Archive for February, 2010

$2.71 for a Breakfast Sandwich?

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

bacon and egg roll

This morning I purchased a Bacon and Egg Sandwich at the local Deli and noticed that the price written on the sandwich was $2.71, yes $2.71 and then I got a large coffee as well. The total was $4.54 cents which really confused me. I did some research on the probability of the number sequence in nature, since it looked so awkward to me. The number 4.64 was not important to me, it is only the byproduct of the number 2.71 which was really intriguing to me. I turned to the good old theories of Benford (Benford’s law) for an explanation. After an intense sense-making session, I concluded that the number was strange yet familiar and Benford did not offer any insight as to why the number looked so weird and stood out in my memory. I went on to google the number and Bam! I realized that it was the Euler’s constant which is 2.7182… There a a few numbers that stand out like soar thumbs. One is Euler’s Constant, the other is Pi (3.14159…) there is also Phi (golden ratio) So why was this important to me? Because these numbers are rarely seen in nature. I started thinking about the connections between Michael Maestlin (golden ratio) to Euler and then to Bedford. I wonder how they saw each other, was one the inspiration to the other, most likely. This stain of thought lead me to Paul Erdos and the popular Erdos number that mathematicians today like to figure out for themselves. If people mapped their connections to Bedford and Euler similar to their connections to Erdos maybe we would find interesting data about trends of human intellect. With all this going on inside my head, I started thinking about the connections that people have to one an other and the people between those connections. The small wold effect that was introduced to me by my Professor Clay Shirky and also greatly talked about by many social scientists like Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler (in the Book “Connected”) Things started to make a little more sense in mathematical terms.

connected book cover

The amount of influence we have on people is similar to Bedford’s law and this brought me back to the original point; why did the deli guy write $2.71 on my sandwich?

I went back and asked him how much a bacon and egg sandwich was. He told me they where $2.75 and then I realized that both the girl at the counter and my self, saw the number five as the number one. All this from a miss-written number.