Do imaginary numbers exist?

So, I’m going to derail in 52 minutes because I’m supposed to take 1.3 doses of my pills by midnight. And that’s not really possible. So, I guess I really derailed when I missed my morning dose. And, my fine print says I’ve got until 2:00 pm to take my morning dose, but I can be a little weaselly about that. I mean, how bad an idea is a dose at 5pm and one at midnight, better than a missed day, right?

Would it be a terrible idea, medically or Beeminder-wise, to take 130% of a dose and call that 1.3?

And, here’s where we get back to the title in a very round-about way, wouldn’t it be nice if the due amounts defaulted to integers?



Definitely take the derailment before deviating from what’s medically optimal!

[hitting send now and then thinking about the integer stuff and editing that in]

PS: So, yeah, I think it depends on the medication whether you can double up if you miss a dose? I’m not that kind of doctor. Anyway, point being, definitely do the medically optimal thing, whatever that is, starting now.

And you totally can set your display precision in the goal settings to only show integers. See Integery Goals, Timey-Wimey Goals, and Conservarounding | Beeminder Blog

Of course that just means that when you have 1.3 due it will conservatively tell you that you have 2 due. So not really helpful in this case.

I think you can solve that more generally by making sure the daily slope of your bright red line is an integer and then ratcheting away whatever fractional amount you currently have due.


Sure, although what’s medically optimal with a missed dose isn’t entirely clear. And I’m arrogant enough to think that my guess is pretty good. I recently spoke with my edocrinologist and told him that, on my own authority, I’d taken myself off insulin months ago and lied to a walkin clinic doctors to get Metformin. His reaction, “Eh, seems to be working”.

My post may have obfuscated the point… just bloody frustrating to watch it count down and not be able to do anything. What do I need to do before midnight… got to floss, got to climb some stairs, ack! can’t do anything about that one.

I commented on your MessyMatters Insurance column. I think you’re close to exactly right. But the wife says “I told you so!”, that’s a confounding condition.


FWIW, I used to have a toothbrushing goal that had the same issue—when I got to the end of the day and it said I needed to brush my teeth twice, it really meant that I’d derailed when I’d forgotten to brush that morning. Of course, it’s less bad to brush unnecessarily long than it is to take extra dosage of medicine… but still, the same flavor of goal failure.

So I split it into two goals, brushday and brushdark, which are responsible for brushing between 05:00–17:00 and 17:00–05:00, respectively, so now if one of them is a beemo it derails independently from the other (which also helps prevent the “welp, what the hell” effect if I derail on brushday from affecting brushdark). Something like that might work for your medicine-taking goal? It’s a different style of extra toil compared to “remembering to make the slope rational and ratcheting away fractional parts”.


Thanks! That might work, or at least be a 60% solution. It was just the two things together, the apparent impossibility of meeting the goal (which, is really equivalent to derailing in the morning), and the frustrating idea that I could derail because I’d missed by 0.3, or 0.03, 0.003.

I also think imaginary numbers are terribly named, and they are in fact (or, properly thought of) as no more imaginary than 0.003.


Don’t they usually say what you should do in such a case in the leaflet?

Yep, an “instaderail” feature would be nice in such a case…

I have a lot of goals about things I should do daily, and my way is to set the daily rate to 0.8 and autoratchet them so I have at most 2 days of buffer. This works well for me, but that leeway might be too big for “medical” goals…

(and these two in one post!)

Thanks, @dreev – now you totally made my day and basically erased my previous frustration with Beeminder. Fantastic! :wink:

Agreed. Though they are hardly the winner of the “most terribly named mathematical concept” competition – how about first/second-countable spaces, T-3½ spaces and my personal favorite, weak-* topology (it’s pronounced “weak-star”)?


Um… I get the sense that you did more math than I did. At least so far. And, I’m not sure that “imaginary” doesn’t win on a very important dimension. The name goes a long way towards convincing students that, “wtf, I didn’t see how I was ever going to use cosines and now we’re going to study numbers that don’t even exist?” “They do exist, Billy, just as surely as zero and negative one.” “Right, Mr. Johnson. And unicorns.”

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