NeTw0rK News


Math flawed

Problem in theory of subtraction invalidates centuries of math formulas

MINNEAPOLIS (NeTw0rK) -- For centuries, mathematicians relied on the so-called "theory of subtraction" to draft countless formulas.

But subtraction has real life applications as well. Carpenters subtract measurements to determine the length of boards, stores subtract to determine how much inventory was sold, and millions of people subtract money from their bank accounts when they spend money.

Subtraction first came under fire last Tuesday at Washington Elementary, a public school in Minneapolis. When first grade instructor Mrs. Dianne Perkins was demonstrating subtraction with apples on a table, 7 year old student Chelsea Dobbs raised her hand and asked if the mass of the individual apples was relevant to the answer. Seeing that not all of the apples were the same size, Mrs. Perkins asked a panel of mathematics experts at University of Minnesota, and they could not arrive with a clear answer.

Samantha Ryans of USGS explains that subtraction has been holding their predictions back for years:

"Our failed earthquake predictions have always involved subtraction. Now that we know better, we'll make sure not to use it in the future. By the way..." added Ryans, "you might not want to be in LA next week."

The University of Minnesota experts consulted experts at other universities worldwide, but to no avail. The "Dobbs Apple Conundrum" has baffled mathematicians everywhere.

"This explains the flaw that led to the Columbia shuttle disaster," said Mike McCulkin of NASA. "Subtraction was involved in many of our calculations. If only we'd known about this flaw in time, we could have saved the lives of our astronauts."

Mathematicians worldwide recommend using the other basic math functions such as addition, multiplication, as well as division until a new subtraction theory can be devised. Until then, we'll all just have to "subtract" subtraction from our everyday lives.

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