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# Making things with Maths

Or "Sports".

posted by Johnny Assay at 8:35 AM on December 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

That's a quote from Bret Victor: previously.

posted by stebulus at 9:17 AM on December 7, 2012

What comp sci people? Poor math ability relative to what standard?

posted by Jpfed at 9:21 AM on December 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

I think you misspelled "notorious for their excellent math ability, with which they develop algorithmic methods that can be used without understanding the underlying math."

Or maybe you misspelled "programmers".

posted by erniepan at 3:02 PM on December 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

When I first took CS courses, they were under the Math Department. We thought computers were a huge improvement over our current math tool: the slide rule. Most of the programmers were doing math problems in FORTRAN. It was goddam amazing to get 8 significant digits (or even 16 with double precision) instead of 2 with a slide rule and have to iterate it out to successive approximations, or else go to the CRC Rubber Book to do it by hand with printed log tables.

Today, in the CS Department, math courses are an elective, beyond your basic Quantitative Reasoning requirements of any BA or BS degree. You can get your CS degree without any math ability beyond what any~~dumb jock~~ exercise science major can achieve.

But this is no stumbling block in today's CS world. Programming is not inherently mathematical in nature, even if the code uses math functions. But it is easier to turn a mathematician into a good coder, than it is to turn a good coder into a mathematician.

posted by charlie don't surf at 4:34 PM on December 7, 2012

Also, what smells like mustard?

posted by obiwanwasabi at 3:03 AM on December 8, 2012

Uhh... that's a broad generalization of CS curricula. At my university, we have several required classes that focus on analysis of algorithms, which is very math-heavy. And friends at other universities have similar requirements.

posted by Adamsmasher at 4:09 PM on December 8, 2012

Post

# Making things with Maths

December 7, 2012 7:37 AM Subscribe

In the United States, the abbreviation of "mathematics" is "math." Evernix is just being cheeky.

posted by Rustic Etruscan at 7:40 AM on December 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

posted by Rustic Etruscan at 7:40 AM on December 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

For non-UK viewers, "maths" stands for Mathematical Anti-Telharsic Harfatum Septomin.

posted by The White Hat at 7:55 AM on December 7, 2012 [8 favorites]

posted by The White Hat at 7:55 AM on December 7, 2012 [8 favorites]

Awesome self-derail, OP.

posted by laconic skeuomorph at 7:58 AM on December 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

posted by laconic skeuomorph at 7:58 AM on December 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

Maths. You know, like Econs.

posted by emelenjr at 8:00 AM on December 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

posted by emelenjr at 8:00 AM on December 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

To paraphrase ill-fated sitcom "Help":

"It's plural. It's short for mathematic

"So would you say maths

posted by Acey at 8:26 AM on December 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

"It's plural. It's short for mathematic

*s*""So would you say maths

*are*beautiful'? Or maths*is*beautiful?"posted by Acey at 8:26 AM on December 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

*Maths. You know, like Econs.*

Or "Sports".

posted by Johnny Assay at 8:35 AM on December 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

From the comments: "Steven specifically points out in the title slide that since he's in the UK - he slips on an 's' to Maths."

Okay. Now we can move on!

posted by Decani at 8:37 AM on December 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

Okay. Now we can move on!

posted by Decani at 8:37 AM on December 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

Guys, it's OK, it's just that in the UK we have more than one of them.

posted by EndsOfInvention at 8:38 AM on December 7, 2012 [5 favorites]

posted by EndsOfInvention at 8:38 AM on December 7, 2012 [5 favorites]

[Dialect differences are neat, but let's move on to the content of the link maybe, thank you.]

posted by cortex at 8:41 AM on December 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

posted by cortex at 8:41 AM on December 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

That was a fun watch. His presentation tools were really the best thing about it. I wonder how much time it takes to make those animations, both for him and for someone who isn't a demo-scene god.

posted by benito.strauss at 8:58 AM on December 7, 2012

posted by benito.strauss at 8:58 AM on December 7, 2012

well, see, one of them is metric.

I gotta go read the post. BRB.

posted by mule98J at 8:59 AM on December 7, 2012

I gotta go read the post. BRB.

posted by mule98J at 8:59 AM on December 7, 2012

LOL ROFL he graphed a pot leaf with cosines and and inverse sines OMG!!!111!!

Yeah actually, it should. The problem is which type of symbols you're manipulating, and how you understand them.

This presentation rapidly became tedious and awful. This is like a quick survey of high school algebra by someone who flunked algebra. Comp sci people are notorious for their poor math ability, which they think can be remedied with algorithmic methods without understanding the underlying math.

posted by charlie don't surf at 9:10 AM on December 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

*"The power to understand and predict the quantities of the world should not be restricted to those with a freakish knack for manipulating abstract symbols."*Yeah actually, it should. The problem is which type of symbols you're manipulating, and how you understand them.

This presentation rapidly became tedious and awful. This is like a quick survey of high school algebra by someone who flunked algebra. Comp sci people are notorious for their poor math ability, which they think can be remedied with algorithmic methods without understanding the underlying math.

posted by charlie don't surf at 9:10 AM on December 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

*"The power to understand and predict the quantities of the world should not be restricted to those with a freakish knack for manipulating abstract symbols."*

That's a quote from Bret Victor: previously.

posted by stebulus at 9:17 AM on December 7, 2012

*Comp sci people are notorious for their poor math ability, which they think can be remedied with algorithmic methods without understanding the underlying math.*

What comp sci people? Poor math ability relative to what standard?

posted by Jpfed at 9:21 AM on December 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

Amazing. And amazing he's given the source code for the slides over on github.

From his "references" section:

Nature of Code - Daniel Shiffman

Vihart's youtube channel (See her various playlists!)

Kill Math - Bret Victor

Better Explained.com

posted by Catblack at 11:01 AM on December 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

From his "references" section:

Nature of Code - Daniel Shiffman

Vihart's youtube channel (See her various playlists!)

Kill Math - Bret Victor

Better Explained.com

posted by Catblack at 11:01 AM on December 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

@charlie don't surf:

First of all, I'm not a computer scientist, I'm an electrical engineer. I studied signal processing... Fourier and Z transforms, complex circuit analysis, probabilistic feature detection, data fitting, optical flow, convolutional signal coding, computational fluid dynamics, etc. All mathematical in nature.

But this was a talk held to a room of web developers, not at a math conference, and I made sure I didn't overstay my welcome by being too serious about it, and instead showing things everyone could understand.

The talk is two sided: there's the content, which is mostly high level, and then there's the code, which is definitely mathematical.

The point about dividing by zero alludes to the projective real line. Incidentally, all the WebGL work is expressed in 4D projective vector math. To shade surfaces like the bicubic bezier or that planet requires differential geometry and jacobians (or finite approximations), as I've detailed in a blog post [1]. The physics engine is a simple vector integrator, but it's by showing the discrete version that you can pique people's interest in the real stuff in calculus.

And of course the pot leaf was silly, it was a joke. Lighten up.

[1] http://acko.net/blog/making-worlds-3-thats-no-moon/

posted by unconed0 at 12:29 PM on December 7, 2012 [11 favorites]

First of all, I'm not a computer scientist, I'm an electrical engineer. I studied signal processing... Fourier and Z transforms, complex circuit analysis, probabilistic feature detection, data fitting, optical flow, convolutional signal coding, computational fluid dynamics, etc. All mathematical in nature.

But this was a talk held to a room of web developers, not at a math conference, and I made sure I didn't overstay my welcome by being too serious about it, and instead showing things everyone could understand.

The talk is two sided: there's the content, which is mostly high level, and then there's the code, which is definitely mathematical.

The point about dividing by zero alludes to the projective real line. Incidentally, all the WebGL work is expressed in 4D projective vector math. To shade surfaces like the bicubic bezier or that planet requires differential geometry and jacobians (or finite approximations), as I've detailed in a blog post [1]. The physics engine is a simple vector integrator, but it's by showing the discrete version that you can pique people's interest in the real stuff in calculus.

And of course the pot leaf was silly, it was a joke. Lighten up.

[1] http://acko.net/blog/making-worlds-3-thats-no-moon/

posted by unconed0 at 12:29 PM on December 7, 2012 [11 favorites]

Welcome to Metafilter! Glad to see you here. I hope you stick around- haters aside it's a pretty cool place.

By the way, this was a cool talk; the explanation of bezier curves was the clearest I've encountered. The animation starting around the 16 minute mark is gold.

posted by Jpfed at 12:40 PM on December 7, 2012

By the way, this was a cool talk; the explanation of bezier curves was the clearest I've encountered. The animation starting around the 16 minute mark is gold.

posted by Jpfed at 12:40 PM on December 7, 2012

I agree that this was a cool talk, and I'm excited to take a look at the source as I still haven't messed around at all with WebGL and etc. And yeah, ignore charlie don't surf, his willingness to be a shithead about something is apparently directly proportional to his ignorance of it.

posted by invitapriore at 1:24 PM on December 7, 2012

posted by invitapriore at 1:24 PM on December 7, 2012

*Comp sci people are notorious for their poor math ability, which they think can be remedied with algorithmic methods without understanding the underlying math.*

I think you misspelled "notorious for their excellent math ability, with which they develop algorithmic methods that can be used without understanding the underlying math."

Or maybe you misspelled "programmers".

posted by erniepan at 3:02 PM on December 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Really fun stuff. Reminds me of why I love math so much. And winamp visualizations.

posted by strangememes at 3:24 PM on December 7, 2012

posted by strangememes at 3:24 PM on December 7, 2012

Hey, welcome to MetaFilter, unconed0. Once you learn to ignore the grumps it's a great community.

If you come back to this thread I honestly am curious how long it takes you to make these. For example, that medusa-sphere stuff from 20:00 to 22:00 in the video. What tools did you use to make that, and do you have any idea how much time you spent creating it?

posted by benito.strauss at 4:03 PM on December 7, 2012

If you come back to this thread I honestly am curious how long it takes you to make these. For example, that medusa-sphere stuff from 20:00 to 22:00 in the video. What tools did you use to make that, and do you have any idea how much time you spent creating it?

posted by benito.strauss at 4:03 PM on December 7, 2012

*I think you misspelled "notorious for their excellent math ability, with which they develop algorithmic methods that can be used without understanding the underlying math."*

When I first took CS courses, they were under the Math Department. We thought computers were a huge improvement over our current math tool: the slide rule. Most of the programmers were doing math problems in FORTRAN. It was goddam amazing to get 8 significant digits (or even 16 with double precision) instead of 2 with a slide rule and have to iterate it out to successive approximations, or else go to the CRC Rubber Book to do it by hand with printed log tables.

Today, in the CS Department, math courses are an elective, beyond your basic Quantitative Reasoning requirements of any BA or BS degree. You can get your CS degree without any math ability beyond what any

But this is no stumbling block in today's CS world. Programming is not inherently mathematical in nature, even if the code uses math functions. But it is easier to turn a mathematician into a good coder, than it is to turn a good coder into a mathematician.

posted by charlie don't surf at 4:34 PM on December 7, 2012

@benito.strauss: As I said in the talk, I made the library for the visualizations, called MathBox. That took a couple months of coding in my spare time. Making the actual slides was 3 weeks of evenings, though interspersed with having to fix bugs and add features to MathBox.

Once I had the library, making the graphs was relatively easy. The source code for the scene in question can be found here.

The diagram is here, use the arrow keys to page through. Then you can go into the JS console and use the mathbox object to interact with it, like so.

posted by unconed0 at 5:19 PM on December 7, 2012 [4 favorites]

Once I had the library, making the graphs was relatively easy. The source code for the scene in question can be found here.

The diagram is here, use the arrow keys to page through. Then you can go into the JS console and use the mathbox object to interact with it, like so.

posted by unconed0 at 5:19 PM on December 7, 2012 [4 favorites]

*When I first took CS courses, they were under the Math Department.*

Also, what smells like mustard?

posted by obiwanwasabi at 3:03 AM on December 8, 2012

*Today, in the CS Department, math courses are an elective, beyond your basic Quantitative Reasoning requirements of any BA or BS degree. You can get your CS degree without any math ability beyond what any dumb jock exercise science major can achieve.*

Uhh... that's a broad generalization of CS curricula. At my university, we have several required classes that focus on analysis of algorithms, which is very math-heavy. And friends at other universities have similar requirements.

posted by Adamsmasher at 4:09 PM on December 8, 2012

Aaaaah, how refreshing! It just wouldn't be Metafilter without Ol' Charlie being here to shit on every thread he can find! From glibly insisting that chip tune music "isn't music," to telling someone who clearly knows math that he doesn't know math, he gives threads that musky scent of hair and feces we've all grown to love!

Welcome to Metafilter, unconed0! I enjoyed your work!

So, would anyone else like to defend the statement that "the ability to understand... the world" should be relegated only to those with a "freakish knack?"

I for one appreciated the jocularity; mathematics need not necessarily be stodgy, and people who like weed can count too. Just usually not very well while they're on weed.

posted by GoingToShopping at 8:05 PM on December 8, 2012

Welcome to Metafilter, unconed0! I enjoyed your work!

So, would anyone else like to defend the statement that "the ability to understand... the world" should be relegated only to those with a "freakish knack?"

I for one appreciated the jocularity; mathematics need not necessarily be stodgy, and people who like weed can count too. Just usually not very well while they're on weed.

posted by GoingToShopping at 8:05 PM on December 8, 2012

Hey I never said the guy didn't know math. I just said it's presented like "Algebra for Dummies." It is presented in a way that is patronizing to the audience, which is easy to overlook with all the glitzy graphics. Sure, I think CS guys need help with higher math, but starting with the assumption that they don't understand basic concepts like vectors, is not the way to do it.

I assure you that symbolic manipulation

posted by charlie don't surf at 6:50 AM on December 9, 2012

I assure you that symbolic manipulation

*is*a "freakish knack" and considered as an inherent mental ability, is far rarer than you think. You just don't think it's rare because you can do it, so you think it's something everyone can do. I actually created a test for this ability and have tested hundreds of people and I find it's like maybe 5% that can actually do symbolic manipulation.posted by charlie don't surf at 6:50 AM on December 9, 2012

@charlie

"I never said the guy didn't know math." vs "This is like a quick survey of high school algebra by someone who flunked algebra."

For someone who likes the sound of their voice so much, you sure don't listen to yourself.

And this wasn't a room of CS guys, it was a room of web developers. Setting a level playing field doesn't mean you're being patronizing your audience, it just means you don't want to leave anyone behind early on by making assumptions.

But then there's another thing you seem to like to do.

posted by unconed0 at 11:14 AM on December 9, 2012

"I never said the guy didn't know math." vs "This is like a quick survey of high school algebra by someone who flunked algebra."

For someone who likes the sound of their voice so much, you sure don't listen to yourself.

And this wasn't a room of CS guys, it was a room of web developers. Setting a level playing field doesn't mean you're being patronizing your audience, it just means you don't want to leave anyone behind early on by making assumptions.

But then there's another thing you seem to like to do.

posted by unconed0 at 11:14 AM on December 9, 2012

[Moderator here. Charlie don't surf, please lay off, you've made your points. Unconed0, welcome to Mefi, glad to have you! I'm also going to ask you to just ignore fighty comments from charlie; lots of better things to talk about.]

posted by LobsterMitten at 11:25 AM on December 9, 2012

posted by LobsterMitten at 11:25 AM on December 9, 2012

Thanks for the feedback everyone. You can read more about the tech behind the slides here:

Making Mathbox

posted by unconed0 at 11:25 AM on December 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Making Mathbox

posted by unconed0 at 11:25 AM on December 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

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(sic)?

posted by kmz at 7:38 AM on December 7, 2012 [1 favorite]