Social, Economic, Enviromental Responsibility

Category: Inspiration

Mathematics, Why No One Likes It, and What Can Be Done

“When Will I Use This In The Real World?”

The most dreaded question of any Math teachers life. It is a question that cannot be answered when the mathematical endeavors move beyond basic arithmetic and small components of geometry and into the higher level of mathematics. Unless that junior high student is going to go on to be an accountant or rocket scientist, there is little need for calculus.

The question cannot be answered, not because there is no answer, but because of the way mathematics is taught.

Math has been called the “universal language” not because everything, everywhere understands math as we understand it. Quite the contrary, Binary and Hexadecimal number systems are strange and intimidating to anyone raised on the numbers zero through nine. But as binary and hexadecimal can show, they are number systems born out of a need to translate or understand data.

Math is the universal language because it allows an explanation to made of, order to be imposed on, and understanding to develop from seemingly random  information. Every mathematical formula, law, rule, and function was born out of a need to explain what was occurring. From the seemingly lowest level of adding one apple and one apple to the highest concepts of thermodynamics; all of it was born out of the need to explain a phenomena. In this framework, all math from adding onward has a real world connection.

When math is taught, it is taught backwards. First the formula is given, then it is memorized through torturous repetition, and then the student moves on. Occasionally a word problem or two is included, something generic and inapplicable, or a brightly colored side note talks of some “real world connection.” By and large, though math is a problem to be solved. Until the testing begins. And students across the world turn in page after page of mental vomit. The entire system is designed to memorize concepts and is utterly devoid of any real world application. And since each equation is presented as an obstacle to be overcome, it is no surprise that the homework is viewed as such also. It is no surprise then, why so few students are willing to “do” math, let alone “do” math well.

What if a more worldly method was used? Perhaps the data and scenarios that lead to the development of a certain formula were presented first. How then is this data to be interpreted, understood and explained? The student would then embark on the same path of discovery that lead to every mathematical concept from the number line, to infinity, to compounded interest to every component of Math. The real world connections are there, in black and white numbers. Students would then understand that mathematics is not an end all subject, but it is the lens through which a large portion of our day to day world operates.

Instead of the problem, Math becomes the solution.

Tolerance Doesn’t Work

Tolerance is the cheap imitation of Equality. It is a lie designed to calm and pacify.

A good man cannot tolerate wickedness, just as darkness cannot tolerate light. Tolerance leads to inaction, inaction leads to weakness and weakness leads to injustice.

Tolerance is disrespectful. I can’t accept that your views are different from mine, therefore I’ll tolerate them. How childish; how selfish.

If I respect you as a person, then I will respect your opinion; even if I disagree with it. If I believe you are wrong, I will say something. Ask something. Pursue the issue further. Maybe you aren’t wrong; maybe I am. If I merely tolerate your “wrongness” then we will never learn who or what is right.

There are rights and wrongs. Constants and laws. Good and Evil. As we learn more, we have a fuller understanding of what those absolutes are. At one time, tomatoes were poisonous. We’ve since learned it was a reaction of the acidity in tomatoes with the lead soldering used in pewter plates, bowls, and mugs. Tomatoes weren’t poisonous, but the lead was.

What does this have to do with the environment? Everything!

We need to understand, that the modus operandi of our contemporary world has only been in play for fifty to one hundred years. We’re learning what is wrong or obsolete, and we need to implement what is right.

We can no longer tolerate the wrongness that exists in our societies. We must respect individuals, and begin to address the serious issues we face. To cut away what is wrong (from both sides of the argument), and add what is right.


The Sun delivers roughly a kilowatt of energy to every square meter of the earths surface. Meaning, one meter of land provides enough energy to power ten light bulbs.

If the average rooftop is say 10 meters by 30, that’s 300 meters. Meaning the potential for energy is 300 kilowatts a day.

300 kilowatts, times 365 days a year equals 109,500 kilowatts of energy a year.

The sun doesn’t shine everyday, and this is assuming a perfect conversion rate. Solar panels are only 30% effective, meaning only 30,000 kw of energy is actually produced. Still more than enough energy to power a home, and the two homes next to it.

The sun doesn’t shine every day; a true statement. But it could not shine for 8 months, and there would still be enough power for a home. The average American household uses 11,040 Kwh as of 2008 4 months of sunshine is all that is necessary to cleanly power an American home.

The rub with solar power is not energy production at all, it’s energy storage. The roof of a house has the potential, with current means, to provide all the energy requirements for a home. But there is no effective way to store that energy.

Why then is so much money and effort devoted towards solar panel development? What is needed now, is an efficient way to store and discharge energy. Solar panels work, it’s time to bring batteries up to speed!

Cool Photos Will Now Be Seen

Just some photos from work that I took. Enjoy








Winter is a time to engage in labor. A chance to see the world in its cold, naked beauty.

Tonight is the first snow flurry in Ohio. I hope it won’t be the last.

There’s something about the cold. It magnifies sounds, creates a sense of isolation. In that isolation, for me, there’s a sense of renewal and refreshment.

Come February, I’ll be a miserable as everyone else I’m sure. But until then, let’s enjoy the changing of the seasons.

And hot chocolate!

Seths Blog: Efficiency is free

Seths Blog: Efficiency is free.


Just to lend a bit of credence to my seemingly crazed rants about efficiency and the environment.


t’s cheaper to build carpets that don’t create poison gas than it is to do the easy thing and let people suffer later. It’s cheaper to build an 8 passenger car that gets 30 miles per gallon than it is to suffer the consequences of the 12mile per gallon Suburban. It’s cheaper to design smaller, lighter and recyclable shipping containers once than it is to buy and hassle with billions of foam peanuts in the long run.

So why doesn’t everyone do this? For the same reason the quality revolution took a full generation to take hold–it costs more right now. It takes planning right now. It requires change right now.

Right now will always be difficult. But efficiency is still free.”


I wish I could claim I inspired Seth Godin, but he actually inspired me. I encourage you to enjoy the headwaters of Conservance friends!

A Few Thoughts That Should Come Together

I’ve got “Factory Floor” on television right now. One of the clips is about plywood.

The quote was “because it’s man made it’s stronger than any tree.”

I had to think for a second about that statement, and the answer is yes; We can often engineer some specific characteristic to be better than what is found naturally.

Obviously then, we can improve on what is found in the world around us. Meaning we can improve the world around us.

Secondly, this post. Note further down, the ideas on taste and bad culture. Currently, our society as a whole is operating with this slow moving, bad taste culture.

The good ideas are either not being implemented, being poorly implemented, or only implemented in certain areas/sectors. What good changes that are implemented in one area (say MPG standards) are ignored or counteracted within other circles (Oil Production).

Societal costs raise every year. Yes some of the environmental changes will also raise prices. However the trade off (better city planning, more jobs, cleaner energy, more fuel efficient cars and vehicles, proper mass transit, a more integrated culture, etc) is worth it.


But again, prices will go up regardless of what we do. We might as well do the right thing.

The Last Straw

Hay is grass that is grown as feed for livestock. Straw is a waste product from wheat and other cereal grain productions.

Straw has also been used as a building material for thousands of years.

When it’s baled, straw has excellent thermal properties (roughly 3 times that of traditional wall). Furthermore it’s price point is comparable to traditional stick built homes (yeah, I know a thing or two about construction).

Here’s where it gets interesting:

Straw bale homes are incredibly simple to build.  Install a footer, stack bales, square up the wall, plaster, install header. Enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Because of the ease of construction, maintenance appears to be fairly simple.

What we end up getting is an easy to build, easy to maintain, well insulated, renewable building material, that’s structurally sound and long lasting (some straw bale homes from the 1800s are still standing and still in use!).


Short Term Versus Long Term

Our current economic woes are a direct result of short term thinking. The desire for immediate profit over long term growth. CEOs, investors, and others involved sacrificed entire companies and even our economic progress to increase their personal net worths.

This is nothing new. For some reason, our brains are unable to contemplate long term processes. Unfortunately, there is no more short-term “wows” left in the sustainability theater. It’s all long term planning and execution.

Perhaps then, we’re facing something larger than just an environmental movement. Perhaps we’re on the precipice of a transformation. An epoch for the human race.

If we can come together and rise above our current short-sightedness, we could usher in a new age for humanity.

Quick Fix

President Obama was touted as the Capitalist-in-chief for the United States in an article on BusinessWeek (here). Specifically he’s been pushing money into the clean tech sector.

This is a quick fix to a serious problem.

Our current system, was built on ideas and assumptions from the 1940s and 50s. Back when smoking was healthy and gasoline wasn’t polluting. But since that time, we’ve learned that pollution is a serious issue and smoking causes cancer.

Electric and hydrogen powered vehicles are nothing more than ways to prop up old world ideas.

Look at our stimulus package: $300 Billion to the establishment. It didn’t actually stimulate the economy, nor did it trickle down to Main Street.

Look at health care reform: No one answered the question “Why have health care costs sky rocketed?”

The question with clean tech must be “Why are we trying to preserve a dying, antiquated way of doing things?”

We like to fix things, we aren’t good at solving problems.

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