Let's teach programming as a tool for analyzing data to transform the world

Data-scientist Kevin H Wilson argues that computers are tools for manipulating data -- from companies' sales data to the input from games controllers -- but we teach computer programming as either a way to make cool stuff (like games) or as a gateway to "rigorous implementation details of complicated language," while we should be focusing on fusing computer and math curriciula to produce a new generation of people who understand how to use computers to plumb numbers to find deep, nuanced truths we can act upon. Read the rest

Remember Winnie Cooper from The Wonder Years?

Meet Danica McKellar who as an undergraduate in college co-published a paper titled "Percolation and Gibbs states multiplicity for ferromagnetic Ashkin-Teller models on Z2," research that resulted in the Chayes–McKellar–Winn theorem. Oh yeah, before that, McKellar was Winnie on The Wonder Years.

(And just to confirm, Josh Saviano who played Paul Pfeiffer did not grow up to become Marilyn Manson.)

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Photo of the raddest high school math teacher in 1970s SoCal

Math teacher at Dana Hills High School in southern California, late 1970s. Pitted. So pitted.

Posted by the engaged educator's son on r/OldSchoolCool and making the rounds again. Read the rest

Outliers: the statistical mysteries that hold the key to understanding

John Johnson and Mike Gluck's new book, Everydata: The Misinformation Hidden in the Little Data You Consume Every Day is a tour-de-force of statistical literacy. This excerpt, a chapter on understanding statistical outliers, is as clear an explanation of what an outlier is, and what it means, and why it matters, as you're likely to find.

Echo Observatory: beautiful, tactile fractal explorer with knobs on

Love Hulten writes, "The Echo Observatory is a handcrafted tribute to fractals and self-similar patterns. It's a mysterious artifact that both generates and visualizes complex mathematical formations, in real-time." Read the rest

Where does your birthday land on pi?

To celebrate Pi Day (3/14), have fun with MyPiDay, developed last year by Stephen Wolfram and company. Enter your birthday or any other number and see where it first appears in pi.

Background in Wolfram's post here. Read the rest

Vi Hart Pi Day rant 2016: best one yet

Fast-talking, doodling math genius Vi Hart (previously) really hates Pi Day, and every year, she celebrates her loathing with a fresh video pooping on your 3/14 parade. Read the rest

Proposal: replace Algebra II and Calculus with "Statistics for Citizenship"

Andrew Hacker, a professor of both mathematics and political science at Queens University has a new book out, The Math Myth: And Other STEM Delusions, which makes the case that the inclusion of algebra and calculus in high school curriculum discourages students from learning mathematics, and displaces much more practical mathematical instruction about statistical and risk literacy, which he calls "Statistics for Citizenship." Read the rest

Kickstarting a season of monthly Relatively Primes, a great math podcast

Samuel writes, "The mathematics podcast Relatively Prime (previously) is currently running a Kickstarter to fund a third season, this time with monthly episode. The episodes will features stories about how network theory can help better understand cancer, how a marijuana dispensary license lottery is designed, and the act of mathematical vandalism which liberated algebra from the shackles of arithmetic. There really aren't any other mathematics podcasts out there like Relatively Prime and if the Kickstarter is not funded there really won't be any at all." Read the rest

NSA and GCHQ's crappy Big Data techniques may be killing thousands of innocents

Researchers have taken a second look at the NSA SKYNET leaks, as well as the GCHQ data-mining problem book first published on Boing Boing, and concluded that the spy agencies have made elementary errors in their machine-learning techniques, which are used to identify candidates for remote assassination by drone. Read the rest

Nerdy Valentines to print and love

Evil Mad Scientist Labs have released their latest set of nerdy Valentines ready for you to print, glue on cardstock, and use to win your true love's heart. Read the rest

Chaos and the double dendulum

Brian, a graduate student of Applied Mathematics at Columbia University, has a Tumblr called Fouriest Series where he posts his math and physics visualizations. His explanations are clearly written. He also provides the Mathematica code he used to create his animations. From his post about chaos and double pendulums:

Summarized by mathematician Edward Lorenz, "Chaos [is] when the present determines the future, but the approximate present does not approximately determine the future.“ There’s an important distinction to make between a chaotic system and a random system. Given the starting conditions, a chaotic system is entirely deterministic. A random system, on the other hand, is entirely non-deterministic, even when the starting conditions are known. That is, with enough information, the evolution of a chaotic system is entirely predictable, but in a random system there’s no amount of information that would be enough to predict the system’s evolution. The simulations above show two slightly different initial conditions for a double pendulum — an example of a chaotic system. In the left animation both pendulums begin horizontally, and in the right animation the red pendulum begins horizontally and the blue is rotated by 0.1 radians (≈ 5.73°) above the positive x-axis. In both simulations, all of the pendulums begin from rest.

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Big Data Ethics: racially biased training data versus machine learning

Writing in Slate, Cathy "Weapons of Math Destruction" O'Neill, a skeptical data-scientist, describes the ways that Big Data intersects with ethical considerations. Read the rest

President Obama pledges $4 billion for computer science education in schools

In his weekly address, President Barack Obama this week pledged $4 billion in federal funding for computer science education in schools throughout the nation.

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Slipstick funnies: in case of power-outage...

Rodney sez, "Wayne Pollock, a Computer Science instructor at Hillsborough Community College (FL), has this on his office wall. He says, 'I had that idea years ago, and my dad made the darn thing one year as a gift.'" Read the rest

Elegance, illustrated: heliocentrism vs geocentrism

In a gorgeous animation, Malin Christersson shows how much simpler it is to plot out celestial mechanics when you assume that all the bodies in our solar system are in orbit around the sun, rather than the other way around. Read the rest

The iPhone of slide rules

I have vague memories of my older scientist brother Mark wearing a slide rule in a leather case on his belt. It was really one of the first wearable computers, albeit a mechanical, analog one. Then in 1974, he was able to purchase a Texas Instruments SR-50, the first mass-market commercial electronic calculator. The slide rule was buried in Mark's desk drawer, where the SR-50, and later his Sharp Wizard, Palm Pilot, and their descendants would ultimately end up as well. (Mark died wearing a calculator wristwatch!)

In this episode of Numberphile, Alex Bellos explains the seduction of the slide rule and also the Halden Calculex, a device he calls the "iPhone of Slide Rules."

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