You can attempt to divide by zero or take the square root of a negative number. It’s adorable that you’d even try, because it’s impossible, of course.
“Getting from downtown San Francisco to Cupertino without any fuss” is the divide by zero of Bay area logistics. It can’t be done. It’s doubly-frustrating because I’m not battering my head against eternal principles of mathematics but against lousy urban planning.
“My dad, Howard Koerth, moved to Oklahoma in 1994 to teach art at Rose State Community College in Midwest City. He was there May 3, right in the tornado’s path. Instead of going to the storm shelter, he opened the back door of his building and watched the fat funnel tear apart an auto dealership. The tornado was gray, tinted with red from the layers of clay-filled topsoil it had peeled off the Earth. If you watch video of it today, you see it surrounded by a haze of confetti. When the camera zooms in, the ticker tape turns out to be, instead, a blizzard of two-by-fours, siding, whole trucks. Sixteen years later, Dad has yet to exorcise that image from his mind and he’s still asking me about the Bridge Creek-Moore tornado. Or, rather, he asks me about its sister storms — tornadoes that, to him, seem to follow the same path, flattening the same places over and over. Especially Moore. Always Moore.”
My friend Maggie Koerth-Baker joined FiveThirtyEight recently as their senior science writer. This was one of those moves that made me think well of a publication because she’s just plain terrific at what she does. Just the first three paragraphs of this piece about a town in Oklahoma that’s been hit by four major tornadoes within sixteen years will make you seek out her byline elsewhere.
It must also be said that when a bunch of us needed to get somewhere in a Prius, she gamely volunteered to take the least-comfortable option. A great writer and a good sport.