The Usefulness of Useless Information

9 Jun

Seth: We all know of the ills of formal education, especially when we are required to learn and test well on subjects that we consider irrelevant to our life course. Chief among these is high school math. I am talking about basic algebra, geometry, calculus, and so on. I have a college degree and a job, and I can’t remember the last time outside of a high school math class that I have needed to multiply fractions. Yesterday, I inadvertently discovered the sole useful application of that knowledge: helping those who are currently studying those same useless subjects.

I received a call from a friend asking about the mathematical equation y=mx + b. I was able to identify this as the formula commonly used to derive the slope (m) of a line. I knew that y and x were coordinates for a point on the line, but couldn’t remember what bwas. With the help of the Internet, I was able to inform my friend, who turned out to be tutoring a high school student.

Thus, I have determined that the only proper use of this knowledge is to pass it on to others. It’s like the proverbial Christmas fruit cake that is given as a gift to one person, whose only option for the baked good is to give it to someone else, initiating a “re-gifting” cycle that never ends. The only difference is any knowledge, useful or not, is worthy to be passed on to another person without guilt or shame.

UPDATE: Ray brought it to my attention that I never explained what b is. In case you’re wondering, it is the y-intercept, the point at which the line crosses the y (vertical) axis.

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