Claude Shannon is one of the great, heroic titans of the computer science revolution, a brilliant scientist and Feynman-grade eccentric whose accomplishments fill several excellent books. Read the rest
It's been 15 years since the publication of Steven Wolfram's A New Kind of Science, a mindblowing, back-breaking 1,200-page book that (sort of) says the whole universe is made up of recursive fractals, also noteworthy for the frequent repetition of the phrase "A new kind of science" in its early chapters. Read the rest
FJ Anscome's classic, oft-cited 1973 paper "Graphs in Statistical Analysis" showed that very different datasets could produce "the same summary statistics (mean, standard deviation, and correlation) while producing vastly different plots" -- Anscome's point being that you can miss important differences if you just look at tables of data, and these leap out when you use graphs to represent the same data. Read the rest
A better understanding how a sperm swims its way toward an egg could help inform new treatments for male infertility. Researchers from the University of York have now come up with a mathematical formula to model how large numbers of moving sperm interact with fluid they're swimming through. From the University:
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By analysing the head and tail movements of the sperm, researchers have now shown that the sperm moves the fluid in a coordinated rhythmic way, which can be captured to form a relatively simple mathematical formula. This means complex and expensive computer simulations are no longer needed to understand how the fluid moves as the sperm swim.
The research demonstrated that the sperm has to make multiple contradictory movements, such as moving backwards, in order to propel it forward towards the egg.
The whip-like tail of the sperm has a particular rhythm that pulls the head backwards and sideways to create a jerky fluid flow, countering some of the intense friction that is created due to their diminutive sizes.
“It is true when scientists say how miraculous it is that a sperm ever reaches an egg, but the human body has a very sophisticated system of making sure the right cells come together," (says University of York mathematician Hermes Gadêlha.)
“You would assume that the jerky movements of the sperm would have a very random impact on the fluid flow around it, making it even more difficult for competing sperm cells to navigate through it, but in fact you see well defined patterns forming in the fluid around the sperm.
MNTNT's Albert Clock is a clock that presents the hours and minutes as simple math problems. Is it annoying or engaging? Or.... both!
In standard mode, the queries change every minute. They are completely random, so even the query for the hours change, even if the result stays the same.
You can speed up this challenge so the queries change in the fastest mode every 10 seconds.
You can also download the Albert Clock as a free mobile app.
Ever try to move a sofa down a hallway that has a corner? The underlying math behind it inspired a math problem that's been a puzzler since 1966. Gerver's Sofa above shows the parameters: a U-shaped sofa moving around a 90-degree corner in an even-width hallway. Gerver's got the record so far, and it is likely the optimal sofa. Read the rest
In 1959 Disney released a 30-minute educational featurette called "Donald in Mathmagic Land." Everything about it is superb - the design, the animation, the music, the narration, and the presentation of the material. I remember watching this in school and realizing how interesting math could be.
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Donald in Mathmagic Land is a 27-minute Donald Duck educational featurette released on June 26, 1959.It was directed by Hamilton Luske. Contributors included Disney artists John Hench and Art Riley, voice talent Paul Frees, and scientific expert Heinz Haber, who had worked on the Disney space shows. It was released on a bill with Darby O'Gill and the Little People. In 1959, it was nominated for an Academy Award (Best Documentary - Short Subjects). In 1961, two years after its release, it was shown as part of the first program of Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color with an introduction by Ludwig Von Drake. The film was made available to schools and became one of the most popular educational films ever made by Disney. As Walt Disney explained, "The cartoon is a good medium to stimulate interest. We have recently explained mathematics in a film and in that way excited public interest in this very important subject."