If there’s one thing on which we can all agree, it’s that calculations should never be done on the fronts of envelopes. That’s why today we’re going to use the back of an envelope to do a previously unattempted calculation—finding out our distance from Alma.

A back-of-the-envelope calculation uses reasonable estimations and simple operations to figure out obscure measurements.

About a month ago, we all knew that most of us lived within a 1-mile radius of Alma Mater. Doing a back-of-the envelope calculation would not only have been unnecessary, but also uncalled for—and redundant.

Now, however, with Columbia students spread out across the globe, determining our distance from Alma has taken on new urgency. How, for example, do we propose to tell people how far we are from Butler if we don’t know how far we are from Alma? And how do we aim to social distance ourselves from each other if we can’t even do so precisely with a statue?

These questions point us to the task at hand.

Before calculating our distance from Alma, we must consider a few potentially confounding factors.

First, many of us are in places that use the Freedom System of Measurement, and many others are in places that use the metric system. To get around potential discrepancies, we will convert our final distance calculation to traditional Romanian stânjen.

Second, many of us are living at different altitudes. We will ignore this, because trigonometry doesn’t align with my values.

Finally, many of us are living in different locations (and if you believe in Nova Scotia, some of us are living on different planets). To avoid statistical analysis and all of that, we will assume that we are all living wherever I am at the time of doing this calculation.

Now we are ready.

Alma is located on 113th and Amsterdam, which is approximately 2 miles from Weehawken, NJ.

2 miles times the length of Route 66, which is about 2500 miles, is about 5000 miles^2.

5000 miles^2 multiplied by the Universal Gas Constant divided by miles^2 is 5000R.

5000R factorial is 5000R!

5000R! plus “THIS IS SPARTA!” is (5000R! + “THIS IS SPARTA!”)

(5000R! + “THIS IS SPARTA!”) with rearranged letters is (5000! + “THIS IS SPARTAR!”)

(5000! + “THIS IS SPARTAR!”), while accounting for the Prastolkin Conversion Postulate, is approximately (431!)!

(431!)!, but a little less excited, is 431!

431! after a good shave is 430

430 integrated can be 430x

430x, while letting x = 10 miles, equals 4300 miles

4300 miles converted to stânjen is 3002 stânjen.

Thus, we are all about 3000 stânjen socially distanced from Alma right now.

Stay healthy, everyone!


Math Pic via PGF Plots

 Math Pic 2 via Wikimedia Commons