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The Costa Concordia Resurfaces! September 19, 2013

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In two issues of Math in the News, we explore the math and physics behind the sinking and resurfacing of the Costa Concordia, which remained off the Italian coast for over a year. The impressive engineering feet of resurfacing the ship involved a clever solution, which we explore graphically.

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Here we reproduce the current issue of Math in the News as a Slideshare presentation.

Diana Nyad’s Epic Swim September 4, 2013

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In our current issue of Math in the News we look at Diana Nyad’s remarkable swim from Havana to Key West, Florida. We analyze the time and distance covered and use that as an opportunity to explore Average Speed.

Average Speed results in a linear function, and is useful for describing overall motion. But it’s not as useful for describing motion at specific locations and times. So, we analyze the data generated from Nyad’s swim relative to the Average Speed. This provides an excellent opportunity to see how disparate data points are smoothed out by the Average Speed function.

We reproduce the Math in the News issue as a SlideShare Presentation here:

Math in the News: 6/27/11 June 27, 2011

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Math in the News: 6/27/11

In the current issue of Math in the News we explore the technology of fracking for oil. While not a new technology, it is getting more usage, and more attention these days.

In order for students to get a grasp of the magnitude of effort involved in drilling for oil, we start with the formula for the volume of a cylinder, which is what an oil well essentially consists of.

Volume of a Cylinder

Given specific measurements for the depth and width of a bore hole, students can calculate the volume.

Next, we have students calculate the mass of the material. This involves indirect measurement. Using the formula for density, students can calculate the mass of material.

Finally, we have students determine the amount of energy needed to create the bore hole. Using the physics formula for work, and building off the calculations for volume and mass, students are able to determine the vast amount of energy needed to drill this hole.

Thus, we get to the notion that drilling for oil is itself a labor-intensive and therefore expensive operation. And we get to the idea that fracking, which involves drilling a horizontal hole is an attempt to reach rich deposits of natural gas.

We bring up some of the environmental concerns about this technology and we have students work in groups to think critically and creatively to make a list of recommendations about this technology.

A quantitative analysis of this technology allows students to get a better, more objective understanding. We avoid any journalistic sensationalism in getting to a basic understanding of events.

In this way, math can be a very effective tool for students to cut through the clutter of noise that constantly bombards them.