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Posts Tagged "math"

Anecdotes from the Archive

Anecdotes from the Archive: A ship-shooting formula

One of the reasons I dreaded math class was the looming feeling that what I learned would turn out to be useless. No matter how hard I tried, I could not imagine a situation outside of school when I would need to know how to graph a logarithm or find the degree of an unknown [...]

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Anthropology in Practice

Editor’s Selections: Myths, Shoulders, Risks, Resolutions, And Math

Part of my online life includes editorial duties at ResearchBlogging.org, where I serve as the Social Sciences Editor. Each Thursday, I pick notable posts on research in anthropology, philosophy, social science, and research to share on the ResearchBlogging.org News site. To help highlight this writing, I also share my selections here on AiP. Happy New Year! Bloggers [...]

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Beautiful Minds

The Need for Belonging in Math and Science

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From her earliest memories, Catherine Good was good at math. By second grade she was performing at the fourth grade level, sometimes even helping the teacher grade other students’ work. She was praised constantly for her “gift”, often overhearing her mother tell anyone who would listen that she was a “sponge” for anything mathematical. By [...]

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Beautiful Minds

Why Education Needs More Radioactive Spiders

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Education needs more radioactive spiders. Stay with me. Remember Peter Parker? His childhood wasn’t easy. Both of his parents– Richard and Mary– were killed on a mission as double agents. Raised by his Uncle Ben and Aunt May in Queens, Peter spent most of his childhood without an identity. Now, Peter was a good student. [...]

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Budding Scientist

The New, New Math: A Parent’s Guide

There are big changes underway in how kids across the country are learning math. Forty-four states plus the District of Columbia have adopted a common set of standards that detail what students should understand and be able to do at each grade level, from Kindergarten through the end of high school. Known as the Common Core State Standards, [...]

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Cross-Check

Benoit Mandelbrot (RIP) and the quest for a theory of really everything

Benoit Mandelbrot

The passing of the mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot has triggered in me a wave of nostalgia for the 1980s, when Mandelbrot and other researchers seemed to be creating a scientific revolution. They hoped that sophisticated new mathematical techniques, plus increasingly powerful computers, could help them fathom a wide range of complex, nonlinear phenomena—from brains and immune [...]

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Cross-Check

Contemplating the end of the world, math, mystery and other things

I suffer from eschatological obsession. That is, I spend lots of time brooding about ends. So the cover of the September Scientific American—which reads simply "the end."—made me all shivery, like when I hear the spooky sitar opening of The Doors’ apocalyptic rock poem "The End." (I’m never more Freudian than when I hear Morrison’s [...]

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Guest Blog

Play, Informal Learning Cultivate Kids’ Interest in STEM

A visitor learns to solder and connect a circuit in a workshop at the New York Hall of Science's Maker Space.

When I was eight years old I couldn’t speak English. I’d been born in another country and came to the U.S. because my father’s postdoctoral medical research brought us here. Frustrated with my inability to communicate with others, I stopped trying. I didn’t want to play with the other kids anyway – at least that’s [...]

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Guest Blog

To What Extent Do We See with Mathematics?

Variable X

When I first became fascinated with mathematics’ tightly knit abstract structures, its prominence in physics and engineering reassured me.  Mathematics’ indisputable value in science made it clear that my preoccupation with its intangible expressions was not pathological.  The captivating creative activity of doing mathematics has real consequences. During my graduate school years, I began to [...]

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Guest Blog

Celebrations of Mind Honor Math’s Best Friend, Martin Gardner

Every fall provides a special excuse for all thinking people to celebrate recreational math, magic and rationality, some of the things that were dear to America’s greatest man of letters and numbers, former Scientific American columnist Martin Gardner (1914 ­– 2010), via Celebration of Mind events. While Gardner was without doubt the best friend mathematics [...]

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MIND Guest Blog

Can Synesthesia in Autism Lead to Savantism?

Daniel Tammet has memorized Pi to the 22,514th digit. He speaks ten different languages, including one of his own invention, and he can multiply enormous sums in his head within a matter of seconds. However, he is unable to hold down a standard 9-to-5 job, in part due to his obsessive adherence to ritual, down [...]

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Observations

World Cup Prediction Mathematics Explained

Brazil vs. England in a "friendly" in Rio de Janeiro

The World Cup is back, and everyone’s got a pick for the winner. Gamblers have been predicting the outcome of sporting contests since the first foot race across the savannah, but in recent years a unique type of statistical analysis has taken over the prediction business. Everyone from Goldman Sachs to Bloomberg to Nate Silver’s [...]

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Observations

Glow Sticks Prove the Math Theorem behind the Famous Flatiron Building

The Pythagorean theorem projected onto the Flatiron building

How many math lovers live in New York City? It’s a tough count to make, but the Museum of Mathematics made progress at its first anniversary celebration on Thursday, December 5. With a mission to illuminate the math that permeates our day-to-day lives, the Museum of Mathematics, or MoMath, wasn’t about to waste its birthday [...]

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Observations

Please Play with Your Math: New Museum Opens in New York City

Math can be a beautiful, immersive, full-body experience, according to the creators of the newly opened Museum of Math, or MoMath, in New York City. A sculpture that lights up and plays music, a touch-screen floor that turns into a maze and a square-wheeled tricycle that one can ride around a bumpy track are just [...]

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Observations

A Presidential Pythagorean Proof

James Abram Garfield was born on this day, November 19, in 1831. Had an unstable, delusional stalker’s bullets and nineteenth-century medical “care” not cut short his life just six months into his presidency, he would be 181 today (more on that later). Garfield was an intelligent man who studied some math in college, but contemporary [...]

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Observations

Mathematicians at Play: 3-D Printing Enters the 4th Dimension

I was at a math conference last week, and one of the other attendees brought a puzzle. I am a pretty slow puzzle-solver, so it will be a while before I figure out how to assemble those five pieces to get this. Three views of the assembled puzzle. Saul Schleimer, a mathematician at the University [...]

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Observations

Fractal Kitties Illustrate the Endless Possibilities for Julia Sets

For decades, scientists have been trying to solve a tough question: if the Internet runs out of cat pictures, can we generate more using advanced mathematics?* A paper posted on the arxiv earlier this month by mathematicians Kathryn Lindsey and the late William Thurston calms fears about “peak cat.” In the paper, they describe a [...]

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Observations

Why 167 Is a Happy Number—Besides Being Scientific American‘s Age

On Tuesday, Scientific American turns 167 years old. It doesn’t exactly look like the kind of anniversary we usually celebrate, with our decimal normative number system that overvalues ending zeroes and fives, but 167 is a pretty neat number. First of all, we can insert two symbols into it to get a correct mathematical statement: [...]

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Observations

The Mathematical Legacy of William Thurston (1946-2012)

William Thurston, whose geometrization conjecture changed the fields of geometry and topology and whose approach to mathematics and mathematics education has reverberated throughout the mathematical world, died on August 21 following a battle with cancer. He has appeared in the pages of Scientific American in the article The Mathematics of Three-Dimensional Manifolds, which he co-wrote [...]

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Observations

Abandoning Algebra Is Not the Answer

In an opinion piece for the New York Times on Sunday, political science professor Andrew Hacker asks, “Is Algebra Necessary?” and answers, “No.” It’s not just algebra: geometry and calculus are on the chopping block, too. It’s not that he doesn’t think math is important; he wants the traditional sequence to be replaced by a [...]

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Observations

How Much Pi Do You Need?

I hope you’re ready for your big Pi Approximation Day party tomorrow. You might have observed Pi Day on March 14. It gets its name from 3.14, the first three digits of the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. Always on the lookout for excuses to eat pie, some geeky math types also [...]

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Oscillator

Are plants “actually doing maths”?

Arabisopsisreadytodip

Can plants do math? That is the assertion of a new paper published in the journal eLife this week titled “Arabidopsis plants perform arithmetic division to prevent starvation at night.” The plants in question aren’t spitting out numerical answers to word problems on their leaves, but doing normal plant stuff: using energy stored as starch [...]

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PsiVid

STEM Makes Cars Safer, Buildings Taller, Enables Hearing and Moves Giant Magnets!

Muon g-2 magnet to be transported to Fermilab

As I reflect on the content of videos I have shared or watched in social media this week, I’m simply in awe at the creativity and ingenuity of humans and how we have used science, technology and engineering (and math) for our health, safety and progress. Some of these videos represent topics fresh this week [...]

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PsiVid

Math Warriors: Season 3

Have you ever watched “Mean Girls”? It’s one of the movies before Lindsey Lohan really began to let her career slip. She plays Cady, a smart girl, homeschooled by her parents as they lived in Africa until her high school years, where, desperate to fit in AND to “get the guy”, she dumbs down her [...]

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PsiVid

Who Are Your Favorite Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Youtubers?

vclogo

This is a follow up to my last post about Science Video Brainstorming. Thank you everyone who has kindly donated toward my trip to VidCon 2012! I have enough for a plane ticket! Please continue your generous donations in any amount so I can have a place to stay and food to eat! Recall that [...]

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Roots of Unity

Beyond Emmy and Sophie: Resources for Learning about Women in Math

Emmy Noether has a posse. Created by Evelyn Lamb based on a public domain image of Emmy Noether, via Wikimedia Commons.

Today is Ada Lovelace Day, an international celebration of women in science, technology, engineering, and math. If you’d like to read about women in math for the occasion, you’re in serious danger of coming across an article about Hypatia, Emmy Noether, Sophie Germain, or Sofia Kovalevskaya. Of course, these are inspiring women with compelling stories, [...]

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Roots of Unity

Build Your Own Fractal with MegaMenger!

A completed level 1 Menger sponge. Image: Manchester Science Festival.

Later this month, people will be gathering at museums and schools around the world to build giant Menger sponges as part of a global fractal extravaganza called MegaMenger. A Menger sponge is a fractal that sits in three-dimensional space. To visualize one, imagine starting with a cube and splitting it into 27 sub-cubes, like a [...]

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Roots of Unity

Extrapolation Gone Wrong: the Case of the Fermat Primes

Sorry, Pierre, but not all Fermat numbers are primes. Image: Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Samuel Arbesman recently wrote about incorrect mathematical conjectures. I wanted to add one of my favorites, which came up in my math history class a couple weeks ago. Unlike the disproven conjectures Arbesman wrote about, which fail only for very large numbers, this one fails at 5. Pierre de Fermat was an amateur number theorist [...]

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Roots of Unity

A Computer Scientist Tells Mathematicians How To Write Proofs

Leslie Lamport, clad in a t-shirt that says "You want proof? I'll give you proof!" gave a presentation at the Heidelberg Laureate Forum. Image: HLFF/Kreutzer.

Believe it or not, I do have friends who would describe themselves as not liking math, and every so often one of them will share this meme on Facebook: And then Satan said, “Put the alphabet in math.” There are different background pictures each time the meme pops up, but the text is always the [...]

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Roots of Unity

Mathematics, Live: A Conversation with Evelyn Boyd Granville

Evelyn Boyd Granville in 1997. Image: Margaret Murray, via Mathematicians of the African Diaspora by Scott W. Williams.

Evelyn Boyd Granville was one of the first African American women to earn a Ph.D. in mathematics. She recently turned 90, and I wrote a post here to celebrate. This more complete version of our interview originally appeared in the September-October 2014 issue of the Association for Women in Mathematics Newsletter. It is an edited transcript that [...]

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Roots of Unity

Look Ma, No Zero!

Babylonian numerals are surprisingly easy to decipher. Image: public domain, via sugarfish and Wikimedia Commons.

As I told my class on Thursday, the theme of the first week of our math history course was “easy algebra is hard in base 60.” We started the semester in ancient Mesopotamia, trying to understand Babylonian* mathematical notation and decipher Plimpton 322, an enigmatic tablet from about 1800 BCE. The Babylonian number system uses [...]

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Roots of Unity

In Praise of Proofs by Contradiction that Aren’t

Opposing arrows, a common conclusion to a proof by contradiction.

If you don’t know what to do, do something. That’s one of my mottos when I teach math (and it’s probably good life advice too). Last year, I taught introductory analysis (basically calculus with the juicy bits left in), one of the first proof-oriented classes students take. Writing proofs is hard, and sometimes the hardest [...]

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Roots of Unity

How to Talk About the Fields Medal at Your Next Cocktail Party

The profile of Archimedes on the front of the Fields Medal Grigori Perelman did not accept. The medal was designed by Robert Tait McKenzie Image: Stefan Zachow.

On Wednesday, four mathematicians will receive the prestigious Fields Medal at the International Congress of Mathematicians (ICM) in Seoul. If you go to the kinds of parties I do, the Fields Medal will probably come up at the next party you attend, so here’s your guide for conversing about the medal with aplomb. First, a [...]

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Roots of Unity

Math Twitter Bots, Reviewed and Rated

Math+Twitter Image: Design Shack.

In the course of being a math person on Twitter, I have run across some math-related Twitter bots and feeds. It would just be mean to grade my human tweeps, but I have no qualms about rating the bots! Taking a page from the Aperiodical’s integer sequence reviews, I’m rating them on a scale of [...]

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Roots of Unity

The Shocking Failure of British Rail Travel to Respect the Triangle Inequality

A British train approaches a station. Image: Ingy the Wingy, via flickr.

I spent about a month in the UK earlier this summer, and that meant I took a lot of train trips. I love riding trains: the feeling of endless possibility I get when I look at the departure boards, the countryside rolling by, the fantastic people-watching, the two-hour delay between Edinburgh and Manchester because a [...]

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Streams of Consciousness

The Making of a Mathematical Mind: 1 Step at a Time

worksheet for times 5

One time when I was in the third grade, I got sick and missed a week of school. My dad wanted me to keep up with my schoolwork, so he brought my assignments and books home. I did the required work in the math workbook quickly, or so the story goes, and went on to [...]

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Streams of Consciousness

Do Music Lessons Make You Smarter?

Practice makes progress, if not perfection, for most things in life. Generally, practicing a skill—be it basketball, chess or the tuba—mostly makes you better at whatever it was you practiced. Even related areas do not benefit much. Doing intensive basketball drills does not usually make a person particularly good at football. Chess experts are not [...]

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Streams of Consciousness

Star Filmmakers Found in Unlikely Spot

Two kids in lab coats and goggles apparently doing an experiment.

In Tyson Schoeber’s class at Nootka Elementary School in Vancouver, 15 fourth through seventh graders struggle to read, write or do math at a level near that of their peers in other classes. Ten-year-olds have entered Schoeber’s program, called THRIVE, virtually unable to read independently (see “One Man’s Mission to Save Struggling Students”). Yet Schoeber [...]

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Symbiartic

The Long Shadow of Fungal Networks

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I’ve heard it said that if you removed everything from the forest except for fungi you would still be able to discern outlines of trees and leaves because of the vast fungal networks of pervading everything. I’ve often thought that would make a powerful illustration but never got around to acting on it. So when [...]

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Symbiartic

20th-Century Math Hidden in 15th-Century Art

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Art and science are often thought of as disparate entities, drawing on different strengths and different ways of thinking. This is surely true, but the disciplines also share patterns of thought and essential characteristics. Take, for example, their inherently collaborative processes. No artist creates in a vacuum just as no scientists could perform the work [...]

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Symbiartic

Yes, T-Shirt Messages Matter

lovemath

Yesterday, I came across a very interesting T-shirt design during my afternoon web surfing. The Children’s Place apparently forgot about the great “I’m too pretty to do my homework, so my brother has to do it for me” T-shirt debacle of 2011, and they decided to produce a shirt that reads, “My best subjects” and [...]

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Symbiartic

SciArt of the Day: Hyperdimensional Suffering

Dali-Hypercubemini

As our month of SciArt of the Day winds down, I had to share this image. For me, this is a touchstone of what makes wonderful science-art: marrying metaphors from past and present, science and myth. The idea that art and science represent two cultures, as C.P. Snow described is a curious one. Art, or [...]

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