Real life

Distances on Earth 3: Planar Approximation

We’ve looked at two formulas for the distance between points given their latitude and longitude; here we’ll examine one more formula, which is valid only for small distances. This is a “flat-earth approximation” to distance.

How Much Does the Earth Curve?

We’ve looked at how to find the circumference of the earth, and how far we can see over the horizon. Another kind of question we’ve had about the curvature of the earth is, how much does it curve over a given distance? That has been asked in several different ways, which lead to some intriguing …

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How Far Can I See?

We have been looking at questions about the roundness of the earth, starting with the general fact, and then the determination of the size of the earth. A very common question is about how that roundness affects what we can see, sometimes as a challenge (“If I can see this, then how can the earth …

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Eratosthenes Measures the Earth

Last time we looked at a couple questions about proving the earth is round, which led into questions about how Eratosthenes measured the earth (though that in itself did not prove the earth is not flat). Let’s look at two questions about that project itself. Eratosthenes for third graders The first is from 1995, and …

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Reading Pandemic Graphs

(A new question of the week) Having just discussed several mathematical topics that lie behind the various graphs we have seen in the news lately, I want to depart from our usual style and answer my own current questions. We’ll look at several graphs of COVID-19’s growth and think about what we can learn from …

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Logarithmic Graphing

We’ve been looking at the math underlying some of the graphs associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, starting with exponential growth, and then logistic growth. I want to look in more detail at a feature I mentioned in the first post, viewing a graph logarithmically. This is a powerful technique that goes far beyond a button …

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Logistic Growth

Last time we looked at the meaning of exponential growth, a term commonly used in describing the initial spread of a virus such as the current SARS2 (which causes COVID-19). But exponential growth can’t continue forever, as it would soon exceed the total population. A slightly more complicated model for growth that takes into account …

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