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Square Roots

John W. Pinkerton


I awoke this morning to the concept of square roots.  I know you’re thinking, “What a nerd!”  Settle down.

When I was attending school, I thoroughly learned addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, and I understood each one of them and the usefulness of each.  For some reason the teachers also taught me how to derive square roots.  I learned how to do this, but I never learned the usefulness of this skill.

In a little while, I think I’ll do some research on the usefulness of square roots, but for the moment, I’ll create my own reasons to have this skill.

For example, the square root of 81 is 9.  Now 9 would weigh less that 81 and would be easier to carry around in your pocket or fold into your billfold or purse, but the square root of 79, my present age, is 8.888194417315589 which is definitely not smaller or lighter than 79.  I guess the usefulness in square roots doesn’t lie in its economy of weight or size.

Back when I was learning the “skill” of deriving square roots, I, along with everyone else, didn’t have access to handheld calculators nor internet sites that would derive it for you; well, we had to do this with pencil and paper.  I know---shocking.

Now it doesn’t take a genius to derive the square roots of whole numbers---another concept I’ve never grasped---but I’m losing my thought.  The whole numbers are perfect squares: 1, 4, 9, 16, 25, 36, 49, 64, 81, 100, etc.

I went to the internet to rediscover how one derives square roots using pencil and paper.

The internet suggested there are a number of techniques one might use.  I found the one that looked the most like what I recall from high school.  After a bit of a struggle with this technique, I managed to derive the square root of a random number---not really very satisfying.

Okay, now that I can perform this miracle, what can I do with it?  Back to the internet.

This search ended pretty quickly: there was a lot of talk about the Pythagorean Theorem.  In other words, the internet folks could not list even one practical use of square roots.  I must admit that I’m a little disappointed.  I was hoping my revitalized ability to derive square roots with pencil and paper would give me a cause to lord it over my inferiors.  Crap!  Nope---just another useless skill.

Tomorrow when I awake, perhaps my old mind will land on something more useful…not likely. Oh,well. enough