Sorry for shouting, but as a former engineer who made straight “A” grades in math through high school, college, and graduate school, math matters.
David Robertson recently lamented about a radio show or podcast. One person claimed that Mike Bloomberg had spent about $500 million dollars in his failed presidential campaign. This expert then said that if Bloomberg had given the money to help each person in the US, we would all get a million dollars. But if you did the math, we’d get about a dollar and a half, less considering those not registered as legal aliens in the US. The other person must have also been a math troglodyte because that said something along the lines of “You are absolutely correct.” But maybe their math was right, but they were referring to Bloomberg giving the money to their American friends that really matter to them. No, I doubt if these people have 500 friends that matter to them, Americans or not. Forget I said that.
David Robertson said that the math matters. You lose your credibility when the math is so far off.
Years ago, someone sent me an e-mail, and I wept for America. It was one of those chain letters. When you ever get a chain letter, you can expect the math to be absurdly wrong. In this case, the month of October started on a Sunday. The premise was that there were five Sundays, five Mondays, and five Tuesdays in this month. This is such a “rare” occurrence, and how rare was the problem. If you send this e-mail to twenty friends within the next five minutes, you will be showered with financial gain within the next 24 hours or some such nonsense. Of course, the math impaired person had only five minutes, so they didn’t do the math. They proved that they were stupid to all their friends, at least 20 of them. But then again, how many of those friends did the math? I hope the financial gain was worth the embarrassment. Oh? No financial gain either?
What was the math error in the original e-mail? The e-mail said that this rare occurrence had not happened for 853 years. 853 years since the last time that we had five Sundays, Mondays, and Tuesdays in a month. Not just October, but any month ever. NO!!!! Since the year that this e-mail was sent was not a leap year, we had the same thing happen in January of that very year. Do the math!!!! In this case, look at a calendar!! You didn’t even have to do the math to know this was absurdly wrong.
Okay, the concept of absurdly wrong might be argued by Sheldon Cooper of The Big Bang Theory. You are either wrong or you are right. But Stuart, the comic bookstore owner, argued that saying that a tomato was a vegetable was wrong, but saying that a tomato was a suspension bridge was very wrong. In the case of even having 853 years between Octobers starting on Sunday is “very wrong.”
Now, if someone claimed that we had five Sundays, Mondays, and Tuesdays in a month, but we did not have a Friday the 13th that month… Now, that would be rare, because it is impossible!!!! Any month with a Friday the 13th that is 31 days long will have 5 Sundays, Mondays, and Tuesdays. This is basic math. We aren’t talking about Calculus, Trigonometry, or Differential Equations.
Please, what cash register do these people work at? I need to go there, give them a five-dollar bill for my ten dollars of purchases and insist on getting a million dollars in change. Why not? There seems to be no one right answer when it comes to math these days.
On second thought, I got one of those people at a cash register once. I gave her a twenty dollar bill plus the nickels and pennies necessary to receive a five dollar bill in change. Her cash register told her how much change to return to me based on the $20 alone, having rung up the sale incorrectly. When she saw the additional change, she went into a panic. Tears started flowing. She then returned to me four one-dollar bills and the remaining dollar in pennies. She was so shaken by the exact amount of coins, she could not trust giving me the other dollar in quarters, dimes, and nickels. I was visiting my parents in Mississippi, I gave my payment to prevent having my wallet thicker with folding money and my pocket heavier in coins. I lost on both accounts due to someone who could not count.
Now for the e-mail that tipped the scales and set this post into action:
A recent e-mail was about how quickly Congress spends a billion dollars. To illustrate what a billion is, they said:
One billion seconds ago it was 1959. One billion minutes ago, Jesus was alive. One billion hours ago, it was the stone age… They got around to saying that Congress spends a billion dollars every 8 hours and some odd minutes.
I have no confidence in their math on Congressional spending. I am not even going to look it up.
Why? One billion seconds ago, it was 1988, not 1959. About 31.6 years ago.
Now, Jesus IS. Jesus cannot be referred to as “was”, unless you are thinking of “Jesus was, Jesus is, and Jesus will always be,” since language is so imprecise when referring to infinity. Yes, Jesus is alive today, but I am quibbling over theological semantics. They meant Jesus was in human form, walking this earth, as in sometime between birth and ascension.
Okay, now that we are more precise in our language, may I gently SCREAM “WRONG!!!!” Even if the original e-mail was sent late in 1990, so that it would have indeed been 1959 one billion seconds ago, they were off by about 60 years. Jesus was born about 3 BC. If He started His ministry in 27 AD, on His 30th birthday, and His ministry lasted 3 years, He was crucified in 30 AD, and He ascended into Heaven about 40 days later. That brackets the time that Jesus walked in human form on the earth, the period from birth to ascension. But one billion minutes ago, today, was 1901.25 years ago, or near Christmas of 118 AD. Even the twelve Apostles were all in their graves by then.
Now, I will grant the e-mailer the stone age reference, but that was like dropping a rock in the ocean. With an event that ran for millions of years, that was hard to miss.
But why am I ranting about the math? In most cases, the reader never does the math either. Therefore, the writer or sender or resender never loses their credibility.
I do not wish to take that chance, and I do hope that people will do the math within this e-mail and quibble in the comments regarding round off errors and such. It would be heart-warming to know that someone else CAN do the math.
When we claim that Jesus is alive and that we talk to Him every day, some people out there think that we are either crazy or stupid. Why do they think so? They have shut the door in their minds regarding anything that they cannot see, hear, touch, or smell and that society screams to be a myth. There are many things that society has never seen, like the ‘missing link,’ but yet these things are believed. Yet, they wish to deny God, whose existence is proven in everything around us.
Let’s not give the naysayers any fodder by getting our math wrong.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.