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 Love and Math: The Heart of Hidden Reality, summed up the Simulation Argument in the New York Times Sunday Review and asked whether we can test the hypothesis.
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.Read the rest
The Cartoon Introduction to Statistics is a new book by Grady Klein and Alan Dabney that is a top-notch introductory grounding in statistical concepts told through a series of witty, funny cartoons that relate stats to everything from fish populations to alien opinion surveys. This is a very introductory text, and it assumes that you know nothing about stats -- not even why you'd want to know more about the subject. The book tackles both the task of providing a grounding in statistical concepts (mean/median, standard deviation, null hypothesis, random sampling, confidence intervals, etc) and explaining in clear and exciting ways why you'd care about any of this stuff.
The authors do a great job of conveying the source material in clear, stepwise fashion, and made the wise decision to put the equations at the back of the book in an appendix called "The Math Cave." They don't delve deeply into any intermediate subjects like assessing correlation (for this, I highly recommend 1993's The Cartoon Guide to Statistics by Larry Gonick and Woollcott Smith, about which I can't say enough great and enthusiastic things), but that's probably a wise tactical decision. Confining the material to basics makes the whole work into an unqualified success.
Here's a great video pondering the objective reality of mathematics, and running down all the different schools of thought on where mathematical truth comes from -- does it exist outside of systems of codification by intelligent beings, as an eternal part of the universe; or is it something that we invent through codification?
Beast Academy is a set of grade three math textbooks and practice books structured as comic books about monsters. The books are "aligned to the common core state standards for grade three," if that matters to you. What's more significant is that they're actually really good math textbooks that introduce their subjects in a clear and easy-to-follow fashion, carefully linking each concept to the last; and the exercises are lively, fun, and built around stories that dovetail smoothly into puzzles, games, and other ways of putting the knowledge into practice. The monsters are great, too -- wonderful illustrations from Erich Owen, whose work you may recognize from the graphic novel adaptation of my story I, Robot.
Here's glassblower Alan Bennett's astounding triple-nested Klein bottle, a beautiful thing:
A single surface model made by Alan Bennett in Bedford, United Kingdom. It consists of three Klein bottles set inside each other to produce, when cut, three pairs of single-twist Mobius strips. A Klein bottle has no edges, no outside or inside and cannot be properly constructed in three dimensions.
(Image: Science Museum/Science & Society Picture Library)