Monday, June 7, 2010

Fill 'er Up --are the oceans getting filled with oil?

The Deepwater Horizon oil disaster has stayed in the forefront of the news lately, so it has me wondering what more I might do with it in terms of high school mathematics. The latest news is about the "containment cap" that has been used to gather up some portion of the escaping oil.

I'm going to try to seek out some more global sources for the news I use, so here is a nice peice from the Guardian, a U.K. news organization summarizing the current state of the attempt to contain some of the spill: Guardian Article

Here's some video showing how much oil is still escaping around the so called "containment cap":

Some questions I think I would pose to my students (they're gone for the summer now, so this is just to build a database of ideas for the next few months) are:

  • Research the current information available about the spill and make an estimate of what volume of oil is still escaping each day and then calculate what percent of the total volume of the world's oceans and seas that is.
  • After oil has leaked into the ocean, we can think of the oceans as a mixture that is pat seawater and part crude oil. Make a function that will give the percent of the oceans' volume that is of crude oil as a function of time.
  • Find a meaningful way to graphically display this information.
  • How might you reframe the question to make the information found in answering the question more powerful if your goal is to inform the public about the immense scope of this disaster?
  • How might you reframe the question if you were working for BP and wanted to give the impression that the sheer size of the oceans give's them an enormous capacity to "absorb" human scale problems?

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