Posted by: bkivey | 14 March 2010

Highway to hello

Talkin’ on the cell phone

Talkin’ on the cell phone

I don’t care, if ya think I’m rude,

‘Cause talkin’ on the cell phone rules!

At our neighborhood association meetings a police officer gives a report on police activity in the area and talks about enforcement of any major new laws. The one new law that has sparked the most comment is the ban on using a cell phone handset while driving. At the most recent meeting the officer’s report on the enforcement of the law led to a discussion by the membership on the impact that the law has had on their driving habits. While universally recognizing that DWT (driving while talking/texting) is a bad idea, most people found it a hard habit to give up. Listening to others talk about this, I wondered about a few things.

I don’t talk and drive, and have historically made it a point not to do so. There is not a phone call on the planet that is worth my life or anyone else’s. If the phone rings while I’m driving, I let it go to voice mail. This has caused some friction with people, especially bosses and clients, but I just refer them to the point about my life being worth more than their call. I am sensitive to this because twice I have been in a vehicle where the driver went right through a red light while talking on the phone. I don’t care who you are, nothing you have to say is that damned important.

Cell phones are just the latest manifestation of an underlying problem. For decades people have been conditioned to think that time spent operating a vehicle is ‘wasted’ (unproductive) time. It isn’t enough to engage in passive activity like listening to music while driving. No, one must be actively engaged in another activity or the time is considered unproductive and the person, by implication, slothful.

We have completely lost sight of what we are doing when we are driving. What  we are doing is operating a piece of machinery that weighs about two tons in close proximity to other vehicles of similar size controlled by people of unknown and varying levels of ability and emotional states at moderate to high speeds. That is what we are doing. Doesn’t sound like an environment that tolerates much distraction, does it? Yet people have no problem engaging in any number of distractions while driving, indeed, feel obligated to be doing something while driving, as if the act of operating a motor vehicle on public roads is inconsequential.

I would suggest that if you truly do need to spend drive time doing something other than driving, that you are likely in a position to hire someone to do the driving for you. Please do so. Otherwise, just drive.

Happy Pi Day!

In recognition of pi day today I am reprinting the following:

Indiana bill sets the value of pi to 3

The bill House Bill No. 246, Indiana State Legislature, 1897, reportedly set the value of pi to an incorrect rational approximation.

Will E. Edington in an article published in the Proceedings of the Indiana Academy of Science describes the fate of the bill in the committees of the Indiana legislature. First it was referred to the House Committee on Canals, which was also referred to as the Committee on Swamp Lands. Notices of the bill appeared in the Indianapolis Journal and the Indianapolis Sentinel on Jan. 19, 1897, both of which described it as a bill telling how to square circles.

The next day, the following article appeared in the Indianapolis Sentinel:


“Claims Made That This Old Problem Has Been Solved. “The bill telling how to square a circle, introduced in the House by Mr.Record, is not intended to be a hoax. Mr. Record knows nothing of the bill with the exception that he introduced it by request of Dr.Edwin Goodwin of Posey County, who is the author of the demonstration. The latter and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Geeting believe that it is the long-sought solution of the problem, and they are seeking to have it adopted by the legislature. Dr. Goodwin, the author, is a mathematician of note. He has it copyrighted and his proposition is that if the legislature will indorse the solution, he will allow the state to use the demonstration in its textbooks free of charge. The author is lobbying for the bill.”

On “February 2, 1897, …Representative S.E. Nicholson, of Howard County, chairman of the Committee on Education, reported to the House.

“Your Committee on Education, to which was referred House Bill No.246, entitled a a bill for an act entitled an act introducing a new mathematical truth, has had same under consideration, and begs leave to report the same back to the House with the recommendation that said bill do pass.

“The report was concurred in, and on February 8, 1897, it was brought up for the second reading, following which it was considered engrossed. Then ‘Mr. Nicholson moved that the constitutional rule requiring bills to be read on three days be suspended, that the bill may be read a third time now.’ The constitutional rule was suspended by a vote of 72 to 0 and the bill was then read a third time. It was passed by a vote of 67 to 0, and the Clerk of the House was directed to inform the Senate of the passage of the bill.”

The newspapers reported the suspension of the constitutional rules and the unanimous passage of the bill matter-of-factly, except for one line in the Indianapolis Journal to the effect that “this is the strangest bill that has ever passed an Indiana Assembly.”

The bill was referred to the Senate on Feb.10, 1897, and was read for the first time on Feb.11 and referred to the Committee on Temperance. “On Feb.12 Senator Harry S. New, of Marion County, Chairman of the Committee on Temperance, made the following report to the Senate:

“Your committee on Temperance, to which was referred House Bill No.246, introduced by Mr.Record, has had the same under consideration and begs leave to report the same back to the Senate with the recommendation that said bill do pass.”

The Senate Journal mentions only that the bill was read a second time on Feb.12, 1897, that there was an unsuccessful attempt to amend the bill by strike out the enacting clause, and finally it was postponed indefinitely. That the bill was killed appears to be a matter of dumb luck rather than the superior education or wisdom of the Senate. It is true that the bill was widely ridiculed in Indiana and other states, but what actually brought about the defeat of the bill is recorded by Prof. C.A. Waldo in an article he wrote for the Proceedings of the Indiana Academy of Science in 1916. The reason he knows is that he happened to be at the State Capitol lobbying for the appropriation of the Indiana Academy of Science, on the day the Housed passed House Bill 246. When he walked in the found the debate on House Bill 246 already in progress. In his article, he writes (according to Edington):

“An ex-teacher from the eastern part of the state was saying: ‘The case is perfectly simple. If we pass this bill which establishes a new and correct value for pi , the author offers to our state without cost the use of his discovery and its free publication in our school text books, while everyone else must pay him a royalty.'”

The roll was then called and the bill passed its third and final reading in the lower house. A member then showed the writer [i.e. Waldo] a copy of the bill just passed and asked him if he would like an introduction to the learned doctor, its author. He declined the courtesy with thanks remarking that he was acquainted with as many crazy people as he cared to know.

“That evening the senators were properly coached and shortly thereafter as it came to its final reading in the upper house they threw out with much merriment the epoch making discovery of the Wise Man from the Pocket.”

The bill implies four different values for pi and one for sqrt(2), as follows: pi’ = 16/sqrt(3), 2 sqrt(5 pi/6), 16 sqrt(2)/7, 16/5 ( 9.24 , 3.236 , 3.232 , 3.2 respectively.) sqrt(2)’ = 10/7.


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