New Feature: Equations of Everyday Life

“Mathematics consists in proving the most obvious thing in the least obvious way.” — George Polya


Due to the surprisingly strong reactions to the Equations of Kid and Canine Chaosin other words, at least three other people besides me, my wife and my dogs actually read them–I had an epiphany.

Mouse Trap. The game based on Rube Goldberg’s convoluted cartoon contraptions

Are you old enough to remember Rube Goldberg?  His cartoons satirized the politics and society of the mid-20th century with drawings of hypothetical, ridiculously complex machines designed to do very simple tasks.   They were the inspiration for the game Mouse Trap and for an annual Rube Goldberg Machine contest.

But in the digital world of electronics, these analog devices are no longer relevant.  In an age where advanced mathematics can be used to predict the existence of the Higgs Boson long before developing the technology to verify it, a new approach is needed.  And of course, I have it.  Equations of Everyday Life.  These are the mathematical Rube Goldbergs of our time.

Let us begin.

Do you text and drive?  Do you Google stuff in a dark movie theaters?  Do you take Instagrams of every third thing that happens in your humdrum life?  Like most of us in this over-connected era, the more connected we are to virtual reality, the more disconnected we get from actual reality.  Just how disconnected are we?  The phenomenon is quite mathematically reducible, I have discovered, and I call it:


Don’t be deceived.  It is far more complicated than it looks.   Where attention to the outside world in the absence of a smart phone (Aa)equals 1, then attention to the outside world in the presence of a smartphone (As) is approximately equal to the inverse of the number of cool apps on said smartphone (n) times the I-Phone or equivalent model number (m).    Yes, approximately equal to—because nothing is that precise in the quantum mechanical world of electronics, and anyway I like using that smart looking squiggly thingy over the equal sign.   Taking the example of my own I-Phone 4, I have 14 apps I would describe as being “cool.”  As 14 x 4 is 56, then when I am packing my phone, my attention level to the outside world is an astonishingly small 1/56th of normal.  This is dangerous.  As I’m reputed to be a major space shot to begin with,  I should probably be banned from breathing and texting at the same time.   But that calculation can wait for another day, as even the basics get much more complicated.


What happens when you jump to the I-Phone 4s and add the pernicious feature known as Siri?

It gets ugly in a hurry.  The equation now looks like this:

Yikes!  We now have to square the denominator and in the personal example stated above, my attention level would be 1/562of my normally spaced out self.  This computes to 1/3136.

I don’t know if the Planck length applies to this,  but a few more apps and new models and my attention level will certainly approach it.  Also note that the “s” on the right side of the equation stands for Siri and has no numerical value.  It just makes the equation appear more complex and disguises my general ignorance of advanced mathematics. Anyway ,this demonstrates why I don’t have Siri.  If I did, I would have proposed to her long ago and been off to Vegas for a quickie divorce from my wife by now.  Ah, for the days when the internet was still in black and white.

Coming soon: The Index of Inane Celebrity Meme Virality.


  1. This. Is. Brilliant.
    That is all.

  2. Haha, I really like this. It’s a fascinating way of looking at things. Luckily I have a fairly generic old Blackberry from a few years ago, so I’m subject to far fewer distractions than some people.

  3. I have no cellphone, but this computer is more than enough to make Reality fade away.

  4. It’s a great idea for a feature and don’t worry. I know way less about advanced mathematics so I’m impressed by your fancy equations. I had to read the explanation for the first equation twice to get it.

  5. Thanks for visiting my blog, I LOVED the game mouse trap. And your story about baseball stats.

  6. Good Morning…I too wanted to stop by and say thank you for visiting me too…I enjoy reading your blogs even though I am horrible at math : )

  7. This is a far more relevant use of mathematics than Higgs Boson….

  8. Anne Bonney says:

    I recently came over to the dark side (iPhone 4). Your observations are right on!

  9. Thanks for liking my post. In looking at yours here..I always struggled with math. Not the simple stuff, the higher tech math LOL Even though I aced history, government, English, and Language Arts…was always awful when it came to algebra and fractions! God bless you and thanks again.

  10. Made me laugh

  11. Hello Mark! I must confess I wasn’t good at math but I agree with you when you say that the more connected we are to virtual reality, the more disconnected we get from actual reality.Thanks for liking my post “View from Santa Barbara Harbor”.
    Kind greetings,

    • I had no interest in math in high school and college, despite scoring 98+ percentile in most math aptitude tests. I regret not having more background in it now. Thank you for stopping by as well and happy blogging. 🙂

      • Your equation above is only valid if n,m, and s are > 0.
        Thank you for visiting my post “cosmic violence” in
        Hank MS Math Stanford University

      • They are valid as satire as long as the reader has a sense of humor. 😉 (And do you really think that any of those Rube Goldbergs would have actually worked!?) Anyway, thank you for the visit and the post!

      • Yes, I was attempting to improve the don’t think Rube Goldbergs would have actually worked.

      • Well, anyway, thanks again. (And you never know–I’m surprised at the people who take some of these posts seriously! That’s what I get for mixing ridiculous AND sublime. Sometimes I’m not even sure which is which!)

  12. I didn’t realise maths could be so funny!! I still have a flip open Samsung and after viewing the “statistics”, I really shouldn’t move on from it. Thank you for alerting me to this particular post. I feel like a bit of a cheat now, my post on Fibonacci is just exponential adding and not at all typical of my usual posts. If you do return to my site, the best place to start is, I think you’ll find it difficult to explain this mathematically or in any other way for that matter!!

  13. Thanks for checking out ScienceSprings.

  14. You better hope your wife doesn’t read your blog…the divorce may be on you! 🙂

  15. Hey, this reminds me of Tom Lehrer’s “The New Math.” In the best possible way, of course! I grew up in Princeton, New Jersey, and was part of the Yale test group for that lampooned approach to teaching mathematics. So what happens if you do all this in Base 8? Thanks for liking my recent blog entry, and having fun with math!

  16. This is worth reading and sharing for the first quote alone. And then it gets better.

  17. Great stuff!

  18. Thanks for popping into look at my blog. Here comes irrelevant comment….I’m British and can’t get used to “math” as we do “maths”! 🙂


  1. […] With the announcement of the new iPhone models 5S and 5C its time to revisit, with slight modification, the original post of this series.  Appropriately enough, I now use an app on my iPhone for tracking my bicycle treks.  So now I have distracted cycling to go along with distracted everything else.  To paraphrase Don Rickles, we only have dummies with phones.  Present company?  No comment.  For the original version of this post, click here. […]

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