Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Are We There Yet?

Summer is here, and backseats across the country and around the world are singing the same tune: Are we there yet? As children who have swapped school for a "summer vacation" pester their parents, parents who want to delay the onset of this eternal question have a new ally. While he hasn't yet found a way to stop the question, English mathematician Dwight Barkley has formulated an equation that will enable parents to calculate the exact time into a journey it takes for a child to ask "Are we there yet?"

The equation, which was commissioned by the car company Skoda (formerly Czech, and now owned by VW) to help its customers better prepare for long summer car journeys, works by taking into account the number of activities available and the number of children in the car. Correct application of the theory requires its users to do useful and potentially absorbing things, such as timing how long it takes for the family to get themselves and their luggage into the car. It also varies depending on the number of on-board activities, raising awareness of the need for puzzles, snacks, computer games and the like.

The equation finds that the time it takes for a child to ask the notorious question equals: one, plus the number of activities to do, divided by the number of children in the car squared. The result is then added to the time it took the family to get into the car and set off on their journey, to produce the final answer. In mathematical terms, the calculation reads: Q= (1+x) divided by y2 + z where Q is the question, x the number of on board activities, y the number of children and z the time taken to get the car loaded.

(And yes, having your kids try to figure out the equation does count as an "activity"...)

Commenting on the triumph, Professor Barkley explained, “Mathematics can help answer many of life’s questions and this equation can be a fun way to think about the problem of keeping children entertained on a family car journey.”

Good luck!


Anonymous Dennis B. Petersen said...

If you happen to have a few minutes two guys drove from Portland, Oregon to New Hampshire with a camera on the back seat. It took a picture every 10 seconds. They've compiled it to this little film here. http://www.seb.cc/roadtrip/index.html

You recognise any of the places ;)

Dennis B. Petersen

6:46 AM  
Blogger Jamie Jensen said...

Hiya Dennis Petersen --

I enjoyed the animated cross-country trip so much I've added a mention of it in my latest blog.

Thanks for reading, and for writing!

2:50 AM  

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