Search This Blog

Saturday, February 22, 2014

A Math Dream That Was Not a Nightmare

Why would my dream life be invaded by a geometry problem? The setup was a line segment, and the question that invaded my dream life was, how many lines could intersect that line segment? At first I imagined the intersecting lines to be all perpendicular and parallel, and my dream thinking was that the number of possible intersecting lines could not be infinite because (1) the original line was only a line segment, and so not itself infinite; and (2) while lines have no breadth or thickness, it seemed to me (but this could be only commonsense thinking, which doesn’t always translate to mathematics) that there would have to be space between the lines or they would simply fill in -- ??? But they would not turn the group of lines into a solid, because there would still be no thickness, or depth.... Does plane geometry care at all if a surface is blank or filled in, or (and if I had to bet, I’d put my money on this second disjunct) does it only care about lines and points?

Ah, but points have no length, breadth, or thickness! A point is not an object but a location. So even the line segment could have, it seems, an infinite number of intersecting, parallel, perpendicular lines. Do you buy it?

Next (still in my dream) I started wondering about intersecting oblique lines. (What would be the smallest conceivable angle? Would there be such a thing?) Would this generate a larger infinity of intersecting lines? Can infinity come in different sizes, bigger and smaller, or is infinity just always that -- infinity?

Finally, dragging myself out of the dream and into wakeful consciousness, I searched around for a way to ask the question that my geometry dream had posed, and here's what I came up with: What is the maximum number of lines that can intersect any given line segment?

Here’s a question and answer I found online that has bearing on my dream, but before following the link you might enjoy thinking about the question yourself. I mean, there's no exam involved here, not even a pop quiz.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Income Gap? How About the Interest Gap?

Has anyone given any attention to the huge gap between interest charged and interest paid? An 11% interest rate on credit card debt is now considered low. At the same time, savings accounts that had a yield of only half a percent a couple of years ago have now fallen to 2/10s of a percent. Is it any wonder Americans are saving so little?

Why don't Americans save more? The inflation rate for 2013 was 1.5%. One hundred dollars in savings in 2013, at .02%, earned 2 cents in interest, but by the end of the year the buying power of that $100 had declined by $1.50.

Someone needs to leak this information to the politicians and pundits.