Monday 11 May 2009

The mathematics of smog

Mathematics, the bedrock of the universe. An infinite number of infinite numbers. As the old saying goes, "All biology is chemistry, all chemistry is physics and all physics is mathematics."

It's a subject and science that sits, almost unseen, behind everything. On a human level, our everyday experiences of it are superficial, yet without it, the world we have built for ourselves would not function. Trigonometry, calculus, a whole string of theories, culminating in... er... string theory. Under our fingertips, binary digits flow from our keyboards to move us around a virtual environment. In our engines, electron shells fracture and reform to transport us across the planet. Politicians and lobbyists compete to twist the last grains of untruth from every statistic.

Numbers, just numbers. Pathetically, we try to tame them with a variety of units, for example, a fee of £10 000 000, or a goal difference of -28 perhaps, or even the bleak nothingness of zero (often applied to chances). But mathematics would exist even if we did not, we are not its masters, which frees us from the great weight of responsibility that numbers hold.

This morning, that is of no great comfort to dejected Boro fans, the most optimistic of whom must now surely realise that the phrase "mathematically possible" has a very hollow, hopeless ring to it.

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