or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Math and Latin

This is why we should teach Latin in school, or at least etymology with a definite Latin slant:

"Circum-" means "around". "Dia-" means "across". The word the writer was grasping for was "diameter", not "circumference". A disc with a diameter of 1 7/8" is about the size of an Oreo cookie; that same circumference makes it smaller than a dime--tinier even than the incredibly wee 1-cent Euro coin.*

Even the most basic knowledge of Latin would have forced the writer to say, "Hey, wait a minute...."

* Knowing the the circumference is the diameter times π, approximately 3.1416, and therefore the circumference divided by π gives the diameter, a circumference of 1 7/8", or 48 millimetres, gives a diameter of about 15.25 millimetres; the Euro cent is 16.25 mm.

The only reason I have seen a Euro cent, not having been to Europe since the early 1980s, is that a couple of years ago we were in London, and I saw on the floor of a subway station something that looked like a shiny coin, only much too small to actually be one. And yet it actually was one. I couldn't believe just how little it was--certainly the smallest coin I had ever held. I brought it back as a sort of souvenir, and promptly lost it--that's how small.

A Canadian dime is about 18 millimetres across. Just so you know.


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