The Calculus Diaries: How Math Can Help You Lose Weight, Win in Vegas, and Survive a Zombie Apocalypse

The Calculus Diaries: How Math Can Help You Lose Weight, Win in Vegas, and Survive a Zombie Apocalypse

Jennifer Ouellette

Language: English

Pages: 336

ISBN: 0143117378

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Kiss My Math meets A Tour of the Calculus

Jennifer Ouellette never took math in college, mostly because she-like most people-assumed that she wouldn't need it in real life. But then the English-major-turned-award-winning-science-writer had a change of heart and decided to revisit the equations and formulas that had haunted her for years. The Calculus Diaries is the fun and fascinating account of her year spent confronting her math phobia head on. With wit and verve, Ouellette shows how she learned to apply calculus to everything from gas mileage to dieting, from the rides at Disneyland to shooting craps in Vegas-proving that even the mathematically challenged can learn the fundamentals of the universal language.

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curve at a specific point will tell us how fast the Prius was traveling then: the instantaneous speed. If the car is moving forward, that motion will be represented on the graph by a tangent line slanting upward; if the car is moving backward, the tangent line will slope downward. The steeper that line, the faster the car is traveling. The minimum or maximum of the graph has slope 0, which means the car is stopped. How do you find the exact slope of the tangent line? You draw a straight line

the design for his coat of arms, to reflect his appreciation for the I Ching’s ingenious use of probabilistic concepts. Mary Malone’s divination method has a real-world counterpart in one of the oldest problems in geometrical probability, known as Buffon’s needle. This experiment was the brainchild of a French naturalist and mathematician named Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon. Born and raised on the Côte d’Or, the young George-Louis started off studying law before getting side-tracked by

the globe, despite numerous accidents and the odd fatality. For those (like me) who prefer a more sedate form of thrill-seeking, there are mechanical free-fall rides with, shall we say, more rigorous safety constraints. Six Flags Great Adventure introduced one of the first true free-fall experiences in 1983. The L-shaped structure featured a four-passenger car lifted via hydraulics to the top of a 130-foot tower and suspended for a few seconds. At the buzzer, the car would plunge down the drop

line, that slope is also −32t. (Our velocity is changing over time, so t must be included.) Taking an Integral. The integral is the reverse of the derivative, so now we will reverse the question. This time we know our velocity as a function of time: v = at. We want to determine our position at a given point in time, denoted as h(t). The integral corresponds to the area under a curve, which is fairly easy to calculate in this case, because our velocity function translates graphically into a

itself. (A perfect exponential model would require infinite resources, a condition that rarely exists, but for illustrative purposes, it will suffice.) Solving the differential equation will give us the key to determining how many zombies there will be at any time. We’ll use a textbook sample problem, cribbed from Kelley: = ky. In the above equation, y represents the population of zombies, x represents the time that has passed, and the derivative is the rate of change in the number of zombies.

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