September 25, 2020
Day 269 of 366
September 25th is the 269th day of the year. In France, it is the Day of National Recognition for the Harkis. Harki is the generic term for native Muslim Algerians who served as auxiliaries in the French Army during the Algerian War of Independence from 1954 to 1962. They are regarded as traitors in Algeria and thousands died after the war in reprisals despite the Évian Accords ceasefire and amnesty stipulations.
In the United States, today is “celebrated” as National Quesadilla Day (Dia de la Quesadilla), National One-Hit Wonder Day, National Comic Book Day, National Lobster Day, National Tune-Up Day, National Research Administrator Day, Math Storytelling Day, and National BRAVE DAY (typically observed on the fourth Friday in September).
Historical items of note:
- In 275, the Roman Senate chose an emperor for the last time. They elected 75-year-old Marcus Claudius Tacitus.
- In 1237, England and Scotland signed the Treaty of York, establishing the location of their common border.
- In 1690, Publick Occurrences Both Forreign and Domestick, the first newspaper to appear in the Americas, was published for the first and only time.
- In 1789, the United States Congress passed twelve constitutional amendments. Ten of them became the Bill of Rights. The eleventh, the Congressional Apportionment Amendment, was never ratified. The twelfth was the Congressional Compensation Amendment, and was largely forgotten until 1982, when Gregory Watson, a 19-year-old sophomore at the University of Texas at Austin, wrote a paper for a government class in which he claimed that the amendment could still be ratified. It became the Twenty-Seventh Amendment on May 5, 1992, completing a record-setting ratification period of 202 years, 7 months, and 10 days.
- In 1890, the United States Congress established Sequoia National Park.
- In 1897, novelist, short story writer, and Nobel Prize laureate William Faulkner was born. Despite the best efforts of people who have misspelled my name throughout my lifetime, we’re not related.
- In 1929, broadcast journalist Barbara Walters was born. She was the first female nightly network news anchor.
- In 1930, author, poet, illustrator, and songwriter Shel Silverstein was born.
- In 1936, toy creator and author Ken Forsse was born. He created Teddy Ruxpin, a bear that speaks by way of an audio cassette.
- In 1944, actor and producer Michael Douglas was born.
- In 1951, actor, singer, and producer Mark Hamill was born. He really needs no introduction.
- In 1952, actor, producer, and activist Christopher Reeve was born. He made us believe that a man could fly.
- In 1956, TAT-1 was inaugurated. It was the first submarine transatlantic telephone cable system.
- In 1961, actress Heather Locklear was born.
- In 1964, Irish actress and singer Maria Doyle Kennedy was born.
- In 1968, actor, producer, and rapper Will Smith was born.
- In 1969, Welsh actress Catherine Zeta-Jones was born.
- In 1977, about 4,200 people took part in the first running of the Chicago Marathon.
- In 1983, actor, rapper, producer, and screenwriter Donald Glover was born.
- In 1992, NASA launched the Mars Observer. Eleven months later, the probe would fail while preparing for orbital insertion, likely due to a rupture of the fuel pressurization tank in the spacecraft’s propulsion system.
- In 2018, Bill Cosby was sentenced to three to ten years in prison for aggravated sexual assault.
Since September 25th is Math Storytelling Day, I wanted to share a life lesson brought to you by mathematical proof. This is one that I remember seeing around 25 years ago, but it came up again recently thanks to Darin Bush.
But that’s not right, is it? How can 1 be equal to 2?
Where is the lie?
This is a story about the truth being in the details. Every mathematical operation that was conducted in the “proof” is legitimate, but the obscuring the simple details is what leads us to the wrong conclusion.
Specifically, since A = 1 and B = 1, (A – B) = 0. One fundamental truth in mathematics is that you can never divide by zero.
The reason for that is that the expression a/0 has no meaning. There is no number that, when multiplied by 0, will yield a (assuming that a ≠ 0). Additionally, since any number multiplied by zero is zero, the expression 0/0 is undefined.
So, in every case, division by zero is not permitted. While the operation of dividing by (A – B) is perfectly legal, once we assigned the value to those variables, it broke the proof.
In this case, the wrong conclusion is just tricking people with math. In the real world, misinterpreting or deliberately misleading people about simple facts can cause projects to fail or allow people to harm others.
The moral of the story is that we should always be ready to verify what people tell us. Don’t accept everything as reality just because it’s on the internet or comes from an authority. Just because someone says it’s true doesn’t mean that it really it.
Always remain skeptical, my friends, and always be ready to learn.
Happy Math Storytelling Day!
The Thing About Today is an effort to look at each day of 2020 with respect to its historical context.
For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.