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Ralsina.Me — Roberto Alsina's website

One Meter

If I learned one im­por­tant thing in col­lege (and I like to think I do be­cause oth­er­wise I wast­ed a lot of time there) that im­por­tant thing is how to mea­sure things.

You may think that you don't need to go to col­lege to learn that, and you are right, but the in­ter­est­ing bit, if I may sound like a so­cial stud­ies ma­jor for a few sec­ond­s, is how ar­bi­trary mea­sure­ments are. They are the one bit where all that "re­al­i­ty is a so­cial con­struc­t" in­san­i­ty is kin­da true.

Con­sid­er the dis­tance be­tween two places. ¿How far is my house from my moth­er's?


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Well, google says it's 447km away. But you al­ready know that's not true! If I were to go by, say, he­li­copter, or un­stop­pable tank, I may be able to take a some­what short­er path. Were I to use the Un­der­min­er's tun­nel­ing ma­chine, I could take an even short­er path.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/e/ea/Chord_in_mathematics.svg/200px-Chord_in_mathematics.svg.png

The Un­der­min­er fol­lows the short­er, red line.

But all that is most­ly chang­ing path­s, so you may still feel some con­fi­dence that you know how far my mom's house re­al­ly is, ex­cept that we just may not be able to take a spe­cif­ic path, but the dis­tance is a "re­al" thing.

But ge­o­graph­i­cal, ge­o­met­ri­cal dis­tance is on­ly one way to mea­sure. There are oth­er met­ric­s, and they may be more or less valid. For ex­am­ple, my moth­er's house is 6 hours away by bus.

It's al­so U$S 60 away by bus, U$S 30 by car. Un­less I take my son with me, in which case it' U$S 120 by bus, but still U$S 30 by car.

And if I re­al­ly re­al­ly want to go there, it's an im­pul­sive de­ci­sion away, and i I don't re­al­ly want to, there is a whole lot of con­vinc­ing be­tween here and there.

And if I were as poor as I once was, then maybe it's in­fin­ite­ly far away be­cause there is no way to get there from here.

When some­one says "the world is small­er now" that's not metaphor, that's math­s.

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