Category Archives: South Wales Echo

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 …

A Letter to the Editor 3

In which The Author writes the Letter of the Week
in the regional newspaper

Since deregulation and privatisation, public transport in South Wales has been next to useless. Quite a few of my letters to the press concerned the travails faced by people commuting to work. This one was published in the regional evening paper, the South Wales Echo, and was adjudged Letter of the Week:
South Wales Echo
Thomson House
Havelock Street
January 31, 2002
Dear Sir,
When I was at university, my friend Bob used to enjoy role-playing games such as Dungeons and Dragons. These were usually set in fantasy worlds populated by wizards and elves, and were very much the preserve of Tolkien buffs and heavy metal fans. I had assumed that the growth of ‘virtual reality’ computer simulations, particularly those played over the Internet, had supplanted these earlier games. It seems that I was wrong.
This week, one of my work colleagues showed me an advert in Buses magazine, for a company in Essex who produce a ‘Tabletop Buses Game.’ For £25, these people will equip you with everything you need to set up a model bus company. They will even paint the model buses in the colours of your favourite operator, so that you can re-enact the great commuter journeys of the world in the comfort of your own home.
Obviously the box-office success of The Lord of the Rings has revived the board game market. According to the advert, this game enables you to ‘run a bus company on time, at a profit, and by the rules’. Surely this must be the ultimate fantasy game, set in a parallel universe where the laws of physics are replaced by magic. After all, if it was a virtual reality simulation, the advert would read, ‘Run a bus company with no regard to time, with generous local authority contracts, and according to the whim of your drivers’. It sounds to me like the ideal pastime for the fantasy nerd who has everything – now where on Middle-Earth did I put Bob’s phone number …?