A Letter to the Editor 8

In which The Author has some mathematical mischief

This one appeared in the South Wales Echo in August 2002. At the time, our train service was a lot more limited than it is now (see ‘Nice Work If You Can Get There‘), and I took the opportunity to have a bit of fun. I sent it in – but somewhere between my typewriter and the finished page, the Echo typesetters struck.
A few weeks later I bumped into my old Maths teacher Bob Childs in the takeaway. Bob took me to task for using Roman capitals for the irrational numbers – but I’d typed them in italics to begin with. However, they somehow managed to get π right. (Incidentally, I seem to be one of the few people who’ve noticed that Platform 5 has disappeared altogether from Cardiff Central Station. It’s all a bit Harry Potter …)
Following the news that Cardiff Central Station now has a Platform Zero, I wonder whether Wales and West Trains have any plans to add further platforms in the spirit of mathematical adventure. For instance, the ‘circular’ City Line between Radyr and Coryton would be ideally suited to run from Platform π, which represents the ratio between the circumference and diameter of a circle. This platform would, of course, be situated a little way up from Platform 3. Similarly, trains such as those which run to Aberdare, which run half-hourly at peak times, hourly at off-peak, and two-hourly on Sunday, could depart from Platform e (situated between Platforms 2 and 3) which would reflect the exponential decay in the frequency of the service.
I wondered if the company had made a step in this direction when I spotted a sign marked i on the station concourse. Since i is used in mathematics to represent the square root of -1 (the so-called ‘imaginary number’) I decided that this would be the perfect platform from which to catch the imaginary trains to Aberdare after 8.30 pm. Sadly, it was just the sign for the Tourist Information Centre. Still, I live in hope …

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