We’ll Leave the Math to Sir Isaac Newton

The good news: we had a great weekend at the coast. The weather was perfect, we did a whole lot of lounging, ate some delicious seafood, and even spotted whales offshore.

The bad news: I gave myself a headache trying to figure out this whole “tides” thing.

I’d never really thought about it before. High tide, low tide, the work of the moon’s gravitational pull, blah blah blah. I just accepted it, the same way I accept the fact that heavy aircraft made of metal can somehow defy gravity and carry people across the ocean, mostly without incident, and that Pat Sajak looks exactly the same today as he did in 1990.

P L     S T     C      S U R     E R Y

I’d like a “G” please.

Anyway, like I said, I never gave much thought to the tides. Until this visit. I was curious about when high tide would roll in, so I pulled up a tidal chart online and immediately had my answer. 6:29 AM. 8.6 feet. Gotcha, thanks.

This man never ages. Explain that!
This man never ages. Explain that!

But then I started wondering, how can people know what time the second low tide occurs on, say, November 18? And what the measurement will be? (3:38 PM, 1.4 feet). I realize there are complex mathematical formulas involved, and that immediately makes my eyes glaze over, but I was curious, dammit. So I started researching. Turns out there are gravitational and centrifugal forces at work, involving both the moon (68.5% of the time) and the sun (31.5% of the time); and because the relative positions of the earth, sun, and moon change during the month, sometimes the gravitational pull of the sun and moon reinforce one another, causing higher tides, and other times they cancel each other out, causing lower tides. Some places (the Pacific Ocean) have semidiurnal mixed tides, two high tides and two low tides of unequal size each day; our friends on the Atlantic experience semidiurnal tides, two a day that are equal in height; and if you come from the land Down Under where women glow and men plunder, you get diurnal tides – that is, one high and one low per day. The mathematical formula for all this (if you want to try predicting tides at home just for fun, kids) is:

 A·[1 + Aa·cos(wa ·t + pa)]·cos(w·t + p).

Add in factors like ocean currents and storm surges and land masses and ocean floor topography and…hello, migraine! Sheesh. After reading all this, I’m even more confused over how we know what time high tide occurs on Rosh Hashanah (1:33 AM and again at 1:40 PM).

I’ll stick with solving Wheel of Fortune puzzles, thank you very much.

In house-for-sale news, our official MLS listing went up online yesterday. I shared it on Facebook, because…well, why not? Maybe a local friend has a local friend who has a local friend who is thinking of buying a house. It’s worth a shot, anyway. But several people commented they “felt weird” about looking at our house. One said it made her feel like “a peeping Tom.” I was a little surprised by this reaction. I mean, while the pictures show our house as is – lava lamps on the bookshelves, papers on the desk – it’s not like we have dirty socks strewn about the living room or bras hanging from the shower curtain rod. I assert that the video tour shows a “home” rather than a “house,” and that’s a good thing. And I love how our realtor describes certain components of the home. Like, the living room features “decorator colors.” Really, I just slapped some orange paint on the walls six years ago. And there is an “extra room” in the master bedroom, “perfect for an office space or dressing area.” I think calling the tiny alcove where I shoved a desk an extra room is being a tad generous, but if it’ll help the place sell, knock yourself out. Oddly enough, there was no mention originally of the vaulted ceilings upstairs, extra tall nine-foot ceilings (“perfect for basketball players”?), or central air-conditioning…all of which I consider key selling features. I quickly had her correct the listing. Also, because our fireplace is a crappy direct-vent style that has never worked properly, I told her to downplay that. Naturally, the online listing boasts of a “gas fireplace for winter comfort.” I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

I guess that depends on whether the hyperbole works.

Post-sunset view from our room on the coast.
Post-sunset view from our room on the coast.
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Published by Mark Petruska

I'm a professional writer and editor living my best life in south central Wisconsin.

24 thoughts on “We’ll Leave the Math to Sir Isaac Newton

  1. This line got me. “…it’s not like we have dirty socks strewn about the living room or bras hanging from the shower curtain rod.” Our home is currently on the market. Having moved a bazillion times (this is almost not an exaggeration) I know the great inconvenience of not being able to sling bras and socks all over the place. HA!


  2. Arithmetic (what they called it when I went to school) can be very deceiving. For instance now that I had the cataracts removed and a lens implant I can see 93 million miles. Whaddya mean you don’t believe me? I can see the sun.


    1. “93 million miles” is the best trivia answer ever. I’ve never forgotten the distance to the sun! Not that I’m disputing your excellent eyesight, either. After all, you’re not wearing glasses in your profile pic, so it stands to reason that you’re telling the truth!


  3. Loved this post, Mark, especially the Men At Work reference! I never minded math, but science just boggles my mind. Electricity? It works, that’s all I need or care to know! And is it just me, or does Sajak look just a little bit like Dick Clark? Hmmmmm……

    I could drone on and on about real estate listings. We were so aggravated when ours failed to mention that we had original hardwood floors (covered by carpeting in some rooms) through out the house. Um, I’m not a real estate agent, but don’t you think that’s a selling point??

    My favorite listings are the ones that include finished basements in their square footage to make the house seem bigger (4100 sq.ft.!!!). We argued with a realtor at an open house that listed 4 bedrooms. It was 3 bedrooms, but they put a bed in the basement. Sure.


    1. I never made the connection, but now that you mention it, I do see a resemblance between Pat Sajak and Dick Clark. “Hmmmmm…….” is right. I smell a conspiracy here. Then again, Vanna hasn’t aged much, either. I don’t know what’s in the water craft services hands out during tapings of that show, but I want some…

      Hardwood floors are totally a selling feature. As are basements. Sadly, they’re pretty rare out here in the PNW. (Basements, not hardwood floors).


  4. Eek! Our brain hurts. It’s quite sad that Mathair and I know nothing about tides, given we’re Floridians, come from a family of fishermen and her maiden name in fact means “Fishermen”, but sadly we just accepted that it’s reliable and inevitable. Great post and the love the pic.


  5. Hmmmm—- It’s official. The math is WAY beyond me. But me? I would feel so weird if anyone looked at photos of our house! That’s why I NEVER post any on my blog! LOL Seriously, I’m with you, Mark. That seems like a weird response.

    Hugs from Ecuador,


  6. “P L S T C S U R E R Y

    I’d like a “G” please.”

    Bwhahahahhahahahaha! Mark, that was positively GENIUS! HILARIOUS, man!

    “In house-for-sale news, our official MLS listing went up online yesterday.”

    Yahooo! And I have a feeling it’s going to sell very quickly 🙂

    Gorgeous photograph of the post-sunset – WOW!


    1. What can I say? I’ve always been a fan of Wheel of Fortune and have long wanted to be a contestant. Do you remember back in the real early days of the show, when you used to have to buy prizes with whatever money you won? “I’ll take the TV for $200, Pat…the mixer for $50…” Cash is nice, but I always liked to see what contestants would blow their dough on.


  7. Good luck with the house sale! Your description of the real estate listing reminds me of Empire Records. Maybe you should glue quarters to the floor and when prospective buyers visit and question your decor, you can say “I don’t need to explain my art to you.”


  8. I used to be a H_GE Wheel-of-Fortune fan until they changed the whole concept. Now it’s just BL_ _ H!! I even liked it more when Chuck Woolery was the host and Susan Stafford was the letter-turner. I’m still upset at Chucky for leaving. And for what?! A ‘Love Connection?’ Booo!!!!

    Green Grass and High Tides forever, man.


    1. Wow, you ARE a longtime fan! I remember when Chuck Woolery was the host as well, though it didn’t bother me when he left so much because I loved watching Love Connection, too! Can’t say I remember Susan Stafford, though. Nobody can ever replace Vanna!

      The Outlaws. Nicely done.


  9. Yes, my eyes glazed over with the tides, but my ears perked at the description of your home! That’s what I do… type the Realtors’ descriptions in our magazine. 3 bdrm, 2 bath, back to a wash for privacy, room for a pool, mountain & casino views… yada yada yada. They do have a way with words!


    1. I think they do have to be creative if they want to be successful. There are only so many ways you can word a 3 BR/2.5 BA duplex. But…casino view? People are clamoring for views of casinos? I had no idea…


    1. You never know! Though honestly, because it’s a short sale, I have little to gain from a bidding war. The bank is the one that comes out ahead in that scenario. But fingers crossed for a quick sale, if nothing else.


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