More Multiplication:

A comment to the follow-up to my "A Little Multiplication Could Have Gone a Long Way" post says:

What? You mean not everyone memorizes useless conversions like that there are 1440 minutes (or 86400 seconds) per day? What is this country coming to?

I'd have let this slip, but given that the whole thread was about multiplication -- and that I'm a math geek -- I just couldn't resist. First, knowing how many minutes there are in a day, it turns out, is not useless: Among other things, it would help journalists and press release authors avoid errors like the one I was blogging about.

But second, here's a secret -- you don't have to memorize the conversions. Even if you don't remember the conversion, you can still figure out how many minutes there are in a day, whenever you need to (for instance, if you want to check whether the item you're about to publish is accurate). How, you might ask? What occult science will give me this magical power? Why . . . multiplication!

In fact, you don't even know how to do multiplication, since there are, I'm told, electronic devices that can do it for you. All you need to know is that such an operation exists, and that it can be deployed to solve immensely difficult problems like the "how many 5-minute increments in a day" one? (To be fair, it also helps knowing about multiplication's partner in crime, division.)

As it happens, I do remember a rough estimate of the number of seconds in a year, partly because one runs into these "every X seconds/minutes Y happens" -- 30 million, or (for a better approximation) 10 million pi for math geeks. I don't remember the number of minutes or seconds in a day. But I am so learned that the numbers are nonetheless available to me whenever I please. And you too can have this fearsome power . . . .