DFHC 9/7/2011

Ask Cool Daddy Nothing More

Dear Cool Daddy: I liked your recent idea about changing the symbol for zero, to reflect its true nature as a non-numeral. In my business, I see lots of personal checks, and people do that already to a degree…the part where you write out your amount “in words”…I see “No” and “00” written instead of “0”…like: No Cents, 00 Cents, No/100 and 00/100. But my question is this: isn’t 1/0 or 1 ÷ 0 actually equal to infinity?  …from Achmed in Lower Slobovia

Dear Achmed: In this day and age, when being dumb in math is considered a badge of honor…well, you’re OK in my book. And as to my suggestion…well, if they can “demote” the planet Pluto, why not the “number” zero?

Now infinity is a tricky thing…reminds me of when my kid Cool Jr. learned about infinity in math class…he said it was fascinating…he never wanted it to end. But seriously, here again is an area where philosophers and mathematicians butt heads. In math there is a concept called a “limit.” Basically, it applies to any mathematical calculation that gets closer and closer to some number, but in a finite number of steps will never reach it. Math finds it convenient to assume you can reach that limit…in an infinite number of steps.

Philosophy replies that “doing something an infinite number of times” has no meaning…and points out that indeed sometimes that “limit” concept leads to sheer nonsense. And your idea that 1 ÷ 0 = ∞ is a case in point.

Above, we divide 1 by A and get B as a result. You’ll notice that as A gets smaller, B gets larger. What would happen if A got as small as it possibly could, i.e. zero…wouldn’t B then be as large as it possibly could? Seems to make sense on the surface, but this conclusion can easily be shown to be erroneous.

It has to do with the fact that division is an undoing or reversal of multiplication. How do you determine 8 ÷ 2? One way would be to subtract 2’s from your 8 until you have nothing left, then count up the number of subtractions it took, as shown above. All well and good…until we try dividing by 0 instead of 2… 

The trouble is, that 8 isn’t getting any smaller! And whatever “subtracting 0 an infinite number of times” might mean, it certainly can’t whittle that 8 down at all…it just stays an 8 forever. Unfortunately, there are corners of arcane mathematical theory where they do blithely pull this trick…something I disdainfully call Null Effect Accretion…which simply means, doing something that at each step has no effect…can indeed result in some actual effect, if done an infinite number of times. Pure poppycock, obviously, but then again, that’s why the 2 camps are at war…


Dear Cool Daddy: My niece told me that when the packaging says “0g Trans Fat,” it means that product contains trans fat after all. How could that be?  …from Bonzo, Bedford Falls

Dear Bonzo: And God Bless the morons in the federal government. It’s because of “rounding.” You know, my grandfather was a dairyman…he had 1000 head of cattle…well, the thought he had 999, until he rounded them up. But here’s the deal…

Current labeling law has 2 components which together lead to the lie you sited…first, you must say how much of this is in that based on one “serving,” not the whole package. A serving is supposed to be the amount a normal person would eat at one sitting, as determined by folks who never in their lives ate an entire bag of microwave popcorn. So unrealistically small “servings” is the first problem.

The second is that amounts may be “rounded off”…and here’s the nub of it: under .5 (one half) gram can be called 0. In theory, there’s nothing wrong with rounding…if the amount you leave off is so small it doesn’t matter. Unfortunately, the amount of trans fat you should have per day is said to be between 1 and 1.11 grams. So 3 servings of 0g and you’re conceivably up to 1.47g…oops! This is why we’re starting to see such ridiculous phrases as “up to 0 grams.” Wha—?

Now many have commented on this loophole-large-enough-to-drive-a-Mack-truck-thru….but I’ll go one step further…I say the federales are complicit in this whole mess…Didn’t we made laws to keep you healthy? What’s your beef now?…Yeah, right. Do they really think we’re that stupid?…just because they are?

But across the board, zero simply isn’t what it used to be. We were talking about writing out checks…I remember when the subject would turn from such weighty questions as What’s a Big Mac called in France? and Who’s hotter, Wilma or Betty?…to…Is it legal to write a check for $0.00? I dunno, but I once got a refund check from Barnes & Noble for 1¢. Did I cash it? Are you nuts? That’s a collector’s item! But I do know this: we have arrived at state where internet companies will seemingly charge $0 to your credit card…which is to say, something that costs nothing still requires credit card information…time to beak out the you-know-what…


WICKED BALLSY

Well, there ya go…welcome to the New New Math…

not no un-shameless non-plugs…

Podcasts at http://stolfpod.podbean.com  and   http://thewholething.podbean.com

Other Daily blog at http://stolf.wordpress.com  (the legendary Stolf’s Blog)

More bloggage at  http://travelingcyst.blogspot.com  and  http://www.examiner.com/retro-pop-culture-in-watertown/mark-john-astolfi

Resume at http://travelingcyst.blogspot.com/p/resume.html

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