Posted in Science & Nature

Cow Modelling

There is a farmer who is unhappy with the milk production from his dairy farm. To rectify this, he writes to the local university asking for advice. A theoretical physicist responds to the request and visits the farm. He then takes many measurements such as the size of the cow and proceeds to do some calculations. After finishing all of this, he tells the farmer: “I have a solution, but it only works for spherical cows in a vacuum.”

The point of the joke is that in science, models are frequently used to simplify reality. Because there are infinite amounts of variables, it is impossible to predict anything unless the scenario is simplified through certain assumptions and removal of factors. For example, many physics principles make assumptions such as not accounting for air resistance. Occam’s razor states that if you shave away all the complex details, the simplest answer remains. But perhaps we oversimplify some things?

Posted in Life & Happiness

Simple Pleasures

Consider this theory. People feel happy when they experience an upturn in life. A hungry person is happy when he receives food, a poor person is happy when she earns money, and a person seeking love is happy when they find love. But as people are highly adaptable creatures, they become used to such upturns very quickly. Even the happiness brought on by great food and luxurious lifestyles tend to fade over time, and the love between a couple who act like they cannot live without each other will eventually die away. To remedy this, people always seek excitement that will create an upturn in life, giving them happiness. This causes them to adventure, seek new experiences and sometimes make dangerous, risky decisions.

Everyone has a point in their lives that could be called the “peak”. But no matter how tall the peak is, as people will adapt to it soon, the height itself does not matter. What matters is the path to the peak. For example, if someone experiences their peak in life too early, every moment from then on will seem worse than the past. The person will continuously face disappointment and reminiscence the good times. The reason being, no upturn can beat the peak that they experienced, meaning they cannot feel the happiness of an upturn in life. According to this theory, the key to a happy life is delaying this peak as much as possible. When life is starting to get boring and dull, add just a little sprinkle of greatness in your life to continuously infuse it with happiness.

However, life is not as predictable and controllable as we want it to be, making this theory highly implausible. But the theory is not completely wrong. Although it is near impossible to artificially add little upturns throughout life, it is extremely easy to “feel” an upturn. All you need to do is change your perspective. The difference between a happy person and a miserable person is that the former finds joy in the smallest things. A miserable person will feel bored unless something exciting is happening, but a happy person leads what appears to be a boring life while enjoying every minute of it. Enjoying a warm cup of coffee on a rainy day, being astounded by the beautiful sky, smelling the roses on the path, singing and dancing when no one is looking… Finding and enjoying the simple pleasures of life is the most important skill one can have in life.

Who would you rather be: a miserable person who always seeks excitement and thrills or a happy person who enjoys a “boring” life?

Posted in Science & Nature

Quadratic Formula

Anyone who has studied mathematics to some degree will know about algebraic equations. An algebraic equation is an equation that can be solved to find the unknown value of x. A quadratic equation is an algebraic equation with , or in other words has two valid solutions to x. Generally speaking, a quadratic equation can be expressed in the following fashion: ax² + bx + c = 0. a, b and c are constants and the equation can be solved to find x. A quadratic equation is definitely more complicated to solve compared to a linear equation and it can be solved using various means and applications such as factorisation. As these methods are learnt in school and this Encyclopaedia is technically not a mathematics textbook, such methods will not be delved into.

If you have not learnt it already, there is a shortcut method to solving quadratic equations: the quadratic formula. This formula can easily find x if you simply substitute in the values for a, b and c. Of course this formula only works if the solutions are real numbers. The quadratic formula is as follows:

As you can see, because of the ± sign, the formula can be used to find both solutions to a quadratic equation. Even without factorising, it can find the answer as long as you substitute numbers into it on a calculator, making maths class very easy. However, as mentioned above the Encyclopaedia of Absolute and Relative Knowledge is not a mathematics textbook and one should instead learn properly from their teacher, not using the formula until they have been taught it properly.

Posted in Science & Nature

A Simple Task

A plague struck the ancient Greek island of Delos. As the disease ravaged the island, the people went to the oracle at Apollo’s temple for help. This is what the oracle said:

Double the volume of the cube-shaped altar in Apollo’s temple

People considered this a simple task and made a new altar where each side was double the original length. However, instead of disappearing, the plague worsened and people were confused.

Reason being, given that the length of one side of a cube is a, the volume is a³; if one side is 2a, the volume becomes 8a³, or eight times the original volume. Therefore, to double the volume of a cube, the number ³√2 is required. The problem is, whether ³√2 can be found using only compass and straightedge construction (where only the two tools are used to solve a geometric problem).

This problem, also known as the Doubling the cube problem, is one of three geometric problems known to be unsolvable by compass and straightedge construction. In other words, without the help of other mathematical methods, the answer cannot be found.
However, the solution to the above story is very simple.

Find a new god.