I know that someday you'll find better things.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Hamster Heartbeats

Hannah sighed, clearly frustrated by the schoolwork on her computer screen. "There's this thing I have to figure out as part of my homework, and I'm not sure I understand it. Could I read it to you?"

"Of course!" I was happy to (try!) to help. So much of what she is learning is so intricate and sophisticated that it was an honor simply to be asked to be of assistance.

"Okay. The heart rates and lifespans of mammals are inversely related. A cat has a heart rate of 126 beats per minute, and a hamster has a heart rate of 630 beats per minute. A cat lives for 15 years on average--"

"No way! This is utterly fascinating. I've never even considered that before. I mean, I know hamsters have a shorter shelf-life, so to speak, and people are always talking about "cat years" and "dog years" but now it totally makes sense."

My mind was racing at the implications. No wonder doctors placed such an emphasis on heart-health. It's as if we only receive a set amount of heartbeats, and when you reach the limit, your time is up.

"And sorry for interrupting," I added.

"A hamster--" Hannah resumed, the edges of her expression en route to exasperation.

"Just tell me this. Are you conducting an experiment? Is this biology? Physics?"

"Algebra. It's a math problem. Don't get dazzled by the details, okay? We're not supposed to care about the hamsters. Forget the storyline. We just need to look at the numbers and determine the function that represents the correlation."


My feelings weren't hurt, of course, because it was about the seventy-thousandth time I'd been given that reminder.

That is when I began to formulate a theory that perhaps there is a function to represent a correlation (inverse-relationship, perhaps?) between mathematically-capable people and curiosity.

I think I know what the graph would look like, too.

Disregard the wobbles. It's just a sketch.

If I did this correctly, it is saying that people with a higher mathematical strength have a diminished sense of curiosity. They care so much about the way the numbers fit together that they don't even pause to consider the hamsters or the cats or what this might mean for the longevity of the human species.

I also tried to make it asymptotic, so that neither the curiosity line nor the mathematic-strength line will ever cross zero. 

This means that nobody is 100% curious and 0% mathematically capable (or 100% mathematically capable and 0% curious) because that just seems unreasonable.

I realize that math and research do seem to have a working relationship. Just not in the classroom, I suppose.

Tesla, Newton, Einstein, and Curie would need a different graph. Unless they were medium-curious and medium-capable.

It's possible. In a lot of ways, medium makes the world go 'round.

My theory may need more research and refinement, but that is going to have to wait. Right now, I have some burning questions about hamster-heartbeats and lifespans that are begging for some answers.

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