533 posts tagged with Math.
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Math interview podcast

Strongly Connected Components is a podcast of interviews with mathematicians. Hear complexity theorist Scott Aaronson (of Shtetl-Optimized), Tom Henderson (of Punk Mathematics) algebraist Olga Holtz of UC-Berkeley, master combinatorist Richard Stanley of MIT, and many more.
posted by escabeche on Aug 5, 2011 - 5 comments

The Earth Is Flat (to a certain approximation)

Old Theories As Limits of New Ones -- Theoretical physicist, Lubos Motl, takes a brief tour through the history of physics, and explains the simple mathematical relationship of old theories to the theories that replace them.
posted by empath on Aug 5, 2011 - 16 comments

Growing a hyperdodecahedron

This short computer graphics animation presents the regular 120-cell: a four dimensional polytope composed of 120 dodecahedra and also known as the hyperdodecahedron or hecatonicosachoron. [more inside]
posted by Wolfdog on Aug 2, 2011 - 29 comments

Lisa Sauermann is the world's best high school math competitor

Lisa Sauermann of Germany has won her fourth gold medal at the International Mathematical Olympiad, making her the top performer in the high school math competition's history. The IMO has been has been run continuously since 1959. Sauermann scored a perfect 42 on this year's exam, the only contestant in the world to do so. Not impressed yet? Here are this year's problems: day 1 and day 2. Watch a bunch of mathematicians wrestle with problem 2 in real time at the polymath blog.
posted by escabeche on Jul 30, 2011 - 64 comments

Kill Math

Bret Victor on WorryDream 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. When most people speak of Math, what they have in mind is more its mechanism than its essence. This "Math" consists of assigning meaning to a set of symbols, blindly shuffling around these symbols according to arcane rules, and then interpreting a meaning from the shuffled result. The process is not unlike casting lots.
posted by naight on Jul 24, 2011 - 19 comments

Beaded Beads

Beaded PolyhedraMore beadwork (mathematical and otherwise) by Gwen Fisher ❂ Still more beadwork galleries at beAdinfinitumThree-dimensional finite point groups and the symmetry of beaded beads [pdf - some algebra, but lots of illustrations]
posted by Wolfdog on Jul 19, 2011 - 6 comments

Then you wouldn't have to say "QED", 'cause I'd already know

A thread full of proofs without words at MathOverflow and quite a lot more of them courtesy of Google Books.
posted by Wolfdog on Jul 18, 2011 - 22 comments

Vermont 1, Rest of USA 0

Maybe evolution shouldn't be taught in schools, but what does Miss USA think about math?
posted by Blazecock Pileon on Jul 14, 2011 - 48 comments

The Cartoon Guide to Life, the Universe, and Everything

Larry Gonick is a veteran American cartoonist best known for his delightful comic-book guides to science and history, many of which have previews online. Chief among them is his long-running Cartoon History of the Universe (later The Cartoon History of the Modern World), a sprawling multi-volume opus documenting everything from the Big Bang to the Bush administration. Published over the course of three decades, it takes a truly global view -- its time-traveling Professor thoroughly explores not only familiar topics like Rome and World War II but the oft-neglected stories of Asia and Africa, blending caricature and myth with careful scholarship (cited by fun illustrated bibliographies) and tackling even the most obscure events with intelligence and wit. This savvy satire carried over to Gonick's Zinn-by-way-of-Pogo chronicle The Cartoon History of the United States, along with a bevy of Cartoon Guides to other topics, including Genetics, Computer Science, Chemistry, Physics, Statistics, The Environment, and (yes!) Sex. Gonick has also maintained a few sideprojects, such as a webcomic look at Chinese invention, assorted math comics (previously), the Muse magazine mainstay Kokopelli & Co. (featuring the shenanigans of his "New Muses"), and more. See also these lengthy interview snippets, linked previously. Want more? Amazon links to the complete oeuvre inside! [more inside]
posted by Rhaomi on Jun 6, 2011 - 29 comments

Odlyzko on electronic publishing, 1996

"As recently as a year ago, there were many publishers, librarians, and scholars who thought that electronic publishing was just a passing fad." In 1996, the number theorist Andrew Odlyzko, a pioneer in the development of "experimental mathematics" via large-scale computation, wrote a article, prescient in many respects, about the effect the Internet would have on the economics of scholarly publication, and on commerce more generally.
posted by escabeche on May 29, 2011 - 20 comments

"so you can imagine, here I was, an analyst at a hedge fund; it was very strange for me do to something of social value"

Salman Khan: The Messiah of Math - "His free website, dubbed the Khan Academy, may well be the most popular educational site in the world. Last month about 2 million students visited. MIT's OpenCourseWare site, by comparison, has been around since 2001 and averages 1 million visits each month... [more inside]
posted by kliuless on May 28, 2011 - 150 comments

Is this x defined? Is F continuous?

Calculus Rhapsody Like it says on the tin.
posted by tomswift on May 5, 2011 - 9 comments

The Discrete Charm of the 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, ...

Do you like integer sequences? Do you like poking around in the The On-Line Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences? Do you think, whoa, wait, okay, actually I like integer sequences but the OEIS is a goddam intractable maze of numbers? Do you think, man, what I wish is that someone would make an accessible blog that discusses some of the interesting entries in the OEIS for the casual fan of integer sequences? Well, that's an amazing coincidence; you should take a look at The On-Line Blog of Integer Sequences, by our very own Plutor.
posted by cortex on May 5, 2011 - 26 comments

Well, just take n=1...right?

In the afternoon of May 4, 1971, in the Stouffer's Somerset Inn in Shaker Heights, Ohio, Steve Cook presented his STOC paper proving that Satisfiability is NP-complete and Tautology is NP-hard. [more inside]
posted by King Bee on May 4, 2011 - 19 comments

Is teacher evaluation statistical voodoo?

"Value-added modeling is promoted because it has the right pedigree -- because it is based on "sophisticated mathematics." As a consequence, mathematics that ought to be used to illuminate ends up being used to intimidate." John Ewing, president of Math for America and former executive director of the American Mathematical Society, criticizes the "value-added modeling" approach used as a proxy for teacher quality, most famously in a Los Angeles Times story that called out low-scoring teachers by name. A Brookings Institution paper says value-added modeling is flawed but the best measure we have of teacher value, arguing that the metric's wide fluctuations from year to year are no worse than those of batting averages in baseball. (Though the weakness of that correlation is mostly a BABIP issue.) Can we assign a numerical value to teacher quality? If so, how?
posted by escabeche on Apr 27, 2011 - 62 comments

Nature Special Issue on the Future of the PhD

Mark Taylor. Reform the PhD system or close it down. Nature 472, 261 (2011) [more inside]
posted by jeffburdges on Apr 26, 2011 - 54 comments

My cell phone connects me with my friends and also calculates logarithms

Are graphical calculators pointless? Graphical calculators are required by many college-level math courses, but they don't perform as well as mobile phones. Pedagogically, they may be less useful than a slide rule. [more inside]
posted by twoleftfeet on Apr 12, 2011 - 68 comments

True art is irrational.

This is what pi sounds like. At least, that's one person's interpretation. There are certainly plenty of others, including touchtone pi, hammered dulcimer pi, violin pi, smooth techno pi, crazy awesome pi, vaguely unsettling pi (sounds best with headphones), and lots of piano pi. Pi has even done a duet with its buddy e. Nothing here that tickles your fancy? Think you could do better? Why not make your own pi song? Hell, make two! If you're having trouble remembering all those pesky digits, don't worry: there's a song for that, too.

(pi as music previously on metafilter)
posted by Captain Cardanthian! on Mar 8, 2011 - 21 comments

Talking fast and making cool videos does not mean learning is happening

So you're me and you're in math class and you're learning about graph theory, a subject too interesting to be included in most grade school's curricula so maybe you're in some special program or maybe you're in college and were somehow not scarred for life by your grade school math teachers. [more inside]
posted by achmorrison on Feb 22, 2011 - 32 comments

Rediscovering WWII's female "computers"

Rediscovering WWII's female "computers". While researching a documentary in Philadelphia, filmmaker LeAnn Erickson came across two women with a story she'd never heard before: thousands of women with advanced mathematical skills employed as "computers", working day and night during WWII to supply soldiers in the field with precise ballistics algorithms. Some of those women also went on to program ENIAC, the first general-purpose computer (previously). Erickson turned their stories into Top Secret Rosies, a documentary released to theaters last year and to DVD this month. One of those programmers, Betty Jean Jennings Bartik, spoke at length to the Computing History Museum in 2008. [youtube, 1:07:19] [via]
posted by Errant on Feb 8, 2011 - 32 comments


Snowdecahedron. When life hands you a blizzard, make a Platonic solid. "Temporary public art" from Dan Sternof Beyer.
posted by escabeche on Feb 3, 2011 - 58 comments

What is reality?

Horizon asks "What is reality?" -- youtube for links for those outside the UK: 1, 2, 3, 4. It's a hard question. To help you answer it, Stanford has a set of free courses available on line by Leonard Susskind: General Relativity, Cosmology, New Revolutions in Particle Physics, Quantum Entanglement, Special Relativity, Classical Mechanics, Statistical Mechanics, The Standard Model. (Each link is to lecture 1 of a full college course of a dozen or so lectures.) If you need help with the math, the Khan Academy should help get you up to speed.
posted by empath on Jan 23, 2011 - 67 comments

Finite formula found for partition numbers

New math theories reveal the nature of numbers [1,2] - "We prove that partition numbers are 'fractal' for every prime. These numbers, in a way we make precise, are self-similar in a shocking way. Our 'zooming' procedure resolves several open conjectures, and it will change how mathematicians study partitions." (/.|via) [more inside]
posted by kliuless on Jan 22, 2011 - 45 comments

Browser as Graphing Calculator

An open source, html5 based graphing and computation engine does in your browser what is usually outsourced to the cloud. It graphs, solves, simplifies, integrates and differentiates expressions, and needs no internet connection once you load the page in your browser (or save it on your computer). RTFM.
posted by Obscure Reference on Jan 19, 2011 - 26 comments

Win Steve Landsburg's Money

Google is known to ask the following question in job interviews: In a country in which people only want boys every family continues to have children until they have a boy. If they have a girl, they have another child. If they have a boy, they stop. What is the proportion of boys to girls in the country? Think you know the answer? If so, Steve Landsburg may be willing to bet you up to $5000. [more inside]
posted by gsteff on Jan 1, 2011 - 279 comments

How Long is Babby Formed?

"Normal" human pregnancies last 40 weeks, right? Well, no; they can vary quite a bit by the mother's race, age, number of previous children, family history of delivering early or late, home state, work habits, and even the fetus' HLA type. So where does that "40 week" thing come from? Oh, dear. So check out this super-nerdy pregnancy statistics website, from an engineer mom who is collecting data from the public (see the raw data and auto-generated graphs, and read the FAQ about the survey, with more cool graphs). Looking for day-by-day probabilities on when that baby's due? This would be your stats table with daily prediction (adjust dates at top of page as needed). Of course, you could always shut up your constantly inquiring relatives and friends another way.
posted by Asparagirl on Dec 16, 2010 - 45 comments

All the single digits

"A few weeks ago, my alge­bra class was assigned a project called “Math­e­matic Karaoke,” for which were told to pick a song, make it about num­bers (and stuff), and record our­selves singing it. [....] Of course, Sin­gle Ladies was my tune of choice."
posted by borkencode on Dec 9, 2010 - 47 comments

Or like a computer. Or like an Egyptian computer.

Multiply like an Egyptian. (SLYT)
posted by overeducated_alligator on Dec 9, 2010 - 24 comments

Never tell me the odds.

Measure-theoretic probability: Why it should be learnt and how to get started. The clickable chart of distribution relationships. Just two of the interesting and informative probability resources I've learned about, along with countless other tidbits of information, from statistician John D. Cook's blog and his probability fact-of-the-day Twitter feed ProbFact. John also has daily tip and fact Twitter feeds for Windows keyboard shortcuts, regular expressions, TeX and LaTeX, algebra and number theory, topology and geometry, real and complex analysis, and beginning tomorrow, computer science and statistics.
posted by grouse on Dec 5, 2010 - 17 comments

Explorations of a Recreational Mathematician

Let's say you're me and you're in math class, and you're supposed to be learning about factoring. Trouble is, your teacher is too busy trying to convince you that factoring is a useful skill for the average person to know with real-world applications ranging from passing your state exams all the way to getting a higher SAT score and unfortunately does not have the time to show you why factoring is actually interesting. It's perfectly reasonable for you to get bored in this situation. So like any reasonable person, you start doodling. [more inside]
posted by ErWenn on Dec 3, 2010 - 27 comments

Teen Mathletes Do Battle at Algorithm Olympics

In today's example of kids smarter than you and I, Wired follows the exploits of two teens competing at the International Olympiad in Informatics.
posted by reenum on Dec 2, 2010 - 14 comments

The plot isn't great, but the plots are pretty good.

The OEIS Movie is simply a slideshow of one thousand plots from the Online Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences, at two plots per second with sequence-generated music. [more inside]
posted by Wolfdog on Dec 2, 2010 - 12 comments

A Brief History of Mathematics

A Brief History of Mathematics is a BBC series of ten fifteen-minute podcasts by Professor Marcus du Sautoy about the history of mathematics from Newton and Leibniz to Nicolas Bourbaki, the pseudonym of a group of French 20th Century mathematicians. Among those covered by Professor du Sautoy are Euler, Fourier and Poincaré. The podcasts also include short interviews with people such as Brian Eno and Roger Penrose.
posted by Kattullus on Dec 1, 2010 - 11 comments

Snail Ball

The Geometry of the Snail Ball [pdf] - an interesting article (with some DIY advice at the end) about a toy shop curiosity you may have encountered.
posted by Wolfdog on Nov 16, 2010 - 25 comments


Kaggle hosts competitions to glean information from massive data sets, a la the Netflix Prize. Competitors can enter free, while companies with vast stores of impenetrable data pay Kaggle to outsource their difficulties to the world population of freelance data-miners. Kaggle contestants have already developed dozens of chess rating systems which outperform the Elo rating currently in use, and identified genetic markers in HIV associated with a rise in viral load. Right now, you can compete to forecast tourism statistics or predict unknown edges in a social network. Teachers who want to pit their students against each other can host a Kaggle contest free of charge.
posted by escabeche on Nov 13, 2010 - 10 comments

Schrödinger's Ratio

If you look around, you'll see that the ratio of 1.618:1 appears in architecture, nature, and artistic works (such as music, previously). Studied by the Greeks, the Golden Ratio is pretty much everywhere and is common accepted as aesthetically pleasing, and now it has been found to exist down into the nanoscale level, as a byproduct of investigating the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. We may not be able to nail down both position and speed, but it appears the macro ratio is an echo of the micro one. [more inside]
posted by Old'n'Busted on Oct 29, 2010 - 31 comments

Yes, it really is the old person driving slowly.

Wondering why the traffic is so slow? WONDER NO MORE! [Via]
posted by Lord_Pall on Oct 26, 2010 - 65 comments

from complexity, universality

A brief tour of the mysteriously universal laws of mathematics and nature. [more inside]
posted by kliuless on Oct 24, 2010 - 33 comments

Bring me the butter

The evidence that eating a lot of butter will make you better at math is incomplete. The Butter Mind study, to be run from October 20 - November 12, will test the hypothesis that butter improves math performance.
posted by twoleftfeet on Oct 15, 2010 - 39 comments

letters and numbers

This new Australian tv quiz show is so awkward it's endearing, and Lily's good at maths! [more inside]
posted by compound eye on Sep 21, 2010 - 42 comments

Arthur's Classic Novels, his Love of Mankind and the Internet

Arthur's Classic Novels has 4000 free ebooks, no registration, nicely organized by author and topics: great old Science Fiction magazines l plentiful online education with 650 books for doctors l a vast collection of famous novels l short stories l by women l Buddhist Scriptures, including The Buddhist Bible, a fave of Jack Kerouac l magazines online l stories by Robert Sheckley l The Autobiography of Charles Darwin l huge collection of fairy tales l philosophy l P. G. Wodehouse l vintage technology l Oscar Wilde l Mark Twain l Rudyard Kipling l George MacDonald l the Koran l a collection of eText resource links. About Arthur Wendover. [more inside]
posted by nickyskye on Sep 16, 2010 - 33 comments

How do you calculate Pi? Build a supercomputer.

How do you calculate Pi? Build a supercomputer. The Mountains of Pi, a New Yorker profile of the mathematician (sic) the Chudnovsky brothers. Warning: the article is from 1992, and internet is missing its definite article. (Previously)
posted by OmieWise on Sep 9, 2010 - 31 comments

Music is Math

Music is Math (lots of different variations on the page. Watch this one in full screen and with headphones.)
posted by empath on Sep 9, 2010 - 9 comments

Quantum Chess!

"Computers can search all possible outcomes of all possible moves in conventional chess and beat even top human players, so Akl wanted to make the computation more difficult." The result? Quantum chess! [via]
posted by brundlefly on Sep 8, 2010 - 31 comments

It's not every day that you hear the proof of the century

1996 BBC documentary of the proof of Fermat's last theorem is now a Google video. John [Lynch] began researching the project, but Wiles was being very elusive. Although John did not know it, the flaw in Wiles's proof had been found, which is why Wiles was in hiding. Eventually the existence of the flaw emerged, and the TV project was abandoned A year or so later, the flaw was fixed... More at
posted by Obscure Reference on Aug 28, 2010 - 12 comments

the idea of a fully operational zero...

"Michel de Montaigne, whose essays transformed Western consciousness and literature, was not capable of solving basic arithmetic problems. And most other people would not be able to do so either, if not for the invention of decimal notation by an unknown mathematician in India 1500 years ago." The Greatest Mathematical Discovery? (expanded pdf) a paper written for the US Dept. of Energy makes this assertion based in part on the work of Georges Ifrah. [via] [more inside]
posted by jessamyn on Aug 26, 2010 - 44 comments

Q to the E to the D

Futurama has always been a haven for geek humor, but last week's episode "The Prisoner of Benda" pushed things to the next level. First hinted at in an American Physical Society interview with showrunner David X. Cohen (previously), staff writer and mathematics Ph.D. Ken Keeler devised a novel mathematical proof based on group theory to resolve the logic puzzle spawned by the episode's brain-swapping (but no backsies!) conceit. Curious how it works? Read the proof (in the show or in plain text), then see it in action using this handy chart. Too much math for a lazy Sunday? Then entertain your brain with lengthy clips from the episode -- including two of the funniest moments in the series in the span of two minutes.
posted by Rhaomi on Aug 22, 2010 - 130 comments

That Was the This Week's Finds That Was

The 300th issue of This Week's Finds in Mathematical Physics will be the last. It is not an exaggeration to say that when John Baez started publishing TWF in 1993, he invented the science blog, and an (academic) generation has now grown up reading his thoughts on higher category theory, zeta functions, quantum gravity, crazy pictures of roots of polynomials, science fiction, and everything else that can loosely be called either "mathematical" or "physics." Baez continues to blog actively at n-category cafe and the associated nLab (an intriguingly fermented commune of mathematicians, physicists, and philosophers.) He is now starting a new blog, Azimuth, "centered around the theme of what scientists can do to help save the planet."
posted by escabeche on Aug 14, 2010 - 17 comments

How to operate the first digital computer.

Learn how to operate the world's first fully electronic digital computer in this helpful instructional video. No, not ENIAC - the Atanasoff Berry Computer. Here's an operator's manual. More information about the reconstruction.
posted by loquacious on Aug 13, 2010 - 24 comments

Online statistics textbook

Interested in teaching yourself some statistics? Here is an excellent online and interactive statistics textbook developed at UC Berkeley, and also used at CUNY, UCSC, SJSU, and Bard. Here is the syllabus for the course at Berkeley. And here are some insightful reflections from the professor on developing Berkeley's first fully approved online course.
posted by AceRock on Aug 9, 2010 - 18 comments

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