Data Sheet: Numerophobia

Numerophobia (attrib: Tested Technology)I CONFESSED IN OUR DS120J REVIEW to almost total brain seizure when presented with a problem like—for example—trying to calculate data rates in MB/second from data size in gigabytes and time taken to transfer in hours and minutes.

Yes, I push on with the job anyway, but with so little confidence in the validity of the result that I check and double-check and then email colleagues for confirmation that I’m not confusing my megabytes with megabits and my divisor with my dividend.

However—a breakthough. Thanks to a tip from Tested Technology consultant Jono Bull of EmailOctopus, I made a new friend in WolframAlpha.

I’d checked out this computational knowledge site when it was first launched about ten years ago, hadn’t been able to make much of it and so left it to its own devices. But it’s evolved into something generally very useful.

If, like me, you’re numerophobic, all you need to know is the right way to phrase your question. Keep it simple. In the case of my DS120j calculation, after a little experimentation I came up with the right way to lay out the problem for WolframAlpha:

“171.51 GB/104 minutes in MB/second?”

Wolfram Alpha Calculation

This is magic. WolframAlpha clearly sets out the assumptions it’s making about your input, shows its workings and delivers the result.

Chris Bidmead: 14 Feb 2020

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