Calculating US police killings using methodologies from war-crimes trials


Statistician Patrick Ball runs an NGO called the Human Rights Data Analysis Group, which uses extremely rigorous, well-documented statistical techniques to provide evidence of war crimes and genocides; HRDAG's work has been used in the official investigations of atrocities in Kosovo, Guatemala, Peru, Colombia, Syria and elsewhere. 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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Watch BBC documentary about Fermat’s Last Theorem


Pythagoras' Theorem, x2+y2=z2, is true when x=3, y=4, and z=5. In fact, there are an infinite number of whole number solutions for Pythagoras' Theorem.

But there are no known solutions for xn+yn=zn, when n equals any whole number other than 1 or 2. In 1637 mathematician Pierre de Fermat wrote in the margin of a book that he had devised a proof that there are no whole number solutions. The note was found 30 year later, and ever since then, no one has been able to prove it, though people have been trying for centuries.

This BBC documentary is about Oxford professor Andrew Wiles' lifelong obsession with Fermat's Last Theorem, which he read about when he was 10 years old. Wiles proved Fermat's Last Theorem in 1995. The proof is 150 pages long. If Fermat really did prove it, one can only guess how long his proof was. Read the rest

Math tutoring service in the form of a phone sex hotline


Mark says:

What would happen if you mixed a math education tutoring site with a late night 900 number?

Well, someone did, and it might end up being one of the strangest new startups out of Cambridge. It's called

While this might look like a silly idea it's been gaining a lot of traction in the past week and the tech behind it is actually pretty advanced and useful for students who are looking for help with math, statistics and other subjects.

Anyone can submit any math problem and they will get help solving it (the first one is free too).

A New Tutoring Startup Is Branding Itself as an Adult Hotline Read the rest

How a mathematician teaches "Little Brother" to a first-year seminar


Derek Bruff teaches a first-year college writing seminar in mathematics, an unusual kind of course that covers a lot of ground, and uses a novel as some of its instructional material -- specifically, my novel Little Brother. Read the rest

How to teach gerrymandering and its many subtle, hard problems


Ben Kraft teaches a unit on gerrymandering -- rigging electoral districts to ensure that one party always wins -- to high school kids in his open MIT Educational Studies Program course. As he describes the problem and his teaching methodology, I learned that district-boundaries have a lot more subtlety and complexity than I'd imagined at first, and that there are some really chewy math and computer science problems lurking in there. Read the rest

Paul Erdős's FBI file

Michael from Muckrock sez, "A Hungarian born in the early 20th century, Paul Erdős, mathematician, was well-known and well-liked, the sort of eccentric scientist from the Soviet sphere that made Feds' ears perk up in mid-century America." Read the rest

Kickstarting custom cellular automata scarves

Noah writes, "Fabienne Serriere, a hacker and machine knitting enthusiast, is running a Kickstarter currently for provably unique mathematical scarves modeled off of cellular automaton and made of Merino wool.

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The geometry of fireworks

“Enjoy the parabolic envelopes that form while those bright, sparkling, parabolic curves are etched into the sky tonight.”

Rudy Rucker's massive volume of journals now out!

Rudy Rucker -- mathematician, cyberpunk, computer scientist, gonzo hoopy frood happy mutant -- has released an 828 page volume of his journals! Read the rest

WATCH: Origami expert creates "impossible" computer-generated shape


Mathematician and origami expert Tom Hull created this pleated multi-sliced cone from paper, never before accomplished since Robert Lang designed it via computer. Read the rest

63 is a special number

-7/4 is also special. Dr Holly Krieger, a Postdoctoral Fellow from MIT explains dynamical sequences, prime divisors, and special exceptions. I also enjoyed her video about the Mandelbrot Set. (Via Pickover) Read the rest

Citizen Maths: open, free math education for adults

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)." Read the rest

Mathematician Edward Frenkel on whether the universe is a simulation

Regular BB readers know one of my favorite head trips is the idea that we're living in a simulation or control system of some kind. Decades before The Matrix, folks like Jacques Vallee, John Keel, Stephen Wolfram, Rudy Rucker, Hans Moravec, and Ed Fredkin explored this notion. And of course it's also been the subject of countless science fiction novels. In recent years, Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom developed a mathematical argument to support the mind-bending theory. A week ago, UC Berkeley mathematician Edward Frankel, author of Read the rest

The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets

The Simpsons is arguably the most successful television show in history. Inevitably, its global appeal and enduring popularity have prompted academics (who tend to overanalyze everything) to identify the subtext of the series and to ask some profound questions. What are the hidden meanings of Homer's utterances about doughnuts and Duff beer? Do the spats between Bart and Lisa symbolize something beyond mere sibling bickering? Are the writers of The Simpsons using the residents of Springfield to explore political or social controversies?

One group of intellectuals authored a text arguing that The Simpsons essentially provides viewers with a weekly philosophy lecture. The Simpsons and Philosophy, edited by William Irwin, Mark T. Conard, and Aeon J. Skoble, claims to identify clear links between variousepisodes and the issues raised by history's great thinkers, includingAristotle, Sartre, and Kant. Chapters include "Marge's Moral Motivation," "The Moral World of the Simpson Family: A Kantian Perspective,"and "Thus Spake Bart: On Nietzsche and the Virtues of BeingBad." Read the rest

Video: How to make chocolate out of nothing

In this video, Mariano Tomatis shows how to create chocolate out of nothing. Here is his explanation of this wonderful phenomenon, known as a missing square or vanishing area puzzle. (Thanks, Ferdinando Buscema!) Read the rest

Pi as music

[π] is a lovely and simple page that "explores the musical rhythm within 100,000 digits of π, an irrational number. #1 = Day | #0 = Night | #2–9 = La Musica." [π] ( Read the rest

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