Numbers, feelings, and imagination

“But numbers don’t make noises. They don’t have colours. You can’t taste them or touch them. They don’t smell of anything. They don’t have feelings. They don’t make you feel. And they make for pretty boring stories.” That’s from here, and it’s well-intended, but it is also wrong.

For people appropriately trained in science, engineering, and especially maths, numbers carry imagination, even if they don’t make noises, have smells, and don’t have feelings. And I strongly disagree they don’t make you feel. They make em feel, depending upon the context.

Consider the flow of the AMOC, known locally and colloquially as the Gulf Stream. That flow is measured in a unit called a Sverdrup. A Sverdrup is the flow corresponding of a million cubic meters per second, typically of water. To give you some idea and comparison, and to provide a feeling, all the flows into oceans of all the rivers on Earth is about 1.2 Sverdrups.

The flow in the Gulf Stream varies with season and place, but it is between 30 and 150 Sverdrups.

Astronomy and Astrophysics probably have thousands of amazing mind-stretching insights, related to numbers. But here’s another that connects the previous Oceanographic with these: All the water on Earth.

Or how about that the thermal capacity of the oceans is about a thousand that of the atmosphere. This has implications:

That’s a figure from the American Chemical Society.

Numbers. It’s how you really know anything.

Curious? Take a math course. Take a physics course. These days, take a biology course. See what I mean.

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