## Tuesday, February 8, 2011

### Math, Music and Wires

I confess that I did not like math in high school. In 11th grade I went to my counselor and asked for Auto Shop instead. She talked me into a compromise - Electronics Shop.

There in Mr. Valison's class I caught the tail end of vacuum tubes and the bleeding edge of solid state electronics. This was the best career-preparation move I ever made, as for the last 40 years I've put that electronics knowledge to good use (and discovered math is essential).

Today I present some wires. My wife says it's a mess, but this is after I spent a morning cleaning and straightening and bundling the wires, cables, fiber-optic pipes, and so on.

It's a typical household setup nowadays, with TV on top, a pull-out shelf filled with DVDs, a coaxial cable coming in from the antenna, a single DVD player, a Blu-Ray player, a 5-disc changer, an amplifier/control unit, Apple TV, cable modem, AT&T mobile phone hotspot transmitter, and a WiFi wireless router. Not to mention all the power connections, HDMI links and a Mac Mini with keyboard and mouse. [Click the photo to see more detail]

All the sound has to get to the speakers somehow, so I have wires running to the speakers in this room, and to my junction panel in the hall closet. I installed this panel 20 years ago when I bought this house, thinking it would be nice to keep the wires hidden. The sound comes in at the top, splits into right and left channels, then is routed through fuses and impedance-matching resistors to a junction block capable of serving 5 rooms. At the moment we are using 4 sets of speakers plus those in the TV room. [Click the photo to see more detail]
What does this have to do with elementary math as we teach in Excel Math? I'll list a few places where you need math in your home sound system:
1. figuring out the monthly cost of all the services to which you are subscribing (cable, satellite, Netflix, Apple Store, etc etc)
2. adding up the cost of all the hardware that you are buying
3. calculating resistance and impedance when you install so many speakers
4. deciphering the frequencies that TV stations transmit so you can choose an antenna
5. determining how much space you need to hold all the CDs, DVDs and videocassettes your family owns
6. determining the disk storage you will need to hold all the digital files your family owns or will be buying
7. calculating the length of the wiring to install the speakers around your room or house
8. deciding which remote controls you need, and how to program them with the right numbers to cut down on the total pile of remotes on the shelf
9. trying to figure out which addresses your network components are using (and violating), such as  192.168.1.1, etc.
10. looking up part-time jobs on the web so you can earn extra cash to pay for all this junk
If you didn't have training in this field, then you can use your math skills to figure out how much to pay one of the 20,000 Geek Squad technicians to come in and fix up your systems.

Or you could just read a book, hopefully on math. Here's one.
(And not on a Kindle or iPad, because that takes you back to Step 1, above.)