I'm ambivalent about this question. On the one hand, it's great that someone is trying to back up their arguments with a calculation, and calculations are at least somewhat on-topic. On the other hand, the OP is making several assumptions that invalidate his argument, which is not mathematical. So do we close as off-topic or what?

  • $\begingroup$ jfyi: the question was redirected here from MO... $\endgroup$ – Willie Wong Feb 5 '11 at 12:43
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, I saw that. $\endgroup$ – Qiaochu Yuan Feb 5 '11 at 12:50

I voted to close before any of the answers appeared. I think, there is very little, if any, mathematical content in the question, since the discussion about scarcity of water versus oil is largely an ecological and economical one. The main question here is "what do we actually want to calculate" and not "how to calculate it". Since the OP seems to have a very faint or no idea how to answer that former question, he has come to the wrong place.

  • $\begingroup$ I agree and have closed the question. $\endgroup$ – Qiaochu Yuan Feb 5 '11 at 15:42

I think this question can be counted as "applied math." There are (to my knowledge) no other SE sites where this could go (for instance, the proposed economics.SE is probably too advanced), so I think it should stay open. I don't think questions like this show any threat of taking over the website.

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    $\begingroup$ Agree. If OP had not actually said what the motivation was, I am not sure if this meta thread would even be opened! The main question was about verification of some computations. Whether the data which they begin with is invalid is irrelevant. $\endgroup$ – Aryabhata Feb 5 '11 at 17:54
  • $\begingroup$ @Moron: I disagree. Given that we know what the motivation was, I think it would have been irresponsible for us not to point out the invalidating assumptions, especially since the OP is 15. $\endgroup$ – Qiaochu Yuan Feb 6 '11 at 20:42
  • $\begingroup$ @Qiaochu: I never said you should not point out if the data is invalid or not. Of course you should! My point was, that is not a reason to close the question. $\endgroup$ – Aryabhata Feb 6 '11 at 21:13
  • $\begingroup$ @Moron: invalid assumptions about the real world are off-topic. $\endgroup$ – Qiaochu Yuan Feb 6 '11 at 21:28
  • $\begingroup$ @Qiaochu: That sounds really strange on a Mathematics forum :-) Consider it a hypothetical question: if water volume was so and so... then we have this.. etc. Does not matter what you plug in as the values of the variables. Anyway, I don't see any point in discussing this any further. The question was probably too localized anyway... $\endgroup$ – Aryabhata Feb 6 '11 at 21:33
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    $\begingroup$ @Moron: there's a huge difference between suggesting a hypothetical and being mistaken about the state of the real world. $\endgroup$ – Qiaochu Yuan Feb 7 '11 at 1:57

It has already attracted two good answers (presumably because mathematicians tend to be sensible folks). Ideally if "Popular Natural Science".SE or "Science".SE (see Area51 if you like that!) were alive, this question really should be migrated there. At present, I don't think migrating it to physics.SE is a good idea.

Anyway, personally I think it is a bit off topic, since there is no question really with the mathematics side of the problem. (Also, why is it tagged calculus?) I would vote to close if my vote weren't binding.


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