An old post on the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami (That’s what the Japanese were calling it for awhile) and the resulting problems at Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power station showed up in my site stats. So someone was looking at it. That post (and the references to the New York Times and Forbes) makes it clear that fear of math killed more people than radiation.
In order to really understand radiation (and the physics behind it) you need a little bit of calculus. I know – horror of horrors. (Assuming you actually took calculus either in high school or college, 99.99% of you hated it. I majored in Mathematics.)
No one has died from radiation associated with Fukushima Daiichi. Say that again. NO ONE has died.
1600 people died as a result of the panic about radiation, and the actions taken by panicked politicians.
When you evacuate a hospital intensive care unit, you cannot take patients to a high school and expect them to survive.
But I don’t need to revisit that post in detail. In a nutshell, the government and the people didn’t understand the math. So they wanted to do something. (They did many wrong things, but they did do something.) 1600 people died as a result of those “do something!” decisions.
Now, physics and engineering are more than math. But you won’t get very far in either without the math. And without them, you kill 1600 people for no reason because of panic, or you’ll build a bridge that falls down, even before it’s complete, killing people because it is more important to you to have a diverse team, and a beautiful bridge, than for that bridge to last. Even a little.
The photo above is of the Anji Bridge in China, also know as the Zhaozhou Bridge. (Click on the image for a larger view, or there are many photos on the internet.) It spans 37.4 meters as it crosses the Xiao River. Construction took 10 years, and was complete in the year 605. It is a beautiful bridge. (Stone with Iron dovetails.) but that wasn’t the objective. The objective was to build a bridge that would last. Since it has lasted better than 1400 years, I think they got that right as well. The multiple arches make is strong. The open spaces let water flow through if the river floods (apparently it has over the past 1400 years) and it is beautiful. And it is full of math, and engineering, materials science, with maybe a bit of fluid dynamics and probably a dash of geography.
As SiGraybeard says: No, Math Isn’t Racist.
In fact it’s hard to get less racist than math. No matter who works the numbers, regardless of race, age, sex, native language; regardless of anything, anyone starting with the same problem and doing the same work gets the same answer.
You either get the right answer, or you get bridges that fall down.