Belle of Liberty

Letting Freedom Ring

Monday, January 30, 2012

Math is the Path

Tough times demand tough questions when interviewing prospective employees for your company. The Wall Street Journal ran an article recently about the upgrading of interview questions. Google, in particular, gives its potential employees some real brain-teasers. No, “What’s your favorite color?” at Google.

The company is primarily interested in software engineers who are expected to know their math and physics. One word problem states, “You are shrunk to the height of a nickle and thrown into a blender. The blades are about to start. You have sixty seconds until you’re pureed. What do you do?”

The prospectees had some interesting answers to this dilemma. Jam the blades. Lay inside the core of the blades. Huddle up against the glass wall of the blender. Swim for it. Use their shoelaces as a lasso and climb up. Stand on the blades and let the centrifugal force throw you out of the blender. The article says that Google was looking for inventive answers and these certainly were inventive.

But they were all wrong. Google was really looking for the mathematically-correct answer, despite the author’s assertion that Google wasn’t looking for the smartest or technically-correct answer. In fact, they were, and you would have to understand physics to get it.

The answer is: jump. The answer has to do with density, which is implied in the question but not actually quotable. Most non-engineers would not realize density was even a factor. Having been shrunk to the size of a nickel, or 1/10th your present height, your muscles would only be 1/100 as powerful - but you’d only weigh 1/1,000 of your ordinary weight. Small beings are butter able to lift their bodies against gravity. Think birds. Shrunk to the size of a nickel, you’d be strong enough to leap like Superman (or a flea), right out of the blender, taking the heavy sealed rubber lid with you.

The WSJ included a wonderfully telling graph of a man sealed inside a blender, though he is not the size of a nickel. It’s the very picture of our plight as Americans, trapped inside a burgeoning, socialist bureaucracy. By the end of 2012, with the presidential race decided in favor Obama, the fate of free people everywhere will be sealed.

Gravity has sealed us onto our planet and current physicists say we’re trapped, just like the nickel-sized man in the blender. Students in communist countries like China are outpacing American students in the sciences and mathematics, while American students study revisionist history and post-20th century modernist literature. Practically the whole canon of 20th Century literature is composed of nothing but Marxist propaganda disguised as literature and drama (which is why my master’s degree will be in history, not English).

If our students don’t accelerate their mathematical and scientific skills, their communists “brothers” and “sisters” will be on top and will seal us in, preventing an escape from the totalitarian recipe for world government they’re mixing together. Freedom will be pureed and our economy liquidated.

Our students can’t be the grasshoppers fiddling, while the rest of the world builds a prison around us. If the theoretical nickel man can pop his way out of a blender, then there must be a way for man to escape earth’s gravity other than atop a roman candle. We shouldn’t have to be thinking of “escaping” from a political situation on Earth, but it may just come to that - the only way freedom will survive is to seek out new frontiers.

Unless enough of our students wake up to the importance of mathematics and real science, we - or our descendants - will be stuck here. We must find the way out in the next few generations, or all the scientific decisions will be made for us.

Make no mistake - I was one of those daydreamers who had no use for math and didn’t think I ever would. I was busy drawing maps of little stick figure rocket ships heading for distant stars, and dreaming of what those planets were like and who might be living on them and whether Man would visit them someday.

That’s what I thought at 16. Now, as I study those same algebraic problems to prepare for the GRE, I have a very different notion of Mathematics, but the same dream about the little spaceship heading for the stars. Only it’s no idyll; it’s an imperative. Not that imagine myself an astrophysicist. But somewhere out there, across the fruited plain, is an intelligent, freedom-loving student who will either find the way or teach future generations to find the way to freedom. I hope they’re listening.

You can’t reach for the stars just by dreaming. Yet you can’t dream if you can’t reach for the stars. Math is the path.


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