The astonishingly prolific author/scientist Clifford Pickover (see the review of his Book of Black for a list of some of his other books) is a math enthusiast with a talent for ferreting out fascinating anecdotes about math, and writing them in a way that inspires wonder.
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Why does a flat pizza slice flop over unless you bend it into a curve? Thank Gaussian curvature, the 19th century mathematical principle that underpins everything from corrugated cardboard to eggshells to Pringles chips.
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Seb writes, "Citizen Maths is a new CC-BY licensed open online maths course produced in the UK for adults and college students who want to improve their grasp of maths at what in the UK is known as Level 2 (the level that 16 year old school leavers are expected to reach, though many do not)."
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Pancake pioneer Saipancakes has combined a spirograph with a pancake-batter dispenser -- the Pangraph -- and it makes gorgeous fairy-pancakes with many nested symmetries.
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You will need a knife, a non-toxic marker, and some math. Read the rest
Brilliant, high-speed math vlogger Vi Hart has revisited the topic of the sizes of infinities.
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I enjoyed learning about statistics, probability, zero, infinity, number sequences, and more in this heavily illustrated kids’ book called How to Be a Math Genius, by Mike Goldsmith. But would my 11-year daughter like it as much? I handed it to her after school and she become absorbed in it until called for dinner. She took it to the dinner table and read it while we ate. The next day, she asked for the book so she could finish it. Loaded with fun exercises (like cutting a hole through a sheet of paper so you can walk through it), How to Be a Math Genius will show kids (and adults) that math is often complicated, but doesn’t need to be boring. (This book is part of DK Children’s How to Be a Genius series. See my review of How to Be a Genius.)
See sample interior pages at Wink. Read the rest
Cellular automata are curious and fascinating computer models programmed with simple rules that generate complex patterns that cause us to consider whether the universe is a computer and life an algorithm. Over at Science News, Tom Siegfried has the first of a two-part series on cellular automata:
Traditionally, the math used for computing physical laws, like Newton’s laws of motion, use calculus, designed for tasks like quantifying change by infinitesimal amounts over infinitesimal increments of time. Modern computers can help do the calculating, but they don’t work the way nature supposedly does. Today’s computers are digital. They process bits and bytes, discrete units of information, not the continuous variables typically involved in calculus.
From time to time in recent decades, scientists have explored the notion that the universe is also digital. Nobel laureate Gerard ’t Hooft, for instance, thinks that some sort of information processing on a submicroscopic level is responsible for the quantum features that describe detectable reality. He calls this version of quantum physics the cellular automaton interpretation.
"If the world is a computer, life is an algorithm
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visits the National Museum of Mathematics
in NYC which apparently isn't "boring, useless, too hard, irrelevant, stifling" or any of the other unpleasant things that museum co-founder Glen Whitney says many people associate with math. Read the rest
Dan Nosowitz on the obsession with a mechanical toy invented 40 years ago--"simple in theory, it can be tremendously complex to conquer
" -- and Google's
obsession with it in particular. Read the rest
[Video Link]There are roughly 80,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 unique ways to order 52 playing cards. “Any time you pick up a well shuffled deck, you are almost certainly holding an arrangement of cards that has never before existed and might not exist again.” (Via Adafruit Industries) Read the rest
is a free online course on practical, applied cryptography: " everything you need to understand complete systems such as SSL/TLS: block ciphers, stream ciphers, hash functions, message authentication codes, public key encryption, key agreement protocols, and signature algorithms." Read the rest
You've probably seen this image making the rounds on social media. It shows a method of doing basic subtraction that's intended to appear wildly nonsensical and much harder to follow than the "Old Fashion" [sic] way of just putting the 12 under the 32 and coming up with an answer. This method of teaching is often attributed to Common Core, a set of educational standards recently rolled out in the US.
But, explains math teacher and skeptic blogger Hemant Mehta, this image actually makes a lot more sense than it may seem to on first glance. In fact, for one thing, this method of teaching math isn't really new (our producer Jason Weisberger remembers learning it in high school). It's also not much different from the math you learned back when you were learning how to count change. It's meant to help kids be able to do math in their heads, without borrowing or scratch-paper notations or counting on fingers. What's more, he says, it has absolutely nothing to do with Common Core, which doesn't specify how subjects have to be taught. Read the rest
Charles writes, "It's hard to imagine how we would have gotten all of the whiz-bang technology we enjoy today without the discovery of probability and statistics. From vaccines to the Internet, we owe a lot to the probabilistic revolution, and every great revolution deserves a great story!
"The Fields Institute for Research in Mathematical Sciences has partnered up with the American Statistical Association in launching a speculative fiction competition that calls on writers to imagine a world where the Normal Curve had never been discovered. Stories will be following in the tradition of Gibson and Sterling's steampunk classic, The Difference Engine, in creating an imaginative alternate history that sparks the imagination. The winning story will receive a $2000 grand prize, with an additional $1500 in cash available for youth submissions."
What would the world be like if the Normal Curve had never been discovered? (Thanks, Charles!)
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Carlo Séquin is a computer science professor and sculptor at UC Berkeley who explores the art of math, and the math of art. He lives in a world of impossible objects and mind-bending shapes. Séquin’s research has contributed to the pervasiveness of digital cameras and to a revolution in computer chip design. He has developed groundbreaking computer-aided design (CAD) tools for circuit designers, mechanical engineers, and architects. Meanwhile, his huge abstract sculptures have been exhibited around the world. Visiting the computer science professor emeritus’s office is like taking a trip down the rabbit hole. Paradoxical forms are found in every corner, piled on shelves, poised on pedestals, hanging from the ceiling—optical illusions embodied in paper, cardboard, plastic, and metal.
I wrote about Séquin for the new issue of California magazine and you can read it here: Sculpting Geometry Read the rest