Hey check out this map from http://tools.google.com/gapminder/

Play the Income per capita and the infirtility rate timelines. Incredible.

Did I say I felt a tsunami coming?

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# User Is Content

## A New Visual

## A Literate Plea To All Patriots

## Mysteries of Percents

## China’s space junk debris

## Economic Hitman video

## Virtual Speak N Spell sounds

## MediaChannel news from DAVOS 07 on the future of the Internet

## new twist on Peak Oil effects “…Civilization is being boiled out of existence…” by Hugo Salinas Price

## A Pretty Good Shot

## McLuhan Meeting Notes

## Space Race Part II

## One Cubic Mile of Oil

## Preparing Math Students for a World of Collapse

## Brain scans predict shoppers’ purchasing choices

Culture Is Our Business

Hey check out this map from http://tools.google.com/gapminder/

Play the Income per capita and the infirtility rate timelines. Incredible.

Did I say I felt a tsunami coming?

I am getting ready to move, and all is in flux. It could be said my entire life has been in flux since I was a youngin, but I really mean it now.

I had started writing a book, and then found I needed to re-evaluate my approach. I altered my outline, but now the project is tabled until I get settled in my new town. lately, I’ve been boxing and tossing the flotsam that’s somehow ended up in my apartment during the past 11 months.

Now, I must admit I have a chronic habit with used book stores, and I feel compelled to spend my last dollar supporting the efforts of a class of True Heroes in American culture, used bookstore proprietors. Thus, as I try to move, and am packing up my belongings, it should not be surprising that I have a severe lack of furniture, and a plethora of additional books.

Packing my books in boxes is an agony. For every title, I ask myself, will I want to read this in the next month? Will I want to access some nugget of information only to found in this very book? Will I be desperately afloat, alone, without a liferaft, if I don’t have access to this gem of a book? Ultimately, I have to “man up” and put it in the box for storage. I just don’t have enough room in my van to keep all I want available. It is an obsession, and I probably need therapy. But since I hurt no one else, and I am a fairly functioning member of society, I will continue to forego that route, and collect my treasures.

The problem with moving to a new town and having an incredible library is that boxes of books are the heaviest of all household items. As I put Economics in one box, and American history in another, I have to fill up the box only so much, or I won’t be able to carry it. That means having some Economics books in another box that is only half full, so I have to put some other subject in there as well. In my obsession, those other books must be at least somewhat related in topic, or else I will be obliged to title the entire box Miscellaneous. But too many Miscellaneous boxes means they could be organized better, and so on and so on.

Clearly, I do have a problem. But it will no longer be a problem when I eventually settle down into my own space and create a library unparalled in my social circle (if I have one)! I will then be surrounded with the entire recorded history of the world about me: science when I need it, history when I want it, art when I desire it. The sensuality of it all brings me to breathless orgasm just thinking about it.

Used bookstore owners don’t make big bucks. They do what they do for the love of books and each used bookstore reflects that love in a personal way. Some shops are chaotic piles of books spilling into the aisles. When no more room on the shelves exists, books are heaped on the floor in piles that occasionally tumble over and ask for even the customer’s attention. The proprietor will often be an elderly gentleman hunched at the register amidst his own pile of literacy, as well as lunch.

Other stores are carefully organized with all books shelved neatly in their own sections. As there is no one way to organize these sections, some shop owners will seperate hardbacks and paperbacks, while others will put them both together by subject. Some shop owners will put biography in a seperate section, while others will put a biography in the History section for its appropriate timeline. Sometimes martial arts is in the sports section, while other shops will place it in the religion section under Buddhism.

Going into a used bookstore and unlocking the code to it’s design is one of the most enjoyable activities that I’ve ever experienced. I could spend an entire afternoon in a decent book shop inspecting every single shelf, and sweeping my eyes over every single spine I see. It is not by chance that most of my friends, and virtually all the men in my life, have been of similar ilk. A fun date for me is a visit to a local bookshop and then food. Any friends who would be mpatient while I visually caress each adventure that rests on a used book store shelf would not be long in my life. For years, my best girlfriend was one with whom I could vacation with, and we would both read while we ate at the restaurants. Some people would find that rude, but we both appreciated that time, and considered it spent “together”, and not at all ignoring each other.

The Rogue Valley in Southern Oregon has a wonderful selection of used book stores. In the small town of Ashland alone, there are three used bookstores and one new bookstore. There are two used bookshops 5 miles down the road in Talent. And in Medford, I’ve been to three excellent used bookshops. And that is not even counting the thrift stores which also have quite an excellent selection.

When I was in a bookshop the other day, looking at their language section for a Chinese dictionary, a woman turned to me and asked, “Have you shopped here before?” “Yes”, I replied. Then she asked, “Can you tell me how you know what the price of the book is?” I explained to her that in used bookstores, the price is usually written in pencil in the upper right-hand corner of one the first pages in the book. “Oh!”, she exclaimed, surprised and happy.

Clearly, there are many people in our society that have lived decades without purchasing a single used book. What a tragedy. And this is probably why independent bookshops are disappearing all over the country. We know McLuhan observed “Literacy is on the slide” and that is reflected directly in the used bookstore business.

I have often dreamed of having my own bookstore, but that would mean parting with my best friends. Years of Zen study (that is, reading about Zen in books!) has not diminished my materialistic tendencies in this respect. I must admit, I am a hoarder. But somebody’s got to do it.

I urge everyone to seek out these oasis’ of culture, these sanctuaries of independent thought, and use your federal reserve notes to help preserve the proud spirit of liberty that exists there. Strengthening the used bookstore business is one way everybody can participate in a political action that is not confined to any particular affiliation, be it liberal or conservative. Supporting used bookshops is a general support of democracy precisely because you are supporting independent thought, as well as local business, and keeping desperately needed wealth in the neighborhood.

So, where are the independent bookshops in your neighborhood? Have you been in them lately? Then spend an afternoon browsing the aisles and soak up some of histories finest ideas. And spend a few dollars on something that will not only inspire you, but inspire that proprietor of the shop, that brave and lonely soul who gives all for the love of books, to live another day.

Suppose inflation was 11% last year, and 11% this year. Is that a total inflation of 22% for the two years?

Consider a sample of purchases costing $100. After the first year, 11% inflation means you will pay 11% more for the same items.

11% of $100 is $11. Therefore, you will pay $111 by the end of the year for those same items.

In the second year, another 11% inflation assaults your pocketbook. By the end of the second year, you will pay 11% more on $111.

11% of $111 is $12.21. Therefore, by the end of the second year, you will pay $111 + $12.21 = $123.21 for the same goods.

So after two years, you are paying an additional $23.21, or 23.21% more for those same items, which is higher than 22%.

This is because percent increase (or percent decrease) is *exponential*, and not *linear*. Exponential growth is what grows your savings account over the years, and what allows inflation to eat it away.

Note that the longer the time period, the bigger the difference between the exponential and the linear value.

For instance, suppose there was 11% inflation for 10 years. What would the price of your $100 basket of goods be?

Using the exponential equation, we have

$100(1 + 0.11)^10 = $283.94

That’s a 283% increase!

Can you figure?: If you lost 5% of your weight one year, and then lost another 5% the next year, would you have lost a total of 10% of your original weight?

There are many confusions related to percents because of this principle of exponential growth. For instance, suppose you had investments totaling $1000 and during a market downturn, you lost 30% of that investment.

30% of $1000 is $300, so your investments are now worth $1000 – $300 = $700.

Now, suppose the market goes back up 30%. Are you back to your original investment value of $1000?

No! 30% of $700 is $210. Adding $700 + $210 = $910. You are still down $90.

$300 is approximately 43% of $700. So to increase your $700 back up to $1000, there would have to be a 43% increase in the market!

Can you figure?: If you lost 20% in the stock market, what percent would the market need to increase to recoup your loss?

Such is the mysterious way of percents.

Here’s a link to an excellent graphic on the space junk created by China’s destruction of their old weather satellite. The graphic shows how the debris spreads throughout an orbit and threatens anything in nearby orbits.

If you haven’t read Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, you oughtta. And till you do, here’s some video of John Perkins speaking at a Veterans for Peace event late last year.

He gives some excellent background on the US and Middle East connections that are relevant to today. This guy’s amazing and I’m glad he hasn’t been whacked before he could clue us all in.

This is a supposedly “circuit bent” S n S

With Net Neutrality and Internet governance a global issue, what are the participants at the elite Davos meeting in Switzerland saying about it?

By *MediaChannel*Jeff Jarvis (among many others) blogs about Internet governance discussions at Davos:

I’m sitting in the front row for a panel on internet governance with future guy Paul Saffo, internet godfather Vint Cerf, Oxford Jonathan Zittrain, John Markoff, ITU Secretary General Hamadoun Toure, and Michael Dell. Yes, Michael Dell (more on that later; I met him last night). And yes, I have my Mac laptop open. Liveblogging a bit”¦..

Markoff says that “unless we find a way to police the commercial internet, it won’t survive”¦. (or) we’ll have to walk away from the internet and leave it like you’d leave a bad neighborhood.”

http://www.mediachannel.org/wordpress/2007/01/25/davos07-and-the-future-of-media/

October 7, 2006.

** The evaporation of civilization**

Hugo Salinas Price

All human societies are being destabilized by the energy that is injected into them. As societies are constituted by human beings, we can clearly observe how the more “developed” a society, the greater the physical and mental activity of its population; the population has no option to being in incessant activity. Like it or not, the energy in the societies in which we live propels us: motion, both physical and mental, becomes imperative for each of us, just as motion is imperative for the water molecule in a pot of boiling water. Each American consumes – I’d rather say, “is being boiled by” – 27 barrels of oil per year. The figure for Mexico is 7 barrels per year per person. China is down around 2.

**The vaporization of money**

The institution of money has completely vaporized! We no longer use money anywhere in this world. What humanity uses as money is a simulation of money, simple vouchers which are used everywhere as a means of exchange.

However, these vouchers are not actually money – money defined as a thing of value the delivery of which, in an exchange, constitutes payment. Money in today’s world is not a thing; it is a non-thing, a simple number whether printed on a bill, stamped on a coin, or a number represented by bits on a computer disk. Since money is not a thing, but only a non-thing, tendering it in an exchange cannot, and does not, constitute payment.

What happened to money?

In the September 4, 2006 issue of Space News, Thomas Christie, the former chief weapons tester at the Pentagon, was quoted as saying the Ground Based Mid-course Defense System “likely would have less than a 20% chance of shooting down an incoming missile from North Korea”. When asked his take on the system’s effectiveness, the president of the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance, Mr. Riki Ellison, responded “that could be from firing just one missile, and, there are about 9 or 10 interceptors that could take multiple shots at the incoming target, thereby increasing the chances of a hit.”

If one interceptor has a 20% chance of hitting a target, what exactly are the chances of a successful defense against an incoming missile with 10 interceptors?

Basic probability theory can help answer that question. Let’s start simple. Suppose an antiballistic missile (ABM) interceptor has exactly a 20% chance of hitting an incoming missile. That means it has an 80% chance of missing. Not good.

Suppose two interceptors are shot, and for simplicity, let’s assume that each interceptor launched is an independent event (the action of one interceptor does not effect the other). In this case, there are several possible situations that can occur. The first ABM could hit the target, and the second could miss. Likewise, the first ABM could miss and the second one could hit. Or, they both could hit the target, or, both miss it.

Let’s abbreviate these four possibilities {HM, MH, HH, MM} using H for a hit and M for a miss. This list of all the possible outcomes for two interceptors is called the *sample space*. An *element* of the sample space is called an *event*. Now assuming each interceptor is independent, and one interceptor does not effect the other, the probability of any compound event of two interceptors can be computed by multiplying the probability of each of the single events.

For example, if both ABMs hit the target, we can multiply the probability of each one hitting to get the probability of the *compound event* of them both hitting:

P(HH) = P(H)P(H)

= (0.20)(0.20)

= 0.04

We have a 4% chance of BOTH missiles hitting the target.

The probability that both *miss* the target is computed as

P(MM) = P(M)P(M)

= (0.80)(0.80)

= 0.64

giving a 64% chance of both ABM’s missing the target.

Now, what if one hits, and the other misses:

P(HM) = P(H)P(M)

= (0.20)(0.80)

= 0.16

or a 16% chance of one hitting and one missing. It’s the same computation and the same result for the first ABM missing and the second one hitting:

P(MH) = (0.80)(0.20)

= 0.16

Now it is a basic tenent of probability that the sum of all probabilities of events in the sample space must add to 1. We can confirm this by noting that

0.04 + 0.64 + 0.16 + 0.16 = 1

Let’s now ask what is the probability that AT LEAST one hit will occur? There are three possibilites in the sample space where at least one hit can occur: HM or MH or HH. To find the probability of at least one hit occuring, we add the probabilities for each of these compound events. (In these simple cases, OR measn ADD in probability.)

P(at least one hit) = P( HM or MH or HH)

= 0.16 + 0.16 + 0.04

= 0.36

So there is a 36% chance that at least one of the two ABMs will it the target missile. Since all probabilities in a sample space must add to 1, and the probability that both interceptors miss is P(MM) = 0.64, we have that:

P(at least one hit) + P(all miss) = 1

0.36 + 0.64 = 1

Subtracting the P(all miss) from both sides of the equation, we have

P(at least one hit) = 1 – P(all miss)

Since there is only ONE WAY that any number of interceptors can ALL MISS the target, this simple equation gives an easier way to compute the probability of at least one hit for any number of ABMs.

With three ABMs you have a sample set of eight different possible outcomes.

{HMM, MHM, MMH, HHM, HMH, MHH, HHH, MMM}

To computer the probabiltiy that at least one of the three interceptors will hit the target, we have

P(at least one hit) = 1 – P(no hit at all)

or

P(HMM or MHM or MMH or HHM or HMH or MHH or HHH) = 1 – P(MMM)

It’s easy to compute the probability that all three interceptors miss:

P(MMM) = (0.80)(0.80)(0.80)

= 0.512

= 51.2%

Then, substituting this into our equation, we get the probability that at least one of the interceptors will hit as

P(at least one hit) = 1 – P(all miss)

= 1 – P(MMM)

= 1 – 0.512

= 0.488

= 48.8%

At least with three ABMs we are getting closer to a 50% chance of at least one of them taking out the target.

So what if we had 10 interceptors. The number of total outcomes increases to 2^10. What is the probability that at least one of the ten interceptors will hit the target?

P(at least one hit) = 1 – P(all miss)

= 1 – P(MMMMMMMMMM)

= 1 – (0.8)^10

= 1 – 0.107374

= 0.892626

> 89%

It’s close to a 90% chance that at least one of the ten antiballistic missiles will hit an incoming missile, assuming independent events.

Now, inreality, the events are not independent. In other words, if the first missile missed, one assumes there would be some information gleaned that would add to the accuracy of the second one. However, enemy efforts to disguise the incoming missile containing the warhead with a number of decoys further complicate the computation, as well as the probability of a hit.

Nevertheless, Mr. Ellison is correct; 10 interceptors increase the chances of a successful hit. As we have shown, the probability increases from 20% to 89%. He also states that “while the system’s capability might not be 100%, I think it would have a pretty good shot at intercepting the North Korean missile.” Given the price tag in the trillions through 2015 for Ballistic Missile Defense, it had better be “a pretty good shot”.

Just a brief collection of notes from today’s McLuhan meeting.

We read pgs. 169-172 of Marshall’s (Amazon) Take today; the executive as dropout.

Again we are amazed at the insights a book published 35 years ago provides to us today.

Kerry Thornley (Wikipedia) was the co-founder (with Greg Hill) of Discordianism.

My curiosity was piqued after listening to an R.U. Sirius (mp3) interview with Adam Gorightly on the subject of Rightly’s new book (Amazon) The Prankster and the Conspiracy: The Story of Kerry Thornley and How He Met Oswald and Inspired the Counterculture.

What happened to Ward Churchill (Wikipedia) in the aftermath of his controversial 911 article? (Basically he’s appealing the Standing Committee’s finding that his research was flawed while awaiting sanctions yet to be determined.)

Michael made a point I felt worth repeating, although I’m only paraphrasing…

“The Republicans own the infrastructure i.e. the hard assets – they don’t care if they bankrupt the country, they’ll just re-monetize in the new currency- it’s the rest of us who will be screwed.”

Pinchbeck on The Colbert Report. (Comedy Central- fast internet and computer required.)

Until next time.

Recent headlines about the destruction of a Chinese weather satellite by one of their own missiles had US officials quoted in wide-eyed surprise claiming the act threatened US-China relations and escalated the weaponization of space.

Of course, the hundreds of billions of dollars the US has spent on ballistic missile defense and research into smaller “useable” nuclear weapons with its own kill vehicles positioned on land and sea aimed at sites across the world speaks volumes about the US’ position on the weaponization of our planet.

It is also doubtful that the Chinese action was a surprise to intelligence professionals. Reports six months ago alleged the Chinese “illuminated” a US satellite using a laser. With this short burst of directed energy, it is believed China wanted to not only demonstrate its power, however briefly, but also gauge US reaction to it. This latest incident has brought China-US relations into a new level of experimentation and started Space Race II, the Sequel.

As far as space is concerned, the field has evened in recent years, and the US no longer has the edge, or prestige, that it used to. China has conducted manned missions into space, becoming the third country to do so, behind Russia and the US.

Changes in export laws fostered the creation of a network of businesses outside of US that has quietly developed to supply and build space assets for peaceful as well as military applications with no American involvement. Deals have been made between China, Russia, Europe, and Middle Eastern unilaterally. Middle Eastern, African, and South American countries are having satellites built in Europe and launched by Russia.

Space shuttle disasters and the subsequent reneging on International Space Station agreements have put world partners in a position where they just don’t trust American commitments. Russia and Europe are partnering on a Mars mission, without US participation.

The latest move by China will only exacerbate the stubbornness of the US to stay the course and isolate itself further. We can expect to see the rhetoric become frothier. US solicitations for partnerships on both military and civilian projects with even longterm partners will most likely be politely turned down. And what about Poland? Eastern block countries will likely join the European Union for any space related activity.

Ironically, this act by China comes during a milestone anniversary, for it was October 4, 1957 that the Russians launched the first artificial satellite into orbit around the Earth. Sputnik, a word meaning “traveling companion”, was a 184 pound ball that continuously transmitted a signal alternating in 20 and 40 MHz that radio enthusiasts around the world were able to pick up with inexpensive commercial equipment, enabling amateurs to track the satellite globally as it sailed above in low Earth orbit. The constant beeping irritated US officials who not only feigned surprise, but were also led to publicly state that it wasn’t much of a big deal.

Of course, behind the scenes, American intelligence had many reports on Russian progress in rocketry. The US had a rocket program decades old, and plans for orbiting their own satellite. But the successful launch of Sputnik changed the dynamic. Officials knew they had to move quickly to gain supremacy in space and government support moved with it. The Space Race had begun. Suffering many losses in dollars and prestige, American efforts were finally rewarded and it was eventually won by the US with the landing of Apollo 11 on the moon.

Sputnik disregarded the lines that separate nations and lorded over the planet wholly. The basketball-sized orb named Sputnik revealed to people around the world that space travel, till then only a dream, was indeed possible. “Sputnik and the moon shots brought about, in effect, the institution of a new kind of global theater, in which all men become actors and there are few spectators. The population of the world is both the cast and content of this new theater. The repertory of the theater consists of a perpetual happening, which can include the retrieval or replay of any previous happening that men choose to experience.” Marshall McLuhan Culture is Our Business pg 145 It was Marshall McLuhan who noted that man-made satellites, encircling the Earth, made Nature into an art piece. The world became a global village.

The destruction of this weather satellite by China is to be abhorred for many reasons, not the least of which is the huge cloud of debris now in orbit, adding to the flotsam that endangers spacecraft and astronauts alike. Estimates are that only 10% of all space junk is tracked, and even the tiniest pieces can cause catastrophic damage. Hitting a satellite could have meant destruction, hitting an astronaut could have meant death.

All wars are fought with the latest technology available and Sputnik started the third world war where information is the weapon. Space Race II is this very moment starting in a world very different from 50 years ago. The US is no longer the world leader it was. No longer do we have the resources, money, or trust of the people, to build a new infrastructure of war and weapons in space in the name of a “defense” strategy. No doubt attempts will continue, but it may be a last gasp of American hegemony.

The Doomsday Clock was recently moved to five minutes till midnight indicating our increased vulnerability to nuclear weapons. On this 50th anniversary of Sputnik, our challenge today is to check the drive for control of Earth and space and keep from destroying the very the very planet we need for our survival as a species. Can world governments find a way to cooperate and move our planet into the 21rst century with a minimum of tragedy?

Very interesting article over on Wired with a diagram that puts our energy consumption in perspective. Wow! Now I understand what Michael is talking about when he says the singularity has already happened and it was cheap oil. And I get a much better idea of the gloom and doom side of oil depletion Robin’s talking about. Humans consume 1 cubic mile of oil a year and as an example from the Wired chart- the equivalent is 52 Diablo Canyon sized Nuclear Power Plants running for 50 years!!!

I have been a math teacher since 1991 when I taught my first algebra class at Philadelphia Community College. I had just received my Bachelors degree in Physics. Bolstered by my girlfriend Val’s seemingly cushy part-time employment as a math instructor, and the fact that the math department was in quick need of an algebra instructor, I interviewed with the math chairman, and convinced him that I would be perfect for the job.

I was right. As it turned out, I was good at it. Not that I didn’t have my problems, I had many. However, I seemed to have a rapport with a class of math students that allowed me to teach in a relaxed atmosphere and keep everyone engaged. I have always enjoyed teaching and felt lucky to have had the kind of job that continually allows me to learn as much as my students.

But I work hard at teaching. More than most, I think, but it may be that every teacher thinks that. I know there are alot of people who look at teachers and say, “Boy, what a job, summers off.” These folks think that it’s an easy task to walk in a room, stand up in front of 45 young people, and keep them directly engaged in mathematics for 90 minutes three to five days a week. Plus, they don’t think about all the lost nights and weekends a teacher spends preparing exercies and grading papers.

Preparing and psyching up for the experience of teaching is not only exciting, but scary too. As a musician, I’ve played in countless bands, and I gained some experience on stage. I can liken the first day of a new class to the same kind of butterflies that one can get before Saturday nite’s performance.

To keep my anxiety at a minimum, I have always prepared intensely for all my classes, producing notes, websites, hand-outs, transparencies, examples, and finding news stories relevant to our topics. I have learned how to create websites, and use the Internet (significant as I am no adolescent.) and create online classes. I have learned how to create a syllabus of information, pace it through the semester, and determine whether or not it’s being understood.

But the biggest thing I’ve learned from teaching is patience. Early on, I would start to lose it when students would not understand what I was s-o-c-a-r-e-f-u-l-l-y-t-e-l-l-i-n-g-t-h-e-m. I didn’t know why they asked the same thing over and over again.

I had to learn that each student’s mind will absorb the patterns of math differently, and that I have to frame each concept so that it may be understood as quickly as each mind can possibly get it. It’s somewhat like using the right phrase that instantly communicates the message, and the student grasps the pattern all at once in a simple and clear understanding. Finding those key words, and saying them in the right tone is the Teacher’s Holy Grail for which there is no resolution. Each semester, the new class of students enlarges the catalogue of Magick Words, and we all climb the Mountain of Math together.

My subject is greeted with much noise and moaning. “Aaaawrrhhh, math….” eyes rolling, head twisting, soul writing in agony at the thought of math class. “Why do we have to learn this?” or “What good will this ever be?” they whine.

I have answered that question with a plethora of responses:

It’s a workout for your left head muscle.

You never know what you might be doing in the future.

It’s history.

It’s cool.

Someday, somebody could pay you to tell them what’s in these books.

And while I still believe that math and science are an important part of every educated mind, I’ve had problems being motivated to teach the topics given in the basic curriculum.

After learning about Peak Oil, and then, economic imbalances, topped off with ecological collapse, what good did learning to solve equations with rational expressions do? How does spending two weeks of precious classtime on factoring prepare student to think critically?

I admit, I’d had reservations about college math curricula even before I’d learned about the impending slide of civilization. Any criticism or suggestion of restructure would be met by the math department with ” Well they have to learn this.”

“But, why?”, I’d ask.

“Because they’re learning critical thinking.” was always the last response.

Nowhere have I ever found evidence of that claim.

So what then? What should my motivation to teach algebra, and the students’ learning it, be?

Personally, I find the subject fascinating. The manipulation of tiny symbolic squiggles representing the unknown quantities of the universe dancing about a page is akin to a beautiful work of art or music. And I have always tried to communicate my own fascination and love of this subject, but many young college students just don’t see it that way.

But more importantly, how will learning math help students navigate the challenges they are most certainly going to face as they live their lives in the coming years?

The easiest answer is to use mathematics to help students understand what is happening in the first place. In a class of Pre-algebra or general Algebra, the math topics are rudimentary, but amenable to using energy and population data for percent problems and linear equations. This kind of data is perfect for descriptive statistics analysis as well.

In a liberal arts math course, one can go even further. Looking at exponentials, compound interest, and annuity equations leads directly to the finite resource equation and finding the exponential reserve, which gives the amount of time left for a finite resource that is being used at an increasing percent annually. This allows analysis of gas, coal, oil, and even domestic wellwater timeframes.

In this way, by using actual data and mathematical analysis, communicating to students a realistic picture of the world outside the classroom is neither political, or, makes the teacher sound like a nut case.

Beyond that, re-learning all the skills lost by our cheap oil-cheap imports society will be a difficult task. If some Peak Oil theorists are right, we’re going to have to learn to do many forgotten tasks ourselves. How much power can we get out of a nearby stream? How would we build a hydro-electric system?

Indeed, mathematics in a post-crash world will be used in carpentry, agriculture, domestic item production, civic engineering, food storage, the list is endless. McLuhan wrote we are returning to a cultural oral bias, this time with our eyes wide open. Perhaps we will have to re-live the entire history of mathematics from it’s first applications to commerce and agriculture millenia ago in order to succeed in preserving our evolving culture.

In any case, mathematics curriculum must adapt to a post-oil reality, or the institutions that push it will be relegated to the dust bin. If only schools and universities just listened to their students asking “Why math?”, and responded honestly, they would be much more successful in graduating productive students with higher quantitative and critical thinking skills. And we would all be better off as a society at large.

Hey, I want one of these things. I want to know what’s going on up there. How long before there’s a USB model do you think?