Saturday, November 10, 2007

Hot Electricity and Cold Innumeracy

I'm not sure if you knew this (I sure didn't), but you can operate a Tesla coil at a selected frequency. If this frequency is in the human auditory range, you'd hear it as a not-so-clear pitch. Yes, by tuning a few parameters, you can pick out a note you want the coil to sing. And maybe if you wire up some sort of controller to a computer for quick preprogrammed switching of notes, you could make a whole song.

And if you had two, why, imagine the possibilities! You could play all sorts of music. For instance... Tchaikovsky's Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.

Also on the plate for today is a heartwarming story I found on Good Math, Bad Math about a courageous young woman fighting against the establishment. The Man, it seems, is trying to slap down this poor Brit with negative numbers!

A lottery ticket in the UK called Cool Cash gave you a temperature at the top, and you would win if you could scratch off temperatures below the given temperature. I'll let the "victim" tell the rest.

On one of my cards it said I had to find temperatures lower than -8. The numbers I uncovered were -6 and -7 so I thought I had won, and so did the woman in the shop. But when she scanned the card the machine said I hadn’t.

I phoned Camelot and they fobbed me off with some story that -6 is higher - not lower - than -8 but I’m not having it.

And for commentary, I turn to Mark Chu-Carroll:
I love that "I'm not having it" line. That's a classic.

What I find particularly surprising is that this isn't just math - it's just a basic, minimal awareness of your surroundings. We're talking about adults here - people who've clearly lived through plenty of winters, where the temperature in Great Britain routinely drops below zero degrees celsius. That means that these people don't know that when it's -10, it's colder than when it's -2! To me, this seems to be on about the same intellectual level as trying to eat wax fruit, because you don't know he difference between it and real fruit.

UPDATE: I thought the Tchaikovsky was cool enough, but then I had to go and find out they play Mario too.


Ben said...

Play "Freebird"!