As you have already seen if you follow me on Twitter, Paul and I had a huge fight about whether .333... = 1/3. (Why WOULDN'T you follow me on Twitter, when it can keep you UP TO THE MINUTE on such things?) This was a fight in which my concluding argument was to break a laundry basket.
I just...you know? You live for 16 years with another person and there are certain arguments that turn it up to eleven just like THAT. For some couples it's money, or unwise extramarital flirting, or what kind of Christmas tree is "right." Until now, I thought the only such fight topic Paul and I had was the Monty Hall problem. We CANNOT DISCUSS IT.
But what I hadn't realized is that the Monty Hall problem was only an EXAMPLE of the real, ROOT issue in our marriage, which is "Theoretical Math" vs. "Actual Reality." And when he tried to apply Theoretical Math to Actual Reality in the .333... vs. 1/3 thing, and then stood there asking calmly if I wanted him to show me the references that backed him up...well, that's when it was clear to me that the only form of self-expression that would accurately represent my reply to that question was to smash something UP.
We can talk ALL DAY LONG about how IN A MATH PROBLEM you sometimes have to use .333... to represent 1/3rd, and that it's the closest decimal equivalent of 1/3rd, and I will AGREE with that all throughout that same long day---just as I will agree that, with rounding, .345 is 35%. But if you say it IS THE SAME---well, we are going to lose a laundry basket in this argument.
May I demonstrate briefly? First, remember that putting "..." after a number means "into infinity"---and so, ".333..." is a short and convenient way to express a decimal point followed by a line of 3s that goes on FOREVER. And now, my point: .333... plus .333... plus .333... is .999... . Whereas 1/3 plus 1/3 plus 1/3 is 1. DIFFERENT. As Shriekhouse said, ".333... is infinite. 1/3 is finite. That's about as big a difference as you can get!" Exactly. For the problem in question, we were finding out information about a group of 12 having lunch, and 4 had tuna sandwiches. Is 1/3 (4 people) the SAME as .333... (3.999... people)? No. Close? Yes. Close enough for many math problems? Yes. SAME? NOT UNLESS WE CARVE A LITTLE SLICE OFF THAT FOURTH PERSON.
For another demonstration, imagine this problem on a math test, and two students answering the question in these two ways:
Which student is THEORETICALLY right (and about to get a note from the teacher to stop smartypantsing around and just give the right answer), and which student is ACTUALLY right?
Not following this? NO MATTER. The takeaway here is that SWISTLE IS RIGHT AND PAUL IS WRONG. And that if Math agrees with Paul, then MATH IS ALSO WRONG, and you may think I am kidding but I AM NOT. Giving "being backed into a theoretical corner" precedence over "reality" is "ridiculous," and I don't really care if a whole bunch of Smarty McSmartypants say it isn't. EINSTEIN HIMSELF could arrive at my house bearing "references," and I would break a laundry basket for HIM, too. I will DIE ON THIS HILL, even if ALL OF MATH wants to fight on the other side of the battle.
Antiangie wondered "Do you ever wonder if people who aren't married to scientist/engineer/computer types have this type of 'discussion'?" Which brings up an interesting conversation topic.
My last boyfriend (aka my first husband) and I had our two hugest recurring fights over (1) applied pacifism and (2) thank-you notes. As in, those were the fights horrible and passionate enough that they could have ended our relationship. And my high school boyfriend and I had near-relationship-ending fights over (1) how he spoke to his co-workers at the fast-food restaurant where he was a shift manager and (2) the logical likelihood of get-rich-quick schemes working.
I do hope you will tell me the seemingly-silly-to-an-outsider NUCLEAR HOT BUTTON issues in your current/past relationships (it doesn't have to be a romantic relationship, because family relationships can be JUST AS KRAZY), while I find all the shards of that laundry basket (those suckers SCATTER, man).
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