2 + 2 = 2?

01 Oct

I’m a graduate student in mathematics.

So, I’d like to think that means I know a thing or two when it comes to numbers.

And I do.

But apparently, my knowledge doesn’t apply in the U.K.

While driving today, I encountered an interesting traffic feature: there was a two-lane on-ramp merging with a two-lane highway and resulting in a total of two lanes of traffic.

The basic laws of mathematics prove that’s a bad idea. And so did my experience.

The congestion at this interchange was horrible! The outside lane of the on-ramp was forced to merge with the inside lane of the on-ramp, or to zoom up and try to cut into the main traffic flow farther ahead, while the inside lane of the on-ramp was trying to nose into the main traffic flow, sometimes trying to cut across both lanes in order to avoid just getting plugged up again in the first lane due to the other people trying to merge in!

The whole planet knows that 2 + 2 cannot equal 2…but the British highway engineers figured they’d give it a try anyway.

It’s interesting to me to consider: we can all be guilty of forcing the issue at times, can’t we? Regardless of the dictates of common sense, the experience of others, or general wisdom, sometimes we think that we can, by sheer will, make something work out.

Can you picture the conversation? At some point, someone likely said, “I know it sounds like a bad idea to combine 4 lanes of traffic into only 2, but I think we can make it work if we just give it a try….” And then someone else agreed and signed off on it.

But no amount of good intentions, sincerity, or willpower will enable us to overcome such untenable situations.

I suppose if I had been really wise, I could’ve used those minutes while I was stuck in traffic to contemplate the areas of my own life where I willy-nilly defy logic and sound advice just because I think that I can force my way through a particular situation since I desperately want my way to work out.

But I didn’t do that, so I suppose I’ve got some food for thought while I carry on with my well-ordered, sensible, mathematical life.

I did learn one thing, however: the next time I carry out a calculation, I’ll be sure to take into account the British factor.

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Posted by on October 1, 2012 in Life


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