Public confession of a secret shame: I like math.
I'm not very good at it, though, but I don't think that is a result of lacking ability. Rather, it is the legacy of not paying attention in school for over a decade. Helpful hint: if you're going to stop paying attention in school, check back in every once in a while to see if you need to start listening.
My downfall came in ninth grade. It turned out to be the year that everything else would build on. Now that I have taken geometry, trigonometry, and calculus (or, if you will (and you will!), The Calculus), the only times I have done poorly have been right after the professor has said, "And we know this next step from basic algebra...." I know there are laws of exponents, but I have to plug in numbers to see what they are. Is x to the y plus z the same thing as x to the y plus x to the z, or is it x to the y times x to the z, or is it neither? Better pull out two to the fifth and compare it to two to the second plus two to the third.
But I have always had an interest in numbers, and when algebra isn't involved, I think I have a penchant for them. For instance, ever since I was introduced to the analog clock, I have been fascinated by one aspect of it: where the two hands meet. For instance, the number five on the clock represents the fifth hour and also the twenty-fifth minute, but when it is 5:25,the hands have not yet met. They meet at a random time, a time that seems to have nothing to do with anything.
Tonight I was lying on our couch, looking at our mantel clock, and wondering again about it. Over twenty years I have wondered about this. I thought, "It is pretty embarrassing that I took calculus (The Calculus!), which is a study of nothing but rates of change, and I cannot come up with an equation to relate the rates of change for the two hands. They don't even involve exponents!"
And here is what I got: x/12 + 5y = x, where y is the given hour and x is the minute of coincidence. This can be simplified to a better equation, which is 60y/11. That's it. 60y/11. How cool is THAT?
So, when do the two hands meet during the four o'clock hour? Two hundred forty over eleven is 21.8181 (and so on), meaning the two hands meet at precisely 4:21:09. Again, how cool is THAT?
It even works for eleven and twelve! Plug in eleven and you'll get 60 minutes, or one hour. Plug in twelve and you'll get 65.4545 minutes, meaning the hands do not meet again until 1:05:27, because the twelve o'clock hour is the only hour where the hands will never meet. One last time, how cool is THAT?
I've always been a little on the crazy side when it comes to numbers. For instance, as I walked home from the bus in the snow this evening, I figured that my current reading total for the year is 142% of what my pace needs to be to meet my end-of-year target of 25,000 pages. I constantly compute the percentage completed as I read each book. When I borrowed my wife's copy of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (or, as I call it, Neville Longbottom and the Half-Blood Prince), she became irate that I folded down the corner every five percent, bending twenty pages of her pristine book.
But us crazy numbers people do crap like that. Just once every one hour, five minutes, and twenty-seven seconds.