Saturday, April 08, 2006

Why Math Matters

From a review of the new Airbus A380, the world's biggest passenger plane:

Debra also pointed out ... the hydraulic system that operates the A380's control surfaces ... The hydraulics also handle the braking on the A380's twenty-wheel main landing gear. A 302-page promotional Airbus publication titled A New Dimension in Air Travel informed me that "the brake is capable of stopping 45 double-decker buses traveling at 200 mph, simultaneously, in under 25 seconds." It is an ambition of mine to learn enough math to figure out comparisons like that and write them myself. But I'm afraid I'd get carried away with digressions about what kind of engine you'd have to put in a double-decker bus to make it go that fast, where you'd drive it, how you'd find forty-four people to drive the other buses, and what would happen to the bus riders.

--"The Mother Load," by P.J. O'Rourke, The Atlantic Monthly, November 2005, p. 173.

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