A MATHEMATICS professor used trigonometry to help a pig farm sue a hot air balloon company it claimed caused a fatal stampede among its animals.
North Yorkshire farming firm Ian Mosey (Livestock) claimed a hot air balloon had scared its pigs into a stampede - resulting in three sows suffering heart attacks and a boar dying from his injuries.
But the compensation was only secured with the help of Professor Chris Fewster from the Department of Mathematics at the University of York, who used trigonometry to prove their case.
The balloon, from Wiltshire-based company Go Ballooning, was flying over Low Moor Farm in April 2012 when it descended so low and fired its burners that the animals stampeded in fright. A herd of pigs fled to a corner of the field and ended up piled together in a ditch. Following the incident, the surviving pregnant sows suffered a number of aborted piglets and stillbirths.
Insurers for Go Ballooning attempted to use GPS data from the flight to claim the balloon did not come closer than 750m from the pigs, and could not have caused the stampede.
But Prof Chris Fewster, using a photograph of the balloon taken by the farmer’s wife, put the balloon at around 300m from the pigs when it fired its burner. The company’s insurer agreed a settlement of almost £40,000.
Dan Gilbank, manager at the farm, said: “The farmer’s wife decided to take the photo of the balloon because she thought it was a nice picture. Luckily, it ended up having a key role.
“The company denied they had been anywhere near the pigs because they knew they were meant to steer clear of the farm. The Civil Aviation Authority ordered that they were not allowed to come within 500m of the livestock, which they did.”
Prof Fewster, who used measurements of the size of the balloon and the trees in the background to measure the distance, said the mathematics involved were “fairly elementary”.
He added: “The wonderful thing about mathematics is that it helps us think clearly about the world. This case shows how even relatively simple mathematics like trigonometry can make an important contribution.”