# math

### Math Mystery Book That Is Bilingual

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### Fantastic Mathematics Wall Calendar For 2018

I love the The Mathematics Calendar 2018. Math Calendar sample days It has an equation or other statement about math for every day, often linked to that day (like, the January 13th entry is "the sixth prime number"). Some entries are little mat quizzes for you to fugue out. Some are funny jokes, like the entry for Thanksgiving (any guesses as to what that might be? Hint: It is a formula.) The level of difficulty of understanding the reference or solving the problem ranges from suitable for a smart 7 year old (Huxley has figured some out) up through college level. Also, the picture that…

### Why understanding scale is vital, not just for science, but for everyone

"I go to the Natural History Museum and look at the cage of stuffed starlings there. But my favourite thing is the big blue whale. The scale of it is unbelievable, and makes you feel how insignificant you are as a human being." -Arthur Darvill How good is your sense of scale? Humans are notoriously bad at this, and yet understanding the magnitude of an event like Hurricane Harvey is much more difficult (and important) than simply using a slew of superlatives. If someone tells you how large the flood in Houston is, and tells you it's "100,000 times the area of the Capitol Mall in Washington, D…

### The Age Math Game

I keep falling down on my duty to provide cute-kid content, here; I also keep forgetting to post something about a nerdy bit of our morning routine. So, let's maximize the bird-to-stone ratio, and do them at the same time. The Pip can be a Morning Dude at times, but SteelyKid is never very happy to get up. So on weekday mornings, we've developed a routine to ease the two of them into the day: SteelyKid has a radio alarm, and then I go in and gently shake her out of bed. I usually carry her downstairs to the couch, where she burrows into the cushions a bit; The Pip mostly comes downstairs…

### Maryam Mirzakhani, A Candle Illuminating The Dark (Synopsis)

"I think it's rarely about what you actually learn in class. It's mostly about things that you stay motivated to go and continue to do on your own." -Maryam Mirzakhani, on success in mathematics Only a few weeks ago, pioneering mathematician and the first (and only) woman to win the Fields Medal, Maryam Mirzakhani, tragically died of cancer at the young age of 40. Her brilliant work had applications to a huge variety of problems, from the periodic and/or chaotic motions of billiard balls to the question of designing a room that, even if completely covered by mirrors, could never be…

### He's on fire! How the hot hand helped Golden State become NBA champions (Synopsis)

"Success isn't a result of spontaneous combustion. You must set yourself on fire." -Arnold Glascow When someone makes a shot, it’s a little instinctive to want to give them the ball again to see if they’ll make another. If they make three or four in a row, you’ll really want to ride that ‘hot hand’ as far as it will go. And if your teammate has made six, seven, or eight shots in a row, you know you’re beginning to witness something very special. There’s nothing like getting hot in quite that way. When you hear that someone made a basket, you're already biasing your probabilities of success,…

### Isaac Newton vs. Las Vegas: How Physicists Used Science To Beat The Odds At Roulette (Synopsis)

"I don't always bet the same way I talk. Good advice is one thing, but smart gambling is quite another." -Hunter S. Thompson Did you know the world’s first wearable computer was built all the way back in the 1960s, was worn on your feet... and was used to help gamblers cheat at roulette? Physicists and mathematicians work with probability and predicting the behavior of a given system a lot, and when you combine that with the science of simple motion (as on a roulette wheel), the possibility of ‘beating the odds’ suddenly becomes real. Al Hibbs won an estimated \$12,000 from the casinos in…

### The Odds Of Your Unlikely Existence Were Not Infinitely Small (Synopsis)

"Logic takes care of itself; all we have to do is to look and see how it does it." -Ludwig Wittgenstein There are a great many events that occurred to give rise to the world, the Universe, and you. Everything from the Big Bang to the existence of the laws of physics to the cosmic history that created Earth to the biological history that gave rise to the 7+ billion of us today needed to unfold exactly as it did in order for things to be the way they are today. A standard cosmic timeline of our Universe's history. A series of extremely unlikely events all needed to occur in order so that you…

### How would the Universe change if we grew an extra dimension? (Synopsis)

“There is a fifth dimension, beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition.” -Rod Serling If we take a look at a two-dimensional surface, it’s pretty apparent that we’re pretty omnipotent in comparison. We can draw or erase anything in that dimension, add or remove objects, rearrange their internal structures without leaving them any defense, etc. All of that might lead you to wonder whether there’s the possibility of a fourth spatial dimension out there, and…

### Hey Shaq? Here's How You Can Figure Out The Earth Is Round For Yourself (Synopsis)

"I drive from Florida to California all the time, and it’s flat to me. I do not go up and down at a 360-degree angle, and all that stuff about gravity, have you looked outside Atlanta lately and seen all these buildings? You mean to tell me that China is under us? China is under us? It’s not. The world is flat." -Shaquille O'Neal Perhaps the reason so many of us don’t quite believe the Earth is round is because we can’t directly see it for ourselves. At any point we happen to be on the Earth’s surface, when we look around in all directions, it appears to be flat. On his great sea voyage,…

### The Science of Error: how polling botched the 2016 election (Synopsis)

"Distinguishing the signal from the noise requires both scientific knowledge and self-knowledge." -Nate Silver When you take a poll, you survey a number of people with an opinion about something in an attempt to predict the behavior of a much larger number of people. If you increase the number of people you poll, your poll uncertainty drops. This reduction in what we call a statistical error will mean your polls reflect the likely outcome better and better, given one assumption. You have to assume that data obtained from the people you’re polling are reflective of a random sample of future…

### Is the cosmic distance ladder flawed? (Synopsis)

“We can only see a short distance ahead, but we can see plenty there that needs to be done.” -Alan Turing The Cosmic Microwave Background data gave us an unprecedented picture of our Universe in terms of accuracy, with the latest Planck results showing us our Universe is 68% dark energy, 13.8 billion years old and is expanding at a rate of 67 km/s/Mpc. Too bad, then, that the Cosmic Microwave Background isn't the only way to measure the expansion rate, and that direct measurements -- using the cosmic distance ladder -- disagree with that significantly. A map of star density in the Milky Way…

### Could You Travel In A Straight Line In Space And Return To Earth? (Synopsis)

"For once you have tasted flight you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been and there you will long to return." -Leonardo da Vinci The Universe is an awfully big place, but how certain are we that we couldn’t travel in a straight line for a very long time and simply return to our starting position? Just because we can travel through the Universe for an arbitrarily, perhaps infinitely long distance-or-time, doesn’t mean the Universe itself is infinite. It’s quite possible that it closes in on itself, and that any straight-line path will eventually return…

### The science of Hillary Clinton's coin toss victories (Synopsis)

"[T]he coin of life has meaning and value no matter what side it lands on. It's each individual's choice whether to bet on the outcome or not, but ultimately your coin of life will be spent somehow." -Virgil Kalyana Mittata Iordache Coin flips are traditionally the way to settle disputes with two choices and equal probabilities. They're ubiquitous not only in sporting events, but in events as important as elections, with thirty five states having adopted a coin flip as their official tiebreaker method. Yesterday, in Iowa, the democratic election was so close that there were six county…

### The Science of Powerball (Synopsis)

“I’ve done the calculation and your chances of winning the lottery are identical whether you play or not.” -Fran Lebowitz Later today, the richest lottery drawing in history -- the \$1.5 billion Powerball jackpot -- will take place. While many outlets are encouraging people to purchase as many tickets as possible, it's important to run through the mathematics and find out what your expected value is for each ticket. Image credit: E. Siegel, 2016. While a naive analysis shows that a jackpot in excess of about \$245 million would lead to a break-even-or-better result, when you factor in taxes…

### Weekend Diversion: The Logic That Stumped Brooklyn Nine Nine (Synopsis)

“I have made the most important discovery of my career, the most important discovery of my life: It is only in the mysterious equations of love that any logic or reason can be found.” -John Forbes Nash, Jr. Yet logic and reason -- when applied correctly -- can get us incredibly far. Have a listen to Supertramp singing their unique hit, The Logical Song, while you consider the islander problem from TV's Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Image credit: E. Siegel. “There are 12 men on an island. 11 weigh exactly the same amount, but one of them is slightly lighter or heavier. You must figure out which. The…

### Throwback Thursday: Are asteroids dangerous? (Synopsis)

“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” -H. P. Lovecraft When it comes to risk assessment, there's one type that humans are notoriously bad at: the very low-frequency but high-consequence risks and rewards. It's why so many of us are so eager to play the lottery, and simultaneously why we're catastrophically afraid of ebola and plane crashes, when we're far more likely to die from something mundane, like getting hit by a truck. One of the examples where science and this type of fear-based fallacy intersect is the…

### The Missing Piece (Synopsis)

If you're not a theoretical physicist yourself, you might think that physics is physics -- we ask questions about the Universe, do experiments/make observations, and get the answers -- and math is just a tool that we use to help us get there. Image credit: © 2015 Shaper Helix — II Demo, via http://www.alevelsolutions.com/pure-mathematics. But that really sells the power of mathematics short. For a physical theory to be valid, there are a whole host of mathematical properties that theory needs to possess, including being free of logical inconsistencies, making predictions about observables…

### Weekend Diversion: Zooming Into A Fractal (Synopsis)

“Exploring this set I certainly never had the feeling of invention. I never had the feeling that my imagination was rich enough to invent all those extraordinary things on discovering them. They were there, even though nobody had seen them before. It’s marvelous, a very simple formula explains all these very complicated things. So the goal of science is starting with a mess, and explaining it with a simple formula, a kind of dream of science.” -Benoit Mandelbrot Sure, there are things we can say or describe, whether mathematically, physically or in words. But sometimes, you need a lot more…

### On Hugo Voting Slates and Clustering

This Hugo nomination scandal continues to rage on, and much of what's going on is just a giant sucking vortex of stupid. Standing out from this, though, is the guest post by Bruce Schneier at Making Light, which cuts through the bullshit to get to what's really important, namely using this as an excuse to do some math. One of the many terrible ideas being floated is to use some analysis of the clustering of ballots to identify "slate voters," and having done that... something. Target their address with orbital lasers, maybe, or just sternly "Tsk tsk" in their general direction. This depends,…