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Roots of Unity


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The Roots of Unity Year in Review

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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Happy birthday to me! Image: Ardfern, via Wikimedia Commons.

A year ago today, I published my first post on this blog! A lot has happened in that year, and I have had tons of fun with Roots of Unity. My favorite number is six, so here are my six most popular posts of the past year.

1) Boy, you really liked 10 Secret Trig Functions Your Math Teachers Never Taught You! This post alone was responsible for about a third of the page views I had this year. Note to self: write more Onion tie-in posts. Note to the Onion: write more satirical news articles about the history of trigonometry.
2) What Is the Funniest Number? A lot of people shared their opinions on the matter with me on Twitter and in the comments section. I think 91 is the funniest number, or at least the sneakiest.
3) I was delighted that my December post on hypocycloids was so popular. After all, at a cold, gray time of year, we could use a brightly colored, animated mathematical lift!
4) After NOAA released a breathtaking video of 10 years of North American weather, I shared the video and wrote about the delicate balance of predictability and chaos I saw in it.
5) Amazingly enough, Harald Helfgott’s proof of the ternary Goldbach Conjecture was not the biggest number theory news of the week of May 13th. But it was still a pretty big deal, and my post about it was quite popular. It even got translated into Spanish by a mathematician in his home country of Peru!
6) My sixth most popular post pre-dates Roots of Unity. Last year, when I was writing for the Observations blog during my Mass Media Fellowship, I wrote about Five Sigma, the statistical threshold to declare a “discovery” in particle physics. More than a year after the announcement of the discovery of the Higgs Boson, it seems that people are still curious about what the heck a “sigma” is.

Often, the amount of love I have for a post and the amount of traffic it gets are not proportional. Here are the six posts I liked the best that didn’t make it onto the top six most popular of the year.

1) I had way too much fun revisiting a college music theory project in response to Vi Hart’s video about twelve-tone music! I thought the interval row I used led to some great visual patterns.
2) I found Lillian Pierce’s interview with Constance Leidy about how she balances mathematics and motherhood thought-provoking. (You can also check out my interview of Darren Glass about mathematics and fatherhood.)
3) Daina Taimina’s cuddly, crocheted Klein Quartic curve was one of my favorite mathematical objects this year!
4) My Valentine’s Day post about continued fractions didn’t get enough love, but it was fun to write and illustrate.
5) I really liked this post about multiplying by 7 on your fingers. I also enjoyed hearing from Facebook and Twitter friends who told me about trying the trick using different numbers and other ways of counting on their fingers.
6) I loved this poem about the mathematical meaning of the word group.

Thanks to everyone who has read, commented on, and shared my posts. It’s been a fun year, and I’m looking forward to the next one!

Evelyn Lamb About the Author: Evelyn Lamb is a postdoc at the University of Utah. She writes about mathematics and other cool stuff. Follow on Twitter @evelynjlamb.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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