Tuesday, April 9, 2013

H is for hyperbolic shapes.

Hyperbola is the word of the day. With math discussions, it's hard to get people to care. "Oh, numbers. I'm not good with numbers. Therefore, I don't like math." Of course, my straw man just used logic. Of course, if numbers make people confused, the words "conic sections" tend to make their eyes glaze over while their mind retreats to a happy place.
So let's forget the "math is fun" section, and lets just talk about hyperbolas. Nothing new and fancy here. Where to start? Let's talk about their occurrence in nature. Math is a language to describe patterns we see in nature, correct? Here is something interesting to think about: a sonic boom shockwave has the shape of a cone, and the intersection with the ground forms a hyperbola. The greatest teaching device know to modern man, the Pringle, has a saddle shape consistent of a hyperbolic paraboloid with the equation z = x^2/a^2-y^2/b^2. Also, did you know Pringles make a great baby-sitting tool? If you buy three cans of pringles, duck tape, hairspray and a lacrosse ball, you can feed the kids Pringles and use the cans to make a cannon to teach them about newtons laws of motion? Something to think about today.