pythagorasThm.gifMore than two thousand years ago, Euclid taught us about triangles. Book 1 culminated with the famous Pythagoras Theorem (a2 + b2 = c2) as Proposition 47 and 48 respectively.

If you have a triangle and know the length of one side and two of the angles, you can calculate the length of the other side or something like that. Someone, I forget who, used this geometry to calculate the distance of the sun from the earth. Like that was going to be of any practical use to anyone two thousand years ago.

What a gig. I mean, they came remarkably close, but who’s going to call you on it if you’re off by a hundred million miles? It’s not like the Greeks had a space program.

I was going to encourage my daughter to study economics, because you know, they have the ceteris paribus loophole. “All other things remaining equal.” Someone yells at you, “I wanted to know what would happen if prices rose and you told me employment would fall!!!” and an economist can always say, “No, you wanted to know what would happen if, ceteris paribus, prices rose. But unfortunately a hurricane struck Montana during the period under consideration, and all that reconstruction work boosted employment.”

But my daughter is even smarter, and is considering studying meteorology. Archeology wouldn’t be bad either: “These primitive carvings were obviously used in some form of religious ritual…”.

You know what I heard? All those prehistoric chipped-stone tools? They weren’t using the big leftover rocks, they were using the razor-sharp chips, for cutting.

Anyway, triangles.

I almost got hit by a bus yesterday: I’m walking along the crosswalk, “B” in the diagram. The bus driving along “A” slows down for me, but the driver’s line of sight is going off to one side, “C” to a pretty woman in a red Mazda coming out of the parking garage. Confident he will stop, I continue calmly on, only to leap out of the way at the last possible moment when it becomes obvious he is not, actually, going to stop; my motion catches his attention and he slams on the brakes.

That happened in the morning, and my day was such that I didn’t recall it again until last night, when I’d arrived home and the kids were in bed. I told my wife about it. “Would you have been killed?” she asked. “Only if I’d fallen to the ground and gotten caught beneath the tires. Or said something so outrageous that the driver jumped out of his bus and beat me to death.” He was going just fast enough to knock me on my ass, I suppose. But no harm done. He shrugged like, Hey, shit happens dude. I gave him a dirty look. A very dirty look, as if to say, That was so uncool.

3 responses to “Triangle

  1. adam

    “If you have a triangle and know the length of one side and two of the angles, you can calculate the length of the other side or something like that.”

    now that is using trigonometry, not pythagoras theorem. Pythagoras theorem only applies to right angled triangles.

    This has been a community service announcement, courtesy of your local maths geek.

  2. mig

    Thanks, Adam. All I can remember from math in school is a girl named Lorelei who wore halter tops and dated older boys.

  3. Don’t get me started on lithic tools. Guh. Feed me too much sloe gin (please! ha. ha!) and I will barf up more useless knoweldge about core tools and flakes and flint knapping and hafting and tying and don’t forget the mortars dug right into the ground, those are pretty cool, but mostly I could tell you how this one volcanic plume in Napa supplied most of the obsidian artifacts (esp. beads) you find from here to upstate NY. Trade and migration routes, trackable by soil science. Hoohah.

    I’m glad you weren’t smushed like a, um, bug.
    You know, if you opened the collar of your shirt another button or two, or maybe wore a blue sequin-y number with slits up to the hips, people would totally stop for you.