A Spark of Inspiration While Dreaming

This past week my son Pat and I successfully completed our Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training, a program sponsored by FEMA to enable individuals to be better prepared to respond to and cope with the aftermath of a disaster.

Part of becoming certified was taking both a written test followed by a simulated disaster scene that required working as part of a team to put out a “fire”, do some search and rescue operations, and to then extricate and treat a survivor. As part of the search and rescue, we documented our progress using the following format:

As it turned out, this was not the only test I was scheduled to take last week. I also had a Calculus test, for which I had been doing quite a bit of studying.

Well the night before the two tests, I had a dream that I was involved in a real search and rescue effort, but instead of using the diagram above to mark our progress, I was using the four quadrants to solve calculus problems using tools such as related rates, L’Hospital’s rules, and the Mean Value Theorem.

My two worlds had obviously merged together, and not necessarily in a good way. I don’t remember any reaction from my team members while I was writing out calc solutions, but I’m guessing they would have been wondering if I was the one that needed rescuing.

Anyway, I eventually woke up, and at first I was kind of proud of what I had done. Thomas Friedman, New York Times columnist, has stated that innovation comes from taking the framework of one field and applying it to the framework of another. In my mind, that’s exactly what I had been doing; I was being innovative!

Well as I started to become more wide awake, I realized that there was a problem with what I had been doing; nothing made sense.

But then later that day it hit me – I shouldn’t be applying the concepts of Calc 1 to search and rescue operations. That sort of stuff probably isn’t covered until Calc 2, which I am scheduled to take next semester.

So now I can’t wait to practice some search and rescue simulations once I pick up some advanced calculus skills.

Who knew math was so useful…