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Published byAnais Livermore Modified over 2 years ago

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$#*! my dad says In my day, we had deadlocked government, made mountains out of molehills, looked to royalty for scientific standards, and pursued other people’s interests. Here’s how you can too! by Fritz Reitz, Ph.D. (Posthole Digger) a.k.a. Mrs. Mock’s little brother e-mail: freitz@uw.edu

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Why Math Day? often when someone has to emphasize what should be obvious, it is because it’s not true (e.g. “your call is important to us...”) are we insecure about math’s importance? yes and no – we’re worried about the visibility of math’s importance math wins wars and makes iPhones, yet innumeracy is invisible can you live a full life without being good at math? absolutely. BUT... much as being illiterate doesn’t exempt you from warning signs, being innumerate doesn’t protect you from real problems...

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Math is a key defense against BS this is a real book the punchline is that BS is not lying – liars care what the truth is, BS’ers don’t there’s a chance you may encounter BS in your life hourly you can either BS back, or get good at interpreting data accurately in the first place

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thing #1 -- “Ross for boss!” my dad was excited when Ross Perot decided to run for president against Bush and Clinton in 1992, fair enough 3 rd party candidates sometimes called “spoilers” problem is hidden with a 2-party system it reinforces a 2-party system so, movies or quilting?

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How to keep things as they are: do not read about the great many choices of voting system and the criteria they satisfy on wikipedia conform to one of the options presented don’t worry who would win head-to- head vs. others (“Condorcet criterion”)

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thing #2: 26 Celsius?! What is that in real degrees? Metric Conversion Act of 1975 declared the Metric system "the preferred system of weights and measures for United States trade and commerce” so, uh, yeah

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there are 36 barleycorns in a foot our units are FANTASTIC if you are measuring barley on the off-chance that what you wish to quantify is not barley, you may want to consider SI units the US is NOT alone in staying traditional. there’s also Myanmar.

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Mars Climate Orbiter was 248 barleycorns high ~$1 billion project cost early morning of thursday September 23, 1999 NASA loses contact with probe sure hope nothing incredibly fatally bad happened

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D’OH! “the flight system software on the Mars Climate Orbiter was written to calculate thruster performance using the metric unit Newtons (N), while the ground crew was entering course correction and thruster data using the Imperial measure Pound- force (lbf)”NewtonsPound- force

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How to repeat this error over and over again stick with imperial standards -- most people have feet handy do not base system on something more precise such as a 1 Kg platinum - iridium cylinder in France whatever you do, remain vague, e.g. do not make Avogadro’s number a specific integer (such as 84446888 3 ; Fox & Hill, 2006)

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thing #3: “Million, Billion, Gazillion, whatever, it’s a LOT” government budgets, population statistics, and scientific measurements can involve big numbers assuming you want a budget item, do you care if it’s $10 436723821794092 rather than $10 436723821794093 ? no? neither do we! but we’re outraged because it’s too small. or big. whichever benefits us. all we know is that it’s the other side’s fault. “million” rolls off the tongue as easily as “trillion” because we don’t grok either.

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thing #4: going from “calculus is too hard for girls” to “calculus for everybody!” my High School math teacher was among first women to take calculus at UW as Cold War intensified, we wanted more scientists and engineers, so everybody got calculus is calculus wonderful? absolutely judging from your math day talks, do you expect to use it often? how about statistics?

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How to be like us: train everybody to beat the Reds to the moon!* *and, if you have a few minutes left over, maybe statistics, the mathematics of games stock prices world events making sense of data trends probabilities predictions variations populations risk/reward in other words, the entirety of modern society

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How to nurture BS: assume your common sense is equivalent to a year course in statistical analysis when flukes occur, attribute significance to ones you like and ignore those you don’t

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QED e-mail: freitz@uw. edu google “benjamin math education” 3 minute talk

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