My plans to retrace Captain Cook's unfinished voyage have been postponed a year while I work on the next Marine Diesel Basics book and get my new boat SV Oceandrifter ready for sea.
At school, my maths teacher (Major Melluish, a marvellous man) told my parents, “Dennison must realize that mathematics is not a debatable subject.” Really? So perhaps that’s why I’ve come so late in life to an understanding of the mathematical wonder of the exponential factor. Never heard of it? Well, it’s the genie that’s running many of the things that are already affecting your life and that almost certainly will affect everything about how you life the rest of your life.
Here are several videos (short, medium and 66 minutes) in which the exponential factor is explained in detail and with some very graphic examples. Miss these at your peril!!
What is the exponential function. It is simply the function that described the size of anything that is changing at a constant rate. It’s applied most often to growth, and we are hearing the phrase “exponential growth” more and more often. But it could just as accurately be used to described the constant rate overtime at which something is shrinking – the effect over time on a country’s public wealth of constant government overspending, for example.
Allied to this is the “doubling time” – how long it takes for something growing constant, for example at 7% per year. The doubling time is 10 years. This is calculated by simple arthmetic – the number 70 divided by the constant rate; in this case 70 divided by 7%. This may not sound like much, for example in the headline of a news story, but it means a doubling every decade – whether it’s mouths to feed, cars on the road, or guns on the street.
Even that may not sound like very much – at least on the first two of three doublings. But as time goes on, the graph showing quantities gets steeper and steeper….I won’t try to explain more. Watch the videos. This is a subject you may never have thought about before, but the effects of the exponential factor are affecting your life every day already and are only going to increase. You owe it to yourself to understand what’s going on.
A first-rate explanation of the expontential factor is given in a lecture entitled, “Arthmetic, Population and Energy” by Dr. Albert A. Bartlett, Professor Emeritus in the Department of Physics at the University of Colorado at Denver. Professor Bartlett claims,”The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential factor,” and after watching his full lecture and understanding how it relates to economics, industrial growth, oil and energy and population he may well be right.
If you can’t sit through his very easy to follow 66-minute lecture in one sitting, the same lecture has been broken up into 10-minute lectures on YouTube. Part One:
And if even 10-minutes is too much, watch this 200-second video that gives a demonstration of the exponential factor in action, using pingpongs balls and mousetraps.
In future posts, I’ll be exploring how the exponential factor is affecting population growth and what that means for us and for this planet, GDP growth and the exponential growth of energy consumption. The ramifications of the exponential factor will astound you.