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Posts Tagged ‘Joseph Fourier

“Common sense is calculation applied to life…”*


Josh Orter writes…

I updated my iPhone to the latest iOS version last week. Doing so required that “I agree” to Terms and Conditions amounting to 6,114 words: more than 37% longer than The Constitution of the United States (4,447). Although hardcore legalese enthusiasts may curl up with this masterpiece before the fire, mug of hot cocoa in hand, it will be read by virtually no one else. I clicked immediately, blissfully ignorant of my acquiescence…

Or maybe not so blissful. I was, in fact, vaguely annoyed at having just blindly accepted what amounts to a 24-page term paper (12-pt Times Roman, double-spaced). What, then, would fully informed consent cost?

$482,894,368, as it turns out.

With various reputable sources suggesting an average reading speed of 300 words per minute, 6,114 words would suck up 20.38 minutes of life for each user. Multiply by the average American’s hourly earnings of $24.09/hour (.4015/minute) and it’s $8.18257 in labor per updater.

A recently released study estimated Apple’s share of the 145 million-unit American  smartphone market at 40.7%. 59 million iPhoners.

59,015,00 x $8.18257 = $482,894,368

Perhaps more unsettling than money is the cumulative man-hours this particular endeavor would consume: 20-million.

59,015,000 x users x 20.38 minutes per= 1,202,725,700 minutes= 20 million hours…

Find other arithmetic adventures at Josh’s wonderful Stupid Calculations (“Where practical facts get rendered into utterly meaningless ones”).

[TotH to the ever-illuminating Flowing Data]

* Henri Frédéric Amiel


As we carry the 1, we might recall that it was on this date in 1807 that Joseph Fourier’s monograph On the Propagation of Heat in Solid Bodies, was read to the Paris Institute.  An important mathematical work containing what we now call Fourier series, it was reviewed by renowned respondents including Lagrange, Laplace, Monge, and Lacroix– who objected to his innovation (the expansion of functions as trigonometrical series: the Fourier series).  Indeed, his work wasn’t published (in a revised and somewhat expanded form, as The Analytic Theory of Heat) until 1822.  Fourier’s contributions were ultimately judged so important that, in addition to the series, Fourier’s Law and Fourier’s transform were named in his honor.  And indeed, Fourier’s work, having first helped scientists and engineers understand heat transfer and vibrations, went on to help Watson and Crick discover the structure of DNA and to provide the underpinnings for quantum physics, radio astronomy, MP3 and JPEG compression, X-ray crystallography, voice recognition, and PET or MRI scans.

(Fourier was something of a polymath:  just before developing his mathematical advances, he went with Napoleon Bonaparte on his Egyptian expedition in 1798, and was made governor of Lower Egypt and secretary of the Institut d’Égypte, where he was involved in the discovery and decoding of the Rosetta Stone. And after the publication of The Analytic Theory of Heat, he discovered the Greenhouse Effect.)

True greatness is when your name is like ampere, watt, and fourier—when it’s spelled with a lower case letter.

– Richard Hamming (in a 1986 Bell Labs Colloquium)



Written by (Roughly) Daily

December 21, 2013 at 1:01 am

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