Home > Application, Appreciation, Challenge > Mathematics of Construction

Mathematics of Construction

One of the items on my to-do list was build something.  To that end, I spent yesterday afternoon turning a bunch of leftover lumber into a small table.

I’ve always admired those who can build elegant and functional things, but I came away from my project with an even greater appreciation for carpenters, woodworkers, builders, and the like.  The measuring:  how far are those legs spaced apart?  The calculating:  when all these pieces get put together, how tall is this thing supposed to be?  The engineering:  why are things rolling off my table?  It’s a set of serious cerebral challenges on top of the obvious physical demands.

One theme that stood out as I slowly assembled my table was that of error propagation.  A tiny error at an early stage (a millimeter or two of slant on a “flat” cut on a leg) can produce a sizable error in the end (things quickly rolling off your table).  It put me in mind of the classic differential problems in elementary calculus.  For example, suppose you are measuring the diameter of sphere with a margin of error of +/- .1 mm:  how much error might this generate in calculating the volume of the sphere?  The surface area?  How would you even try to measure the diameter of a sphere?

Maybe I’ll go run some experiments on my brand new inclined plane.

Click here to see more in Application.


  1. No comments yet.
  1. August 21, 2010 at 9:02 am
  2. September 29, 2010 at 9:07 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: