I was completely taken aback when my landlord called me the other day, and taught me the mathematics they use in Pune (for details click here). The formula that governs property rent in the city is as follows:
Incr in rent (%) = |Incr in IT employee strength in city| / |Incr in property prices everywhere| x 100%
where |x| =x, if x is greater than or equal to 0
and |x| = -x, if x is less than 0
The reason I was taken aback was not because of the complexity of this formula, but because of the fact that it was for the first time I saw someone apply absolute value function for some useful purpose.
I first came across the absolute value function in my mathematics textbook in standard 9th. And I always wondered what the use of this function is. Is it just to make the algebra problems more complex, so that math teachers such as Mrs Scott can easily group students into “My favorites” and “Spam” categories? Or does it serve any practical purpose in life? One practical purpose that I could think of was to apply it in my grades vs prize graph. Consider that the x-axis in the graph below represents the difference in marks I scored in mathematics when compared to the last test I appeared in, while y axis represents the price or the number of prizes I get from my dad for improvement I make in my grades. I suggested this idea to my dad, and got a week's detention.
I was always hopeful that engineers do use this function in the designs they make for nuclear reactors, fighter jets or T-800 robots that can travel back in time to save the world. However, to my disappointment, I never encountered either a formula or a theorem in my 4 years of engineering, that made use of the absolute value function anywhere. Or a T-800 design lab for that matter. The closest I came to experience a || symbol was while I was studying about capacitors in an electrical engineering book. So I started believing that this world is living a fool’s life to have invented this great mathematical function and never use it in day to day lives.
Years went by, and I totally forgot about it until the day I heard from my landlord. It seems like Puneites know how to use things to their advantage. They are the most educated and rationale people I have come across, as they have made the most out of absolute value function, and devised this magic formula. They have even generalized it to other spheres of our day to day lives such as calculating auto-rickshaw fares or the price of a movie ticket in multiplex. Hats off.
And after my landlord explained me about the formula, the conversation took a new direction altogether:
VM: Great calculation sir! Kudos to Pune property dealers for showing the world what it had been ignoring for long.
LL: So you also appreciate the fact. It is time now to apply it for betterment of society in general. How about making a start and raising the rent for your flat by Rs 500 per month?
VM: But my salary hasn't increased this year by even a single penny. And the property prices have fallen everywhere!!!
LL: That's the power of this calculation. It drives the city. Soon, the whole world will look at Pune as the city that set the example.
VM: Umm!! Sir on second thoughts, ignorance is bliss.
Darn the absolute value function. I can only hope that this world doesn’t open its closet and start looking for similar old unused stuff the way Pune did.