Additional Math Pages & Resources

Thursday, October 15, 2009

On a scale from one to ten,

  • how well did we handle your bounced check?
  • were you happy with how we fixed your car?
  • how much heartburn did you have when we audited your tax return?
Have you ever wondered how this "on a scale of" business started? No, I didn't think so. Neither did I.

But I was at the doctor recently, and they asked,

How much does it hurt? On a scale from 1 to 10, tell us what it feels like.  I said 6, at this moment.

But that's not very helpful, at least from my perspective as the sufferer! Compared to what? Getting run over by a truck, gored by a raging bull, or bitten by a snake?

So in the interest of MATH and my blogs on how to measure odd things, I decided to review pain scales. After looking at dozens, here's my favorite:

This is the Wong-Baker graphical scale. Click for a more elaborate version.

It's easy to understand and the graphics are funny enough that they don't make me hurt more or get bitter. Of course it's only for kids, not adults.

Here's a scale developed just to measure pain from various kinds of bees and wasps:
  • 1.0 Sweat bee: Light, ephemeral, almost fruity. A tiny spark has singed a single hair on your arm.
  • 1.2 Fire ant: Sharp, sudden, mildly alarming. A shock from walking across a carpet and touching a light switch.
  • 1.8 Bullhorn ant: A rare, piercing, elevated sort of pain. Someone has fired a staple into your cheek.
  • 2.0 Bald-faced hornet: Rich, hearty, slightly crunchy. Like getting your hand mashed in a drawer.
  • 2.0 Yellowjacket: Hot and smoky, almost irreverent. Extinguishing a cigar on your tongue.
  • 2.5 Honey bee: Like a matchhead that flips off and burns on your skin.
  • 3.0 Harvester ant: Bold and unrelenting. Using a drill to excavate your in-grown toenail.
  • 3.0 Paper wasp: Caustic and burning. Bitter aftertaste. Like spilling a beaker of hydrochloric acid on a paper cut.
  • 4.0 Pepsis wasp: Blinding, fierce, shockingly electric. A hair drier has been dropped into your bubble bath.
  • 4.+ Bullet ant: Pure, intense, brilliant pain. Like fire-walking over flaming charcoal with a rusty nail in your heel.
OUCH! Just reading the descriptions hurts me. Apparently this index was developed through personal "research" conducted unintentionally by Dr. Justin Schmidt, an entomologist. When asked What is the most interesting insect venom, and why? he replied

Three come to mind. Bullet ant because it causes such intense pain and it lasts so long and is not "diluted" out of the pain-inducing concentration in the local sting area. Second is the tarantula hawk because its pain-inducing component(s) cause such immediate pain, yet the pain is gone within a couple of minutes.  Third is the harvester ant venom because it seems to directly affect neuromuscular ... and other receptors (unique among insect venoms) and is so incredibly toxic.

I can't comment on most of these dangerous critters, as I stay as far away from them as possible. (But notice the detailed definitions of pain he provides.)

However, I have been stung at least 100 times by honey bees, one day getting about 20 stings in a single attack. It's an occupational hazard of a beekeeper.

Here are some photos of me with my hive of honey bees.

Of course with a big thick bee suit you rarely get stung, but there are always small openings the bees explore, and up-the-pant-leg stings or in-the-bonnet stings are particularly exciting!

Perhaps now you know why I have transitioned from bees to a worm factory - the worms don't sting!

On a scale of 1 to 10 for most dangerous, worms rate a 1.


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