've enjoyed whatever posts come my way.