Jon Cog writes, "For Christmas, mathematician Donald Knuth shared some great geeky fun. He revealed how for the last 57 years, he's been incorporating the digits of pi into the exercises of his computer programming books -- a whopping 1,700 times. And before long his annual 'Christmas Tree' lecture 'had turned into a kind of intellectual funhouse,' sharing other mind-boggling pi-related miscellanies."
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There's a scene in my novel Homeland (the sequel to Little Brother) in which the first 1,000 digits of Pi are featured; when it came time to produce the audiobook edition, poor Wil Wheaton -- the narrator -- ended up reading out Pi for four solid minutes, with some entirely understandable difficulties. Nick Land set the reading to music, creating quite a delightful little tune!
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Nathan Davis writes, "When you shuffle a deck, it rearranges the order of the cards and I got wondering what that looked like. Read the rest

Are you the driver in the lot who parks in the first spot you see? Or do you circle around and around looking for a spot by the door? Physicists Paul Krapivsky of Boston University and Sidney Redner of the Santa Fe Institute explored the mathematics of parking. The research required different equations and simulations to model the benefits of the various parking approaches. From EurkeAlert!:

In their paper, Krapivsky and Redner map three simple parking strategies onto an idealized, single row parking lot. Drivers who grab the first space available follow what the authors call a "meek" strategy. They "waste no time looking for a parking spot," leaving spots near the entrance unfilled. Those who gamble on finding a space right next to the entrance are "optimistic." They drive all the way to the entrance, then backtrack to the closest vacancy. "Prudent" drivers take the middle path. They drive past the first available space, betting on the availability of at least one other space further in. When they find the closest space between cars, they take it. If no spaces exist between the furthest parked car and the entrance, prudent drivers backtrack to the space a meek driver would have claimed straightaway.

So which strategy is best? As the name suggests, the prudent strategy. Overall, it costs drivers the least amount of time, followed closely by the optimistic strategy. The meek strategy was "risibly inefficient," to quote the paper, as the many spaces it left empty created a lengthy walk to the entrance.

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From Toby's "Tibees" YouTube channel:
"A math lesson about logarithms inspired by the legendary painter Bob Ross."

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Making a solar hot-dog oven is a science fair standby, but JohnW539's CNC-milled Sundogger Instructable really digs into the classroom portion, drawing on the creator's experience as a physics/astronomy/computer science prof at Middle Tennessee State University.
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SL Huang got a degree in math from MIT, then became a martial artist, stuntwoman and weapons expert; her debut novel, Zero Sum Game, features an ass-kicking action hero called Cas Russell, who combines all of Huang's areas of expertise: Russell is a ninja-grade assassination/extraction contractor whose incredible math skills let her calculate the precise angles needed to shoot the bolts out of an armored window as she leaps towards it from an adjacent roof; to time a kick so that it breaks her opponent's jaw without breaking his neck, or to trace back the path of a sniper's bullet with eerie accuracy and return fire.
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I chanced upon Sheldon Ebbeler's hand-drawn fractals, and now plan on tattooing my entire torso, leaving only a tattered self-similar void around the navel.

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*Flatland* is a novel by Edwin Abbott Abbott, published in 1884. It's written as a biography by "A. Square," a two-dimensional creature who is literally a living square, thinner than a sheet of paper. He lives with other two-dimensional creatures on a surface called Flatland. In the book, Mr. Square tells of his adventures in worlds of different dimensions: Pointland (zero dimensions), Lineland (one dimension), and Spaceland (three dimensions) all inhabited with creatures suited for their respective worlds. Abbott does a wonderful job of world building, explain how the society (a satire of the Victorian society) and infrastructure of Flatland works. Even though the book was written 135 years ago, I found it very easy to read. Amazon is selling the Dover edition of Flatland for less than the price of a cup of coffee. I just bought it for my daughter. Read the rest

In a delightful short video, Klara Sjöberg demonstrates the extreme and alarming freakout that you can trigger in a mechanical calculator by trying to divide a number by zero; in a followup, Lynn Grant tweets "That is why the old Friden calculators had a 'Divide Stop' key."
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Clever and wonderfully-presented: The Incredible Palindromic Hat-Trick. You may be unimpressed if you feed it small numbers. Feed it big ones! Read the rest

Rather than attempt to describe this, I'll just quote the artist verbatim:

This is the first million integers, represented as binary vectors indicating their prime factors, and laid out using the UMAP dimensionality reduction algorithm by Leland Mcinnes. Each integer is represented in a high-dimensional space, and gets squished down to 2D so that numbers with similar prime factorisations are closer together than those with dissimilar factorisations.

A very pretty structure emerges; this might be spurious in that it captures more about the layout algorithm than any “true” structure of numbers. However, the visual effect is very appealling and requires no tricky manipulation to create.

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"Are wormholes real or are they just magic disguised as physics and maths?" *(Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell)*

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The Fields medal, mathematic's most prized award for mathematics, was stolen from Cambridge Professor Caucher Birkar just moments after he received it.

Via the Independent:

Caucher Birkar, a Kurdish refugee from Iran, was one of four winners of the Fields Medal, often dubbed the "Nobel Prize of Mathematics", at the International Congress of Mathematics on Wednesday.

The professor put the 14-carat gold medal, worth around £3,000, in a briefcase on a table, but moments later realised it had disappeared, event organisers said.

The briefcase, which also contained his wallet and phone, was later found by security officials in a nearby pavilion, though the medal and wallet had been removed. Police reviewed security tapes and identified two potential suspects.

"The International Congress of Mathematicians is profoundly sorry about the disappearance of the briefcase belonging to mathematician Caucher Birkar, which contained his Fields Medal from the ceremony this morning," organisers said in a note.

Image via Wikipedia, Stefan Zachow of the International Mathematical Union; retouched by King of Hearts Read the rest

MIT's How to Win at Texas Hold 'Em is a CC-licensed open course taught by Will Ma in 2016 and now free to watch online; the game is the perfect combination of psych and stats, and learning to play is a great way to improve your basic reasoning skills. (*via Kottke*)
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The concept of "nothing" is easy to grasp for most humans, but the concept of zero as a number is much harder. Recent research shows that bees can be taught that zero is a number which is less than one. This nifty explainer gives an overview. Read the rest

Evil Mad Scientist Labs sell a bunch of cool open source hardware kits for making plotters -- basically, a very precise robot arm that draws with whatever pen or marker you screw into its grip. There's the Eggbot (for drawing on curved surfaces like eggs, balloons and balls), but there's also the Axidraw, which works on flat surfaces.
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