Antiderivative of a Candle

Saturday 4.3.10

Tonight I watched a white candle of about 8 inches, standing straight up and stuck to the ground of a church with hot wax and growing weaker from the heat, slowly bend to a curvy 90 degree angle. And as the wax continued dripping down its sides, instead of following the body of the candle all the way to the ground, the angle caused it to drop through the air to the floor forming a stalactite. It was beautiful. I watched three stalactites form and then fall. The mathematician in me however could not just see the geology of the candle; no, suddenly all I could see were area-under-the-curve diagrams and antiderivative equations. The candle formed a lovely inverse hyperbolic curve and the stalactite was a perfectly vertical slice. Every time the old stalactite fell and a new one formed, forming a slightly smaller slice each time because the candle was shrinking, there was a new limit to set and a new area formed between the curve and the slice.

The mathematician in me also cannot help calculating that I am just about 10% done with my service in Guatemala; 27 months in total and I have completed just shy of three of them. I’m not calculating this because I’m eager to get it done with and am just waiting for the rest of the 90% to pass by, I just can’t help noticing that statistic. 10% feels like a huge proportion considering how fast the past three months flew by, but 90% also feels like an enormous proportion. I could compare this feeling to how I feel in a volleyball match. In a game to 25, if I’m down 16-19 I almost always feel like I’m way too far behind to catch up and there’s no hope at all for me to win the match. If I’m up 19-16 I almost always feel nervous because all it takes from the other team is a small run and they could sweep the match out from under me. Situations that are exactly the same, or rather exactly the reciprocal, feel so different depending on what side I’m on or from what side I view them. I’m sure this sounds like the so very cliché glass-half-empty/glass-half-full stuff, but it’s different. One has to look at time in the past and time in the future in different ways. I’m not thinking about my next two years here as a glass half empty nor half full, rather, as something that’s so foreign and strange and frightening and exciting that I don’t even know how to look at it. I think because I don’t know what to expect that I try to put mathematics to it to try to make sense of it. Logic is the only language I understand.

1 comment:

prabourne said...

Ahhh, I knew VB would somehow work its way into your musings! :)

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