25 August 2015

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How Many Teeth Does The Tooth Fairy Pick Up Each Night in Utah?


Somebody asked me a question about my Tooth Fairy post the other day that got me thinking. How many baby teeth are lost every day in Utah?

I began with Googling. Surely someone else has thought of this and run some numbers, right? Lo, there is a tooth fairy site that claims that the Tooth Fairy collects 300,000 teeth per night.

That's a lot; however, when I ran the numbers, it started to seem awfully low.

Let's assume that the Tooth Fairy collects all baby teeth regardless of quality and we assume that all children lose all their baby teeth. The world population of children sits at 2.2 billion, with 74.2 million of them in the United States. Of those, approximately 896,961 of them are in Utah. This means that somewhere around .04077% of the world's children are in Utah.

If we assume that kids in Utah lose teeth at the same rate as all other children in the world and that each day in the year is just as likely as the rest to lose a tooth, then we have that of the alleged 300,000 daily collection, around 120 are collected in Utah.

No way.


That seems *way* too low! That means that of the 501 elementary schools in Utah, there is only one tooth lost in four schools a day. No way.

So, I decided to try digging up some numbers myself.

There are 668.3 million primary school-aged children in the world. I had trouble finding the same information for the United States, and for Utah, so I went with my already calculated .04077% and used it as a proportion, assuming that the proportion of primary school-aged children to other kids would be about the same throughout the world.

This gives us 272,472 primary school-aged children in Utah. Since I'm in the business of making sweeping intuitive-based assumptions, I will further assume that the average child loses nearly all of their teeth in elementary school, or, let's say, all of their 24 baby teeth and that they lose them at the same rate throughout those six years. This means that they will lose on average 4 teeth per year.

With 272,472 school children each losing 4 teeth a year, we have 1,089,888 teeth lost in Utah each year or about 3,000 every day. With 501 schools, this gives us about 6 teeth lost at school per day which seems more intuitive. The NCES states that the average number of elementary school kids per school is 523. If they are all losing teeth on average 4 per year, that means 5.7 teeth per day which is in the ballpark of 6. So, at least we are in the right order of magnitude.

So, now you can answer your childrens' penetrating questions with greater confidence. You are welcome.

More Silly Musings

  • Based on all of this, that means that an astonishing 7.3 million teeth are collected by the Tooth Fairy conglomerate every single day or 2.6 billion a year. That is a pretty big tooth palace.
  • If we assume that the one night that Tooth Fairy Rita mentioned in her letter was a typical night and that Rita is a typical Tooth Fairy, then there are roughly 30 tooth fairies assigned to Utah alone.
     
  • Of course, there is the problem of distance travelled. Certainly, the tooth fairy in Southern Utah will need to travel further distances to reach 100 teeth per night than the tooth fairy in baby booming areas like where we live. So, perhaps it is the case that Rita has a relatively high number of teeth to collect since her geographical area is smaller meaning that there are several more than 30.

23 August 2015

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A Letter From Tooth Fairy Rita

Our Tooth Fairy is very forgetful. And since she only gives 50 cents per tooth, we've learned over the years that she is also very "frugal" compared to other families' fairies.

Still, the kids seem to accept our Tooth Fairy in stride with all her idiosyncrasies. Sometimes the Tooth Fairy will forget to pick up the tooth for a couple of days and then bring money and some candy to make up for the delay. Sometimes she will leave a note under the children's bed explaining that she is "in training."

This time around, it was very interesting. Isaac, our second child, lost a tooth in May over Mother's Day weekend and proceeded to lose it. We were in Boise at the time. Isaac looked for the tooth everywhere, but to no avail.

We explained that if he would write a note to the Tooth Fairy, all would be well. He, like his father, promptly forgot about this for the next three months.

Then, three days ago, Isaac remembered and he wrote a note to the Tooth Fairy, leaving it by his pillow. Then the unthinkable happened: no Tooth Fairy appeared for two whole days! Happily, last night, Zac's Tooth Fairy sent a letter explaining the whole thing:

"Zac,

I must tell you of the amazing adventure I've just had arriving at your house tonight.

It began May 9th when the Global Untoothing Mobilization System (GUMS) alerted me to a tooth that had just fallen out of one of my childrens' mouths. Your mouth. It was one that I'd been monitoring for a few days now, making my plans to collect the tooth to add it to the picture frame that sits above the mantlepiece in my front room. There was a gaping tooth-sized hole in the picture frame from a tooth that had fallen out, and I thought "Zac's tooth is just the one I need to repair it."

I was out the door immediately, kit in hand. I, of course, had all the items required by the Tooth Fairy Federation (TFF)--rubber gloves, tweezers, platic bags, fairy dust--but about half way there, GUMS informed me that no tooth was under the pillow.

You see, tooth fairies typically leave their homes in anticipation of the tooth being placed under the pillow. If we waited until the tooth was actually under the pillow, we wouldn't be able to get all the children visited in one night who had lost teeth. So the TFF built GUMS as an early-alert system to help keep us on schedule.

When your tooth got lost however, GUMS started beeping at me with a fury indicating that the desired tooth was not under the pillow. As you know, rules are rules, so my trip was cancelled, and I was reassigned to other children for the remainder of the evening who had followed protocol.

My life as a Tooth Fairy went on as normal, though there was still that little gap in the picture frame. GUMS showed that you, Zac, still had several teeth to use and I was going to use the very next one that came out to repair the picture frame. Well, unless the next tooth were a wisdom tooth. Those are *way* too big, and it would probably poke out from the frame, creating a spot where things like coats and shirt sleeves would catch and people walked by. Fortunately for me, you are only 9, so I wasn't too worried about the next tooth being over-sized for the job.

And then, a few days ago it happened. GUMS happily chimed that Zac had just lost a tooth. As you know by now, I was out like a flash, your tooth among the many on my list to go collect. You hadn't placed it under your pillow as yet, but I had to leave right away with my list to get everywhere I needed to be in time.

When it came time to check your pillow, I saw your note. Up until this point, I did not know that your tooth had been lost. All I knew was that GUMS said that it wasn't under your pillow and that was that. This letter clarified a very important point about the whole thing.

Boy, oh boy, though, did it cause a *stir*. You see, your request was obviously very sincere. We fairies can see into children's hearts, and I know that you are a good and sincere boy. Besides, that was the tooth that I had always wanted for my picture frame! I phoned an old roommate from Tooth Fairy University that lives in Meridian and asked if he could go to your Aunt Laurie's house to check things out.

Of course, Carlisle, the tooth fairy in Meridian, was a bit put out, claiming that it wasn't his area of jurisdiction, it wasn't one of his children, and that he had a whole list of his own to take care of. I reminded him of how I'd helped him out in Fairy Physics class and that he owed me one. Grudgingly, he complied and did a brief fly-by.

He came back with bad news--he couldn't find the tooth anywhere. Now Carlisle is not the brightest dew drop on the morning flower, if you know what I mean. I asked him if he'd checked under the couch. "Yes." "In the couch cushions?" "Yes" "In the microwave?" "Why would it be there?" "You never know, its been a couple of months." "Okay, no I didn't check the microwave, you want me to go back?" "No, it's a long shot. Alright, thanks."

I realized that if I was going to get that tooth back, it was going to have to be me. I called the Tooth Fairy Federation Western United States Regional Chair to ask for my route to be redistributed so that I could make an emergency trip to Boise to get an LT (long tooth), or in other words, an old tooth that was never picked up. Old teeth are given some level of priority since they decay and if they aren't collected in time, they can become useless. On occasion, exceptions are granted, like when a very important person like Diana Ross loses a tooth, or a kid has an especially bad day and really needs the coins to cheer him up, or like when the Tooth Fairy is new and has missed a particular kid on his or her route for a couple of days in a row (I'm not naming any names, by the way, but I'm pretty sure that happened a couple of times with the Tooth Fairy assigned to your sisters. Just sayin...).

Calling for an emergency route transfer for an old tooth collection was a long shot. The regional chair said, "Nah, we'll just dispatch the Long Tooth Collection Squad like we usually do. Get back to your route." I persisted. This was for my child, Zac! I mentioned your note, and I made sure to speak of you in the highest regard. The character of a child is very important in the eyes of Tooth Fairies, you know.

"So, you want me to redistribute your entire route of 100 children across the entire Salt Lake Valley so you can fly up to Boise to collect one measly tooth?" "Yes, for a boy who is very important to me. He wrote this note, and he has a good heart." It was also because this tooth would be *perfect* to fix my picture frame, but I didn't want to mention that. Especially because it was the middle of the night and regional chairs tend to get pretty crabby when asked to make a change like this mid-route.

The chair sighed. "Look, Rita, just let the squad take care of it, okay? We'll deliver the money by courier like we usually do."

I was undeterred. "What if we didn't redistribute the route to other fairies? I will do the 100 I have tonight over the next two days along with my other stops so that I can head up to Boise tonight to find the other tooth. No other fairies need to be inconvenienced."

There was a brief pause on the phone as the chair considered it. "This boy is that important to you?" "Yes, sir." "Okay, have a good time."

Yes! I thought as I zoomed up to Boise as fast as my fairy wings would take me. Fairies can go fast, but, as you can imagine, Boise to and from is definitely an all-night job. I got to your Aunt Laurie's at somewhere around 2 in the morning and began my search.

It wasn't under the couch nor in the cushions. At least Carl was right about that. I checked the carpet within a 10-foot radius to no avail. I sat on the armrest on the couch to think. Where was Zac's tooth? I thought that maybe what had happened was that it got caught in a fold in your clothes, so maybe you carried it around with you for a little bit before it fell to the ground somewhere. So, I searched the carpet in the entire basement area. Still no luck.

I decided to start searching on the main level. My hope of finding your tooth was fading, but there were still many places to look. Maybe the tooth was picked up by the dog or something. Or maybe it got stuck in the grooves of someone's shoe as they walked across the carpet.

After searching for an hour, I flew into the kitchen to check the time on the microwave. It was 3:23 in the morning. I had been searching for nearly an hour and a half! The tooth just *had* to be here in the house somewhere. I decided it was time to go with my last resort. I pulled out my tool kit, snapped on my rubber gloves, and put on my safety goggles. I opened my knapsack of fairy dust and used it to open the cupboard, pull out a cup and quietly fill it with water from the tap. (This has to all be done very carefully so as to not wake up anyone in the house.) Then I mixed a small amount of fairy dust into the water and whispered a magical incantation that made the water glow blue. The last step was to heat it up.

Again with a small trickle of fairy dust, I opened up the microwave to place into it the cup of water, now glowing blue. I never actually heated it up, though. To my utter amazement, as I placed the glowing blue cup into the microwave, it shone against the back side of the microwave, and what did I see? Your tooth!

Defying all reason, your little tooth had waited at the back of your Aunt Laurie's microwave for who knows how long! I picked up the tooth, placed it in my knapsack, dumped the glowing blue fairy water down Aunt Laurie's drain, and flew back towards home.

The next two days were a blur of work, trying to catch up on all the missed little ones who had lost teeth. It was worth it, though!

And now, after two days of hard work, I'm happy to place money for both teeth under your pillow. Tonight, I'll be using your tooth to fix a picture frame that sits above my mantlepiece, and it is going to look perfect! Enjoy your quarters and keep taking care of your teeth! (Oh, and if you ever run into Carl, don't mention to him that the tooth *was* in the microwave after all. Okay?)

Sincerely,

Your Tooth Fairy"

Well, I'm glad that's settled. :)
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Deacons, Minecraft, and the Purpose of Life

Each Sunday, about a dozen individuals, myself included, volunteer to teach teens about life and choices in the context of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Somehow, this idea works on occasion. My area of responsibility is boys age 12-13, and I have between 12 and 15 of them that come to our weekly meeting, which means that it works less often for me than it does for those working with the slightly more mature strains of the species. I've been volunteering this way for four year now, and while the discussions are probably relatively typical of other groups of chaperoned 12-13 year old boys, every once in a while--like two Sundays ago--they surprise me.

What is the purpose of life? Minecraft, of course.


In these meetings, a boy moderates the roughly 45-minute discussion centered on a particular theme. This particular day, the boy moderator asked a question about what our purpose is in life. The boys quietly answered various things like the steady trickle of a leaky faucet. The answers, while true, were largely predictable; "To be tested by our Father in Heaven", "To learn to be like Jesus Christ", and whatnot. Eventually, though, one boy used an analogy that every boy this day and age can relate to: Video Games.

He said that the only games that he likes have a purpose or a goal and that purposes and goals are important to him. The other boys nodded in support acknowledging the familiar beat of a popular song. However, then a boy dissented: "I don't think that's true. Minecraft is a fun game and there is no purpose to it. Its lack of purpose is what makes Minecraft fun, you can just do whatever you want."

My eyes lit up. These are my favorite moments with the boys because they are on the cusp of seeing a larger more complicated world. I interrupted the conversation and said, "What do you think about so-and-so's comment? Is Minecraft a fun game?" The room erupted appropriately with boys clamouring to say what part of Minecraft they liked the best whether it was building traps or exploding piles of TNT or chopping down a tree with his bare hands.

Side Note: It's quite difficult to pull a group of boys back from a discussion about video games. It's sort of like padding a canoe upstream with a matchstick for an oar and molten lava for water. Not only is progress slow, things keep catching fire all the time. (Try camping with a bunch of scouts and then tell me I'm wrong.)

Do atheists have a point, then?


I quieted them down, yanking them from their digital reverie and asked, "So, what would you say to someone who used Minecraft as their analogy for, say, life? They say: 'I don't think life needs a built-in purpose to be meaningful. I like defining my own purpose. That's what makes life so fun.'"

Silence. A couple boys tuned out again, seeing that the discussion had gone back to the metaphysical, but some looked pensive like they weren't sure what they would answer. One boy captured the collective defensive consciousness of several in the room, dismissing the threat against his neat and tidy world by employing the simplest of boyhood axioms: "I'd tell him he's stupid."

God looked at the blank sheet of paper of eternity and drew us upon it.
Other boys offered weak attempts at defending the idea of a God-purposed life: "Life would be meaningless without a purpose," "it's different than Minecraft because you can't respawn" and again "that's just dumb."

I realized that this was a question that the boys could use some time to think about it, so I tabled the discussion, challenging them to think, ask their parents, and come back next week with how they would answer their friend who dismissed a God-purposed life.

A week went by, and I grew a little pensive myself. Was this too tricky of a question at their age? Would it discourage them from participating or from coming? I waited.

From the Mouths of 12-year-olds


Happily, come Sunday, nearly everyone attended. One of the boys even reminded me that I'd asked them to think about their answer to the question. (This isn't so common. Usually 12-13 year old boys don't remember unless I staple something to their foreheads. And call, text, and email parents. And verbally remind them the night before.)

We put the boys in pairs to share their answer first with a buddy in the room. Getting boys to talk in the first place is a bit of a challenge--wrestling a crocodile to pull out an infected tooth is also a challenge--so the buddy system is a good warm-up. It lets them test out the words and the idea on a single human being, like when I share business ideas first with my neighbor before I will anyone else.

Then, we went around the room, giving everyone a chance to weigh in with their idea. I listened apprehensively, like a father watching his son shoot a free throw at a basketball game. I prayed silently that the boys had found a way to walk further down the road than "well, he's an idiot".


The teleological argument. The first boy said that there must be a reason that the Universe was created because it was so amazingly perfect that it couldn't have come about by chance. Someone must have designed it, and He must have had a purpose in doing it. The is also called the Clockmaker argument. Most Latter-Day Saints who I know are very comfortable with this argument because they also proffer the idea that God can use science to create the Universe and that we are not bound by God's commandments to believe Youth Earth explanations to our origin.

The moral argument. Another boy said that there is no reason to be good if life simply ends at death. While his might sound a bit sociopathic (shouldn't we just love to be good anyway?), the boy's point was that the fact that we inexorably see something as right or wrong could be used as a proof of God's existence. Several boys chimed in with similar responses that our moral code derives from being created by God for a reason.

Pascal's Wager. One boy was clever enough to offer up Pascal's wager, though he didn't know he was saying it at the time. He said that even if there is no purpose, no afterlife, and no God, that our best bet is to act in faith that He is there. Pascal's wager places four possibilities into a chart like so:
     
Faith Faithless
God Heaven Hell
No God Doesn't matter Doesn't matter


This boy explained in 12-year-old words the same idea that if there is no afterlife and no inherent purpose to our existence or no implied creator, then there is nothing to worry about either way. The only column that has a negative consequence is to remain faithless.

It was a good discussion, and I told the boys how impressed I was at them having taken the question so seriously. (In my mind I was thinking, 'I did *not* have this level of spiritual court vision at 12 years of age!') I shared with them my own convictions about God's existence and our divine purpose while here on Earth.

So, do atheists have a point or not?


Later on, I was telling my wife this story, and explained to her I believe that there is an additional point of view that resonates with me. This point of view is that the "Minecrafter" isn't entirely wrong. Indeed, I believe that Latter-Day Saints accept this idea of defining one's own purpose deeper and more legitimately than any atheist that commits to it only until death.

Latter-Day Saints believe in an existence of Eternal Progression that extends beyond death. For those faithful to God in this life, such progression leads to us eventually becoming like God. The plan outlined by God is similar to what any father would want for his offspring: To eventually take on the same abilities and responsibilities that Dad has and does.

God* is not in need of our praise, our existence, or our purposes. He is  self-sustaining, self-existing, and independent. I believe that most theists would agree with me that God determines his own purposes. He gives us a hint to his purpose in Moses 1:39:

39. For, behold, this is my work and my glory to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.

But why is that God's purpose? I believe the answer is simple: Because He wants it to be his purpose. He looked at the blank sheet of paper of eternity and drew us upon it because it pleased Him to give us a chance to have His same joy and progression. If you are a mom or dad, you will recognize the same reasons in your own heart for why you had children.

If we are to become like Him, I suppose that eventually we will experience the same weighty and liberating responsibility of determining our own pathway through eternity. It's like Minecraft, but on an unimaginable scale of time and space.

Today, my purpose is to follow the path God has laid before me, knowing that it is a path that leads back to Him. There are plenty of areas where He is happy to allow me to choose my own purpose within the larger umbrella of things--my career, my spouse, my pasttimes--so long as it does not deter me from my main purpose to reach Him. Such exercise of free agency gives me practice for the much bigger (eternal) agency I am going to employ much further down eternity's road.

In reality, then, I have no problem with supposing that Minecraft may be an analogy for the value of defining our own purpose. Eventually, the only purposes left will be my own and my spouse's to whom I'm married for eternity. It simply needs to be looked at on an eternal scale to be worth while.

Wow. All of that thinking because of a question from a 12-year old. Thanks, man!

*Latter-Day Saints believe in the principle of eternal families and that God is an example of what we are to become. Thus, when I say God, I mean it in the plural: Both Father and Mother.