## Desert Diary

Math/Snakes

Mathematics may make some people recoil, but math comes in handy when
it comes to snakes! Suppose you were hiking and saw a snake with bands of red, yellow
and black: If the red and yellow were next to each other, it might be a venomous coral
snake, but if black were between red and yellow, it could be a harmless milk snake.
Identifying patterns has been described as the heart of mathematics.

Lines are also important in mathâ€”and it's the safest shape to find
a snake in: A snake lying flat on the ground in a line facing you cannot strike you.
But if a snake IS in striking position, what's a safe distance to stand? A snake
can strike half its length, So fractions and measurement estimation are very important!
And if an area might have rattlesnakes as long as 6 feet, you'd want to stay at
least 3 feet from any part of the trail that could hide a snake. And just think of the
mathematics behind how a snake is able to move! So understanding math helps us
understand snakes, and not just the adders!

Listen to the Audio.

Contributor: Lawrence M. Lesser, Mathematical
Sciences, University of Texas at El Paso.

Desert Diary is a production of KTEP, National Public Radio for the
Southwest at the University of Texas at El Paso.

*Black-tailed Rattlesnake (*Crotalus molossus*) coiled in striking position.
Photograph by A.H. Harris.*