Skip to main content

A one hundred and fifty day lockdown

You can't have read much of my writings if you do not know that numbers are close to my heart. And today has a big nice round number attached to it. We are all familiar with the Google search engine. Most of us will use it today. The name is a mis-spelling of the name for the number you get when you multiply 10 by 10 one hundred times. The name Googol is the term for that number. For a brief period of time, it was the biggest number with a name.

But after Kasner and Newman came up with that name, they rapidly came up with Googolplex which is the number you get when you multiply 10 by 10 Googol times. We can in our Parliament make the Googol, if not the Googolplex real. There are 129 MSPs. If we allow people to sit randomly in seats, how many possible outcomes are there?

The first person to sit down can choose from 129 available seats. The second person can choose from one less, 128 seats. But the first person left 128 possible arrangements of the remaining seats. So the number of possible choices when these two people sit is, 129 times 128. And so it goes on with the total options being 129 times 128 times 127 .. and so on until it's .. times 3 times 2. Thus we know that the number of options are bigger than a Googol. And we can know that without doing any sums. How?

We know a Googol is 10 times 10 done one hundred times. Think only about the first 100 MSPs to sit down. The choices up to this point are 129 times 128 .. etc .. 31 times 30. So every single one of the first one hundred steps in the calculation uses a number that is bigger than 10. So we know the final answer is bigger, much bigger, than a Googol. I leave you to work out that the final answer is much, much less than a Googolplex. And again no sums are needed.

All of which is about reminding ourselves that maths is simply about thinking.

Today's special number? One hundred and fifty. This diary piece is the 150th in the sequence. And will add to the around one hundred and seventy thousand words which have preceded it.

With Charles Dicken's Tale of Two Cities containing 135,000 words and George Orwell's Animal Farm under a mere 30,000, my diary is now reaching for the upper reaches of literary effort. But much more to the point, the Parliamentary demands on my time are rising sharply. So, the daily effort of between sixty and ninety minutes hitherto devoted to these scrivenings has to be redirected.

I started because of being asked to write a one-off article. It morphed into a daily personal therapy session that helped keep me relatively sane during lock-down. And seems to have been relatively well-received by the several hundred people on my distribution list.

So what next? I have found that writing something book-length is quite straightforward. One does it a bit at a time. And I have a couple of other projects I now intend to pursue away from the public gaze.

But the diary will live on as a twice-weekly account of all things related to my Parliamentary life, or otherwise dragged back into the front of my mind from deeply hidden memories, by it. The plan is to publish for Tuesday morning, before the Parliamentary week really starts, and Friday evening as a reprise to be read over the weekend.

Even that is a temporary form just as the whole enterprise has been since the first day on 19th March. For my move from Holyrood and representative democracy is already twinkling on the horizon and will require a further adjustment in late spring next year. Not just regarding the diary, but many aspects of my day to day life and objectives.

Thank you for reading. But keep reading. Less often. But more words.

That's the first 150 days locked down over.

Much better than 150 days locked up.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Unwelcome disruption

In the first hours of the new week - it's 0700 and I have been at the computer since 0545 - it's as well to check whether all the assets required are in place for a successful week. The Ofcom broadband checker is a good place to start ( https://checker.ofcom.org.uk/broadband-test - seems to be blocked on some internal networks such as that in Parliament). Today shows my non-fibred rural connection ticking along at 8.5 megabits per second. That's pretty much good enough for our online activity. But the data delay (us techies might prefer the term latency) is 41.1 milliseconds. That's less encouraging. It essentially means that you have to wait until the data starts flowing. In my Edinburgh accommodation, it's about 11 milliseconds. But as ever the upload speed is a mere 0.5 megabits per second. The Ofcom checker puts an "Amber" against using such a speed for video calling. They say that means "This service should work but you may experience proble