Look Before You Leap

February 29, 2012 at 11:18 am Leave a comment

Too predictable?

Why do frogs, kangaroos, lords and leopards like 2012?
Because it’s a leap year!
(Did you know that a group of leopards is called a “leap”?)

Speaking of leaps, a friend and I were recently discussing the following problem:

A flea can jump up to 350 times its own length. If the same were true of humans, how far would a person whose height is 5′ 6″ be able to jump?

Though the intent is clear, the problem assumes that the length of a flea is analogous to the height of a human. A would-be solver who overthinks this problem might reason that a flea’s length is approximately twice its height, in which case it could jump 350 × length = 350 × (2 × height) = 700 times its own height. Solving the proportion required by the problem, a 5′ 6″ human would be able to jump 3,850 feet, which is twice the intended answer.

Not that it matters. Even long jumper Mike Powell, who holds the world record with a jump of 29′ 4″, was not able to leap even five times his height.

But the problem reminded me of this joke…

A team of engineers was required to measure the height of a flag pole. They only had a measuring tape, and they were frustrated that they couldn’t slide the tape up the pole. After a while, a mathematician happens by, hears about their problem, removes the pole from the ground, and proceeds to measure it easily.

When he leaves, one engineer says, “That is just like a mathematician! We need to know the height, and he gives us the length!”

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About MJ4MF

The Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks blog is an online extension to the book Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks. The blog contains jokes submitted by readers, new jokes discovered by the author, details about speaking appearances and workshops, and other random bits of information that might be interesting to the strange folks who like math jokes.

MJ4MF (offline version)

Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks is available from Amazon, Borders, Barnes & Noble, NCTM, Robert D. Reed Publishers, and other purveyors of exceptional literature.

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February 2012

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