Beer and Differential Equations

Posted September 26, 1998 at 9:00 am No Comments

Suppose that a friend of yours is in the process of learning Spanish as a second language. Since he’s just learning, he’s nervous, and speaks haltingly with lots of pauses and stuttering. But watch what happens when you give him a few alcoholic beverages. Immediately he’ll loosen up and start speaking fluently and gracefully. Why? Because the alcohol has helped him conquer his fear of making mistakes. Instead of agonizing over his grammar and pronunciation, he’ll simply let the Spanish flow. Naturally, he’ll make errors here and there, but he’ll still give the impression that he’s an experienced speaker of Spanish.

The other night, we realized that the situation is much the same with mathematics. After all, what is mathematics but a stylized, rigid, highly structured, formal language? In order to speak the language of mathematics smoothly and rapidly, it’s necessary to overcome any apprehensions you might have of the invalidity of your arguments. This is where the alcohol comes in.

beerdiffeq2.jpg (9534 bytes) To test this hypothesis, we went to Casey’s house to do our differential equations homework, since we knew that he had a case of Killian’s in his fridge. We then worked on our homework while consuming varying amounts of beer.These are the statistical findings:

Time Spent on Differential Equations Homework
vs. Amount of Beer Consumed

Time Spent on Differential Equations Problem Set (hours)

beerdiffeqgraph.gif (2952 bytes)

Amount of Beer Consumed (Ounces)

As you can see, there is an inverse correspondence between the amount of beer consumed and the time that was spent on differential equations homework. I didn’t drink any beer, and it took me six hours to complete my problem set. One of my friends (whom we’ll call “Brendon” to protect his identity) drank one beer, and spent only four hours on the problem set. Another anonymous gentleman, whom we’ll refer to as “Ethin”, drank two beers, and spent 3 hours on the homework.

In conclusion: are you having trouble in Matrix Algebra or Set Theory? No problem! Just kick back a few cold brews and everything will become much clearer.As a final note, please keep in mind that this experiment did not take into account all relevant data. For instance, the following were disregarded: percentage of the problem set completed before falling asleep, overall correctness of the problems completed, and eventual grade on the homework assignment. Further study may be in order.

diffeqbeer.jpg (13567 bytes)

Beer and the Texas Instruments TI-92:
a powerful problem-solving team.

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