Polynomials in Wood


What has 1-x/2-6x^2+11x^3-7x^4+3/2x^5 got to do with wood? Like you until a few days ago I would have said “Probably nothing” then I came across this chart:

Where it relates to how the bending strength of wood changes depending on the number of knots. From this lovely book, that I found at the local second hand book shop during Samuel Hansen’s recent visit to Fayetteville:

Which, is full of other equations and models, such as this one:

N = \frac{PQ}{P sin^n \theta + Q cos^n \theta}

which is then explored for several values of n.

Some of the tables caught my eye just for beautiful way that they present information:

Finally, its not just equations, there is also a collection of patterns, along with the intriguing chapter on Structural Design of Sandwich Construction (probably not what I am thinking about):

All this points out to me, once again how mathematics can be a powerful tool to help study anything. I know that when it comes down to it this is really just the well established link between mathematics and engineering, but, as a material, wood is so much more accessible and visceral than, say, concrete. For some a book on wood might even answer the eternal question of “How am I going to use this?” but it does at least show that quintic polynomials really do come up in real situations!

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