Wednesday, March 17, 2004

St. Patrick's Day

I'm not a big fan of St. Patrick's day. Not being Irish or Catholic, I don't feel any particular kinship with the good Saint. I've always thought the only reason the entire country celebrates St. Patrick's day is because otherwise we don't have any really good holidays in March, unless Easter or Passover happens to fall there. That, and we're all out of red construction paper after Valentine's Day follows on the heels of Christmas, and we have to use up the rest of that green before we can get a new package for Easter.

But I understand that a lot of people are either Irish or Catholic, and as far as I know the holiday is mostly concerned with beer, so in honor of St. Patrick's Day I present to you the scientific research of Arnd Leike of the University of Munich.

Dr. Leike made the important discovery that beer foam decays exponentially. He was given a 2002 IgNobel Prize for his efforts.

This discovery has advanced the cause of math teachers everywhere, who have sought high and low for a non-radioactive example of exponential decay to make their exams more interesting to students. Most students of advanced algebra have had little if any exposure to radioactive decay, so it proves to be a challenge to motivate them to make calculations using it. Carbon-dating only goes so far; most students are primarily interested in dating other people. And so few of them nowadays have had enough exposure to science to understand that the 226 in Radium-226 is the number of neutrons in the nucleus. But beer is a universal. All college students, even the Mormon ones, understand beer. So we thank Dr. Leike from the bottom of our glasses, I mean hearts, for helping to make math more relevant to the common man.