Math in Real Life, Part 1: Fruit Algorithms

I recently went to Costco and bought a rather large tub of blueberries. I am a huge fan of blueberries – in fact, the engine of this blog was once named “blueberry,” – and I am a huge fan of fresh fruit in general. While picking from said tub, I mentioned to a friend that as I munch away, I frequently scan the entire viewable area of berries and quickly select the “best” one in view for my next berry. I do this not just with blueberries, but with strawberries, raspberries, blackberries… in fact, I probably do it with many more foods. But in this case, we did an experiment, which goes thusly:

Shake a tub of berries so it’s a fresh “layout” and have a friend peruse it. Then, you each reveal the “best” berry – the one you’d go for if you were choosing. The first FIVE throws we matched 100%. The next few took us up to two or three picks to match. But the fact remains, we agreed that as we ate, we’d do a quick scan – all in an instant, of course, the deliberation is almost entirely subconscious – and choose the best remaining berry/berries. And furthermore, in the first five throws, we were able to agree with no debate as to which was the best remaining berry, without defining what qualities should be prized in an assessment of “best.” I think many people do this, and not just with fruit, but with all sorts of things. Is it just human nature?

There you go: math in real life.