How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Numbers

I am a math phobe. For as long as I can remember numbers have often left me baffled and people who understood them might as well have been speaking another language. I did manage to graduate high school, university and find a career without much in the way of mathematics, despite some hellfire and brimstone speeches from a couple of exuberant guidance counselors.

Over the years I have learnt to, if not love numbers, at least stop avoiding them entirely. But engage them in my free time? I don’t think so. That, though, has become easier said than done. With the emergence of geek culture has come a rise in numerics in pop culture. Earlier this week I happened across Clive Thompson’s assertion that math proves that the Buffy universe harbors no more than 512 vampires. His geek calculations were a refutation of a paper that claimed that vampires don’t exist:

If a single vampire fed on a single human in the first month, this would create two vampires -- and decrease the human population by one. In the second month, those two vampires would each feed, transforming two people into vampires. The vampire population is increasing in a geometric progression, and the population of humans is similarly decreasing -- and at that rate, the authors calculate, the entire human population would be transformed into vampires.

Seeing as we aren’t all vampires – as cool as that might be – they therefore must not exist. The problem with that argument, says Thompson, is that it ignores the existence of vampire slayers. Of course I think both math and the undead are equally unlikely occurrences.

Another lucky find was Jessica Hagy’s site Indexed. She takes apart politics, human foibles and pop culture with cool little mathematical charts that even I get Very funny stuff and well worth checking out.

Of course there’s the numbers on Lost, though nobody has talked much about those much lately.


  1. Jessica has been short listed a couple times for transmundanity... unbeknownst to her of course.

  2. Oh boy. Numbers are also generally not my thing. It's not that I'm bad at them, I just take little enjoyment from working with them.