Welcome to the Chubby Chatterbox Newsletter, where I’ll be posting favorites from the Chubby Chatterbox archives. In addition, my complete thriller Return of the Mary Celeste will soon be serialized here for those who have asked for something beyond a regular post.

My novel is based on a true event, arguably the greatest maritime mystery of all time. In 1872 the crew and passengers of Boston brigantine Mary Celeste abandoned their seaworthy ship and its valuable cargo, vanishing in the middle of the Atlantic. Speculation over their fate has never abated. History records that after the Mary Celeste tragedy no one from that fateful voyage was ever seen again. History is about to be rewritten…

Return of the Mary Celeste

Prologue

Tragedy struck the brigantine Mary Celeste on the morning of November 25, 1872. The hourly log was later recovered from the deserted vessel; At 8 a.m. the last notation was made. By 9 a.m. no one remained aboard to chalk the next entry.

Something had terrified Captain Benjamin Briggs and his crew, prompting the seasoned skipper to make a decision certain to affect not only himself, his ship and crew, but his family as well—his wife and two year old daughter were aboard Mary Celeste. Much ink has been spilled in fanciful and scientific attempts to explain the calamity that engulfed this perfectly seaworthy ship, yet all that is known for certain is this: in a matter of minutes Captain Briggs became convinced that the only way to save their lives was by ordering everyone into a hastily launched lifeboat. By giving the order to abandon ship, he also launched the greatest of all maritime mysteries.

On December 5, 1872, a month after leaving New York Harbor, Mary Celeste was found drifting on a calm and empty sea. The ship was in fine condition, perfectly intact with valuable cargo safely stored in her hold, but the crew and passengers had vanished. None were ever seen again.

Until now….

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The Hoax

July 28, 2014

 

 

 

This piece, originally published 1/25/12, is the only one of my five hundred posts to receive a negative comment. Someone told me I was just a lazy bum and I should get off my ass and learn math. This was intended to be tongue in cheek but some people thought I was serious. Well, maybe I was...a little.

 

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This might be the most self-serving post I’ve written. First a confession: I’m really stupid when it comes to math. Back in grade school I was already having trouble when the government forced “New Math” on us so we could compete with the Russians who’d just launched Sputnik, as if Russian children had anything to do with hurling a satellite into space.

 

As I grew I managed to avoid being sent to “special class,” which was packed with kids unable to control their bladders or because of poor math skills. Later in life I was spared by the invention of pocket calculators. It wasn’t that I was minimal, I was a wiz at art, history, philosophy and literature, but I couldn’t access that part of my brain where mathematical ability was stored.

    

Now, at the age of sixty-one, I’ve come to a realization certain to convince many of you that I am minimal: Mathematics isn’t real! And if you think you can prove mathematical principles are absolute, consider this: a mathematician trying to prove me wrong can only do so using math. That opinion is tainted because math must first be proven before it can be used. The same for engineers and architects and computer designers, who would also rely on calculations to discredit my statement.

    

Here’s an example of how the hoax works. Sometime around 1687 Newton published his Law of Universal Gravitation, and since then our collective imagination has envisioned Newton sitting under a tree with an apple falling on his head. But Newton’s ideas about gravity were only a theory, one the cocky little know-it-all was determined to prove. But how? He needed to create that proof. So he invented calculus. This is like creating a playground game where you alone get to determine the rules. In Star Trek lore this is kin to Captain Kirk reprogramming the computer so he could win the famed Kobayashi Maru test. Newton, like Captain Kirk, cheated.

 

In 1977 Voyager was launched into space with a golden record containing, among other things, mathematical equations because math was considered the most perfect of languages and the only universal one. We’ve been told repeatedly that space and time and matter are likely to be unrecognizable in the far reaches of space, so why wouldn’t math also be different, if it existed at all? Why do we put all of our faith in math?

   

It’s simple really; math provides us with marvelous toys. None of our cars or planes or telephones or skyscrapers or computers would exist without math. All of these were created assuming that math was real and these goodies wouldn’t exist otherwise.

    

But if these inventions exist, how can math not be real? Well, math was once used to prove that the Earth was flat and the center of the universe. Math once proved that the Earth was the size of the Moon and humans walked the Earth at the same time as the dinosaurs. Math has been used to discount the existence of dinosaurs altogether, and has led to misassumptions about the human body. Now scientists, while trying to analyze the expansion of the universe, are trying to reveal the links between mathematics and time. Anyone putting their faith in math is like a lizard sunning itself on a tortoise. You might think you’re on a hilltop, but wait until you start moving.

    

Anyone traumatized by a lack of mathematical ability can now thank me for poking holes in this sacred balloon. Those of you who aren’t convinced should repeat this ditty ten times: that’s once for each finger. Figuring out how many fingers we have is probably how this ball got rolling in the first place.

 

Math ain’t real? This I know,

Not even if Newton (or Einstein) tell me so.

 

    

Were you good at math in school? If not what was your favorite subject?

 

 

 

 



Comments

26 Comments
Basic math- addition, subtraction,division and multiplication I understood ( and still do ) Moving onto algebra was a huge roadblock- I just did not get it. But then after taking it 2x to pass with a C- I took Geometry which I loved! It made sense as I could see visually how it worked! Got an A+ and never ever took another math class again. My favorite subject in school was art. NOW that really made sense!
By: Kathe W. on July 28, 2014
The only thing that this post tells me is that you are an artist and that is where your true talent lies. Not everyone needs to know math. Make the world more beautiful with your artistic eye and defer to the experts of their respective fields when needed as they will defer to you in things that are your expertise.
By: Michael Offutt on July 28, 2014
Like you, I hate math. My husband is a lawyer/accountant, so I give all my math problems to him. Maybe that's why our marriage has lasted almost 60 years!!
By: fishducky on July 28, 2014
Math simply is not where your talent lies, or maybe you didn't have a math teacher who understood how you learned. I had two math teachers who were excellent. They were very methodical. The rest of the time, I didn't do well in math. Oh! Wait-- I had a third person who could reach me mathematically. I took a math class when The Hurricane was a teenager. She tutored me and made everything so clear. If she hadn't gone away to college, the math world would have been mine. Math is very abstract, as is much of science. I don't think I had a favorite subject until I went back to college and Milton captured my heart, along with Emily Dickinson and Sylvia Plath. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on July 28, 2014
i was good at math. and english. and accounting, business, art. shoot, i just liked school. :)
By: TexWisGirl on July 28, 2014
Oh my... math has been my nemesis all my life.
By: Daniel LaFrance on July 28, 2014
I figure the negative comment came from someone who didn't realize you were kidding. But considering the weirdness on the web, this could have been a serious post. I'm not bothered by math till you get to trigonometry. That boggles my poor brain...
By: Lexa Cain on July 28, 2014
Somehow i got math up through Trigonometry, but i never tried to go beyond that. My favorite story about math was the child whose teacher was trying to teach him to add and asked him, "If you had two candies in one hand, and three in the other, how many would you have?" The child's priceless answer? "A mouthful!"
By: messymimi on July 28, 2014
I was reasonably good at math but I used memorization rather than deduction. I did not like math and feared math. But that was the fault of the education system and the culture in which i was raised. I would have been so much better had I been born in this decade!
By: Tabor on July 28, 2014
My Dad was a math genius and taught me all sorts of neat short cuts that the teachers would not allow and make me sit in the corner for. Still, I enjoyed it as It is such a clean process until we got into those dratted thought problems. Hated those. .
By: Akansas Patti on July 28, 2014
I did well in math in high school. I went to a one teacher high school and his major was math so of course I did well in math and struggle with other subjs.
By: red on July 28, 2014
I was good at math. It's like a puzzle. I was good at practically everything, thus my valedictorianship. However...my Achilles heel was history/geography. Did you know that England is an ISLAND?
By: Val on July 28, 2014
I hated math in high school, but fought and wrestled with it and got average grades. Imagine my surprise when I went to college here in the States and had to take a business math class - it was easy! The final was a 200-point test, and the teacher said that nobody ever had gotten the 200 points. And I ended up being the first one to do this... In high school, my favorite classes were English and geography. You could tell me any country in the world, and I knew where it was, its capital, etc.
By: Pixel Peeper on July 28, 2014
I was good at math thru 10th grade; then my skills, understanding and interest fell faster than Newton's apple.
By: Tom Sightings on July 28, 2014
Would you agree, however, that some people see art where it doesn't exist? They even sell it for millions. I bet it's those so-called "mathematicians" who buy it too. Art was my favorite subject. I confess I was pretty good at math too. Now I stink at it, so I'll support with your theory.
By: Robyn Engel on July 28, 2014
I'm excellent at mental arithmetic but, like several of your other commenters, I struggled once the numbers were replaced by symbols. I always recall advanced level maths test where I scored 80% for pure maths (mainly numbers) and 20% for applied maths (mainly symbols, calculus etc).
By: Bryan Jones on July 29, 2014
Quite the philosopher. a most interesting post. I have got to rest my brain now. :)
By: John on July 29, 2014
Wait...what? Well done.
By: Cranky on July 29, 2014
I hate maths. I was terrible at it at school, and I'm no better now. Actually, I'm not an academic, I'm practical and creative, I'm not well read, I'm useless at geography, science and history. There you go, I'm thick.
By: LL Cool Joe on July 29, 2014
Oh, I was (still am) HORRIBLE at math! My ineptness when it comes to adding numbers is legendary in my family. Those of us who weren't very good at numbers consoled ourselves with the knowledge that math skills predominated in the left part of the brain. In other words, those who were good in math "weren't in their right minds." 'course, those same people are making six figures.
By: Al Penwasser on July 29, 2014
I forgot to say that The Hurricane insists that calculus is useless. She says that many colleges are taking it out of their core curriculum and replacing it with a statistics class.
By: Janie Junebug on July 29, 2014
The only math I'm good at is geometry, and I use it daily in my job. But in algebra I'm pretty much worthless. And none of those mathematical fancy theories make any sense to me at all. I'm still wondering why all those people in South America don't just fall off the planet? (Would that be a math or a science issue?)
By: Scott Park on July 29, 2014
I too am math challenged. I think it goes back to a bad teacher mix in the 3'rd grade. Then maybe, I just don't have the smarts.
By: tom Cochrun on July 29, 2014
Wow, you just proved that "W" wasn't joking about "fuzzy math!" Has Fox News contacted you about becoming a commentator? (LOL?)
By: Jerry E. Beuterbaugh on July 30, 2014
Now why in hell would someone feel the need to make a negative comment?!? You have every right to be a lazy bum...
By: Mitchell is Moving on August 4, 2014
One might say that the proof of math lies in the fact that it works in so many fields, but I do recall that Bertrand Russell devoted years to trying to prove it in sense deeper than pragmatism and failed. The problem you pose is really behind all that we think we know in that everything we believe to be true rests upon something that we can't prove to be true.
By: Snowbrush on August 4, 2014

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