Saturday, January 30, 2010

Ask Ziva

The other day I wrote about running again, seeing as how I love it so much, and as a good reader, j posed an excellent question:

I've been wondering, if a huge pile of money is on fire, would people run towards it or away from it? Or does it depend on the size of the money pile and/or the size of the flames? I guess a genius like M could simulate it easily :)

I immediately asked M for the correct answer to this, but he was mostly busy admiring himself on TV. He’s become somewhat of a TV star lately, having been on the news twice this week and once in the paper. Anyway, as M was busy playing the role of Narcissus, I decided this question needed answering. And as I’m an expert on piles of money, I just happen to know the answer.I don’t need a genius like M to figure it out.

This is how it works.

If x is the size of the pile of money, then y is the monetary value of the currency of the money in question. z will represent a coefficient for the method of fire extinguish at your disposal (e.g. a fire extinguisher will have a high coefficient while, say, a kitten would represent a not so high value for z, maybe even a negative value, seeing as how you might not want to extinguish a fire with a kitten since a) it’s likely to catch fire itself, b) you’d just get hurt in the process and while third degree burns are rather nasty, a scratch mark by a kitten is an unimaginable pain that you don’t want to inflict on yourself, and c) kittens are not that easy to come by in the event of a catastrophic money fire.) v is the speed of which you’re running towards or away from the fire, and h is the height of the flames.

v = x · yh · e-z

To figure out what you should be doing when confronted with a pile of smoldering money, simply put all of the variables above into the equation and calculate whether or not you should be running towards the money, and if so, at which speed. You’ll notice that many things will affect the outcome of the scenario. Not only will the fire extinguish coefficient be of help, but when you know the currency and denomination of the money burning to a cinder in front of you, you will know if it’s really worth the effort. See, you wouldn’t necessarily want to save a big pile of pesetas, even using a state of the art fire extinguisher, since, honestly, it isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on, whereas you might even want to give the kitten a go if the inferno was made up of 200 euro bills.

So, next time you see a huge pile of burning money, I’ve made it easy for you. Just take out this handy and deceptively simple equation, which you have laminated for situations just like this one and carry around in your wallet at all times, and calculate if you should be running towards or away from the fire, and at which speed. This can also be used in situations when you have two piles of money that are burning but are having a hard time knowing which pile to try to salvage.

You’re welcome, j. I hope this answered your question. *


  1. I'm pretty sure my brain just caught on fire.

  2. Sin - don't hurt yourself, babe.

  3. I usally roll my bills around some tobacco and smoke them. How does that figure into your equation, which, frankly, I found a little confusing because it's about 3:20 a.m. here, and I ought to be asleep dreaming about friendly kittens.

  4. Mike WJ - That's a difficult one. I think we'd have to add some more variables. I'm assuming other people might want to get to those bills you're smoking. That means we'd have to substitute the variable for the height of the pile for the thickness of the roll and add a variable for whether or not you'd get hurt in the process and if you getting hurt is a desirable outcome or not.



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