THE MATHEMATICAL NATURE OF DINNER
By Brendan Lau
I arrived home tired. A long day of third grade sucked the life out of me, making me a walking, talking corpse. I lied down on the brown leather couch in the living room and turned on the new flat-screen television. Something about the television was off. The room lacked proper symmetry: the television was at a twenty-three degree angle with the wall behind it and it was a few centimeters to the left. What did I know, however — I am only an elementary school child.
The sounds of the adorable creatures forced to fight to the death by their so-called “Pokemon trainers” on the television was not enough to overpower the sound of cooking behind me in the kitchen. My mom, after a long day at work fifty miles away, had immediately began cooking dinner and an array of noises came into being: from the microwave beeping an obnoxious amount of times to the rice cooker playing a little jingle once the rice was ready. I turned the volume of the television up and patiently waited for dinner.
“Can we eat already?” I annoyedly inquired in tune with my grumbling stomach.
“I’m almost done cooking, Almus.” Although I did not think about this at the time, I am surprised after such a long day my mother did not snap back at me. My mom always seemed to sacrifice for me, whether it be physically or emotionally by keeping her struggles away from me.
Finally, I heard plates being placed onto the dining table and I lept up with glee and raced to dinner. As I began to devour my rice and chicken, I began to cough at a rate of two coughs per second. I realized that my throat had become awfully dry from the dinner so I went to the fridge and poured myself a glass of milk. The pure whiteness of the liquid flew down my throat, taking down every bit of sadness and irritation with it. I thought to myself that this milk would never cause me harm. I sat back down at the dinner table and set my milk to the right of my plate — maybe a few millimeters too close to my plate. I did not realize that my lack of precision would ultimately result in my doom for I was merely a carefree elementary school child.
My mom and I continued to eat, unaware of the dark clouds forming above the world, hinting at the darkness that will soon cover and take over our lives. Throughout the meal I ate my chicken with my forearm and arm at a forty-one degree angle — the perfect angle to have when utilizing a fork. However, even with my perfect elbow angle as I call it, I accidentally picked up too much rice with my fork and the rice to chicken ratio that entered my mouth was no longer one-to-one like usual. This deviation from the norm was beyond the typical standard deviation from the average ratio of rice to chicken, which I calculated in my head by finding the sum of the ratios of each bite I took from the meal and dividing that sum by the number of bites I took. What do I know about standard deviations and means? I’m just an elementary school child. This strong divergence made me uncomfortable. In fact, I was so disturbed that I forgot about keeping perfect arm form while eating. Suddenly I began to consume my mom’s cooking with a forty-five degree elbow angle; this was a mistake that would make the seemingly impossible happen.
As my fork closed in on the targeted piece of chicken on the plate, I was suddenly stopped. Something cold had come in contact with my elbow, making my fork have to abort the mission to investigate the issue. As my utensil scouted the scene, all that could be seen was white. I focused in on the source of the large amount of reflections of visible light, or white as I called it because I’m just a third grade student, to find a cup. This transparent cup allowed my scouts to notice that some of the white that spread across the table was also found in the cup. By analyzing the scene, my scouts and I were able to deduce that the cause of this mess was… Oh no!
I looked up to see my mom blankly staring at the opposite of black. I used my past experiences, analysis of the situation, and my common sense to conclude that I was in trouble. Time seemed to go slower as if I was near a large body in space, which causes a large distortion in the space-time, therefore creating a stronger force of gravity and seemingly slowing down time around the body for an outside observer. What do I know about Einstein’s theory of general relativity? I’m just an elementary school child. My mom must have felt differently, as she quickly snapped her head up and glared at me. All of the stress from her work and from taking care of me as a single mother finally broke her.
“Clean it up.” I heard no emotion from my mom as she pushed out those words.
I have never seen my mom like this, so I quickly did as she said. As I took a paper towel and wiped the table, my mother stared down at me from where she sat. To take my mind off of the dark clouds gathering above our house, I attempted to calculate the friction between the milk molecules in motion, otherwise known as viscosity. I deduced that the dynamic viscosity must have been relatively low since the milk easily gave in to deformation. What did I know about viscosity? I’m only an elementary school child.
She beat me afterwards. That was the first punishment I had ever received as a child and in fact, the only one. I would learn to never again become distracted by any fluctuations from the norm so that I could focus on what needs to be accomplished: eating and not spilling milk. But of course I could not remember that for I am only a tired third grader.