The Math of Food

by J on April 30, 2010

After I’ve finished a meal and Simon’s still working on bite number five, I have some time to think. During yesterday’s snack of carrots, cheese, and crackers, I started noticing some strong preferences in what went into his mouth. Atypically, he was very consistent. So being the good science teacher that I am, I started recording observations, and soon had a set of mathematical descriptions about his snacking preferences.

Let “carrot,” “cheese,” and “cracker” represent his willingness to consume each item respectively.

  • cheese > 0
  • cracker > 0
  • carrot < 0

So he likes cheese and he likes cracker, but he doesn’t like carrot. What if we mix it up?

  • cracker + cheese > 0 (as you might expect)
  • cheese + carrot > 0
  • cracker + carrot < 0
  • cracker + carrot + cheese > 0

It would seem that we can conclude:

  • |carrot| < |cheese|
  • |cracker| < |carrot|

And therefore:

  • carrot < cracker < cheese, but
  • |cracker| < |carrot| < |cheese|

I will leave it as an exercise for the eater to assign a numerical value to each item.

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