516 posts tagged with Math.
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The sestina is an old poetic form invented by the troubadors; each of the thirty-nine lines ends with one of only six words, which gives the sestina a haunting, constricted feel. You might have read modern examples by Bishop or Auden, or the even more modern "WTF Sestina" by Meghann Marco. But you have probably never read a sestina which explains how to construct a sestina in the language of finite group theory. (.pdf link) Via excellent mathblog God Plays Dice.
posted by escabeche on Jan 20, 2009 - 24 comments

Exponential, what it do?

Division: Work it out! - these girls be spittin the math.
posted by madamjujujive on Jan 17, 2009 - 40 comments

A beautiful truthful mind

Brain reorganizes to make room for math. But does math easily lead to truth? Is it really just beauty?
posted by twoleftfeet on Nov 23, 2008 - 31 comments

Would you like to buy an fuzzy multi-instanton knot?

"...the best place to hide bulls**t is in a refereed journal that’s not open-access!" The math-physics blog n-category cafe digs into the curious case of M.S. El Naschie. El Naschie is editor-in-chief of the journal Chaos, Solitons, and Fractals, published by the well-respected scientific publisher Elsevier and sold to academic libraries for US$4,520 a year. The problem? El Naschie has published 322 of his own papers in the journal -- papers that John Baez (of "This Week's Finds in Mathematical Physics" and "The Crackpot Index") describes as "vague, dreamlike imagery," "undisciplined numerology larded with impressive buzzwords," and "total baloney." Is El Naschie a reverse Sokal? Or a Markov process for producing random publishable papers? One thing's for sure -- he knows how to cure cancer.
posted by escabeche on Nov 12, 2008 - 49 comments

Two mathematicians walk into a bar...

A math professor was explaining a particularly complicated calculus concept to his class when a frustrated pre-med student interrupts him. "Why do we have to learn this stuff?" the pre-med blurts out. The professor pauses, and answers matter-of-factly: "Because math saves lives." "How?" demanded the student. "How on Earth does calculus save lives?" "Because," replied the professor, "it keeps certain people out of medical school."
posted by cthuljew on Nov 9, 2008 - 82 comments

What is the largest prime factor of the sum of the favorited comments from all fibonacci-numbered MeFites?

"Project Euler is a series of challenging mathematical/computer programming problems that will require more than just mathematical insights to solve. Although mathematics will help you arrive at elegant and efficient methods, the use of a computer and programming skills will be required to solve most problems."

Started in 2001 as a sub-section of Maths Challenge, it has since grown large enough to become its own entity. It now boasts over 200 problems, many of them insanely difficult. [more inside]
posted by mystyk on Oct 13, 2008 - 31 comments

The Mathemagician and Pied Puzzler, and others

The Mathemagician and Pied Puzzler (PDF, rough table of contents here) is a collection of puzzles created by members of the Gathering 4 Gardner Foundation, in tribute to the man himself (previously). Also freely available at the G4G site is Puzzle Craft (PDF), by Stewart Coffin. (The Puzzling World of Polyhedral Dissections, also by Coffin, is available here.)
posted by cog_nate on Oct 1, 2008 - 9 comments

Quest for a true 3D Mandelbrot Fractal.

Quest for a true 3D Mandelbrot Fractal - a very nice exploration of Mandelbrot/Julia set fractals in various kinds of 3D space.
posted by loquacious on Sep 14, 2008 - 21 comments

Math Education: An Inconvenient Truth

Math Education: An Inconvenient Truth. How children learn (or: don't learn) math today. [more inside]
posted by davar on Sep 6, 2008 - 130 comments


Each letter corresponds to a number 0-9. The solution is unique. [more inside]
posted by Upton O'Good on Sep 3, 2008 - 27 comments

Who is Alexander Grothendieck?

Who is Alexander Grothendieck? [PDF] This lecture is concerned not with Grothendieck's mathematics but with his very unusual life on the fringes of human society. In particular, there is, on the one hand, the question of why at the age of forty-two Grothendieck first of all resigned his professorship at the Institut des Hautes Etudes Scientifiques (IHES); then withdrew from mathematics completely; and finally broke off all connections to his colleagues, students, acquaintances, friends, as well as his own family, to live as a hermit in an unknown place. On the other hand, one would like to know what has occupied this restless and creative spirit since his withdrawal from mathematics.
posted by Wolfdog on Aug 17, 2008 - 31 comments


How deep does the rabbit hole go? The Ultimate Fractal Video Project features animated zooms into the famous Mandelbrot Set. Some zoom in so far that, by the end of the dive, the first frame you had viewed would be as large as (or larger than) the known universe. | The animations are offered as .zip'd WMV files; lower-quality versions are viewable on FractAlkemist's YouTube page. [more inside]
posted by not_on_display on Jul 29, 2008 - 13 comments

Bite me, Larry Summers.

No gender differences found in math performance. None. Not on average, at least in countries where the sexes are treated equally. And no, not at the highest, outlier levels of mathematical ability, either, despite what some believe. And not in number of undergrad math degrees earned. And not in terms of complex problem solving ability. Just plain not.
posted by kyrademon on Jul 24, 2008 - 103 comments

Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

This week in mathematical physics, John Baez looks at the amazing tile patterns in the Alhambra in Granada, dividing the patterns into their characteristic Wallpaper Groups based on their symmetries. And if these patterns aren't good enough for you, try drawing your own with the Escher Web Sketch tool. [more inside]
posted by kiltedtaco on Jul 24, 2008 - 20 comments

Virtual Thinking

Correlative Analytics -- or as O'Reilly might term the Social Graph -- sort of mirrors the debate on 'brute force' algorithmic proofs (that are "true for no reason," cf.) in which "computers can extract patterns in this ocean of data that no human could ever possibly detect. These patterns are correlations. They may or may not be causative, but we can learn new things. Therefore they accomplish what science does, although not in the traditional manner... In this part of science, we may get answers that work, but which we don't understand. Is this partial understanding? Or a different kind of understanding?" Of course, say some in the scientific community: hogwash; it's just a fabrication of scientifically/statistically illiterate pundits, like whilst new techniques in data analysis are being developed to help keep ahead of the deluge...
posted by kliuless on Jul 21, 2008 - 40 comments

How reliable is DNA in identifying suspects?

A discovery leads to questions about whether the odds of people sharing genetic profiles are sometimes higher than portrayed. Calling the finding meaningless, the FBI has sought to block such inquiry.
posted by finite on Jul 20, 2008 - 30 comments

Why Learn Algebra? I'm Never Likely to Go There.

EducationFilter: California becomes the first state to mandate all 8th graders take Algebra; in part because U.S. students constantly trail their peers from other nations in mathematics. At least one person thinks it's a bad idea ("If only 25 percent of this nation ever earns a college degree, why insist that all children take algebra in eighth grade?"). Here's the algebra curriculum 8th graders will have to learn. [more inside]
posted by jabberjaw on Jul 10, 2008 - 124 comments

Rock the streets

Whether you want to learn to lace shoes, tie shoelaces, stop shoelaces from coming undone, calculate shoelace lengths or even repair aglets, Ian's Shoelace Site has the answer!
posted by Blazecock Pileon on Jun 27, 2008 - 22 comments

Pi(es) in a field

A new crop circle formation in Wiltshire depicts the first 10 digits of pi. [more inside]
posted by casarkos on Jun 20, 2008 - 96 comments

A Woolen Reef

The hyperbolic crochet coral reef has come to London. [more inside]
posted by chuckdarwin on Jun 17, 2008 - 14 comments

Little boxes on the hillside

Friday Flash Java Fun - 'Building Houses With Side Views' Entertaining Java game/exercise/doodad. [more inside]
posted by le morte de bea arthur on Jun 13, 2008 - 31 comments

Crank That Honor Roll

Smart Shorties is a new CD being marketed to teachers that takes the beats from popular rap songs and rewrites them to the multiplication tables, with the intent of improving kids' math skills. Forbes has a nice roundup on it's history, and NPR has done a featurette on it as well At the very least, it's certainly worth a listen for the chuckle potential, but in addition to that, it's an interesting example of the now-booming Edutainment industry, something that not only spans CD's, but also computer games and even standalone video game consoles.

also, Smart Shorties is certainly not the only "Hip-hop in the classroom" product out there, nor is it the first.
posted by The Esteemed Doctor Bunsen Honeydew on Jun 8, 2008 - 37 comments

3.14159265... and 99,992 digits to go!

Exercising your brain makes you smarter, and there is no better gym for it than the MentatWiki. [more inside]
posted by splice on May 17, 2008 - 16 comments

15 bits of crypto should be enough for anybody

On May 13, security advisories published by Debian and Ubuntu revealed that, for over a year, their OpenSSL libraries have had a major flaw in their CSPRNG, which is used by key generation functions in many widely-used applications, which caused the "random" numbers produced to be extremely predictable. [lolcat summary] [more inside]
posted by finite on May 16, 2008 - 81 comments

Abstract concepts vs. concrete examples for teaching math

A new study in Science claims that teaching math is better done by teaching the abstract concepts rather than using concrete examples. From an article by the study authors in Science Mag (requires subscription): If a goal of teaching mathematics is to produce knowledge that students can apply to multiple situations, then presenting mathematical concepts through generic instantiations, such as traditional symbolic notation, may be more effective than a series of "good examples." This is not to say that educational design should not incorporate contextualized examples. What we are suggesting is that grounding mathematics deeply in concrete contexts can potentially limit its applicability. Students might be better able to generalize mathematical concepts to various situations if the concepts have been introduced with the use of generic instantiations.
posted by peacheater on Apr 26, 2008 - 27 comments

A Mathematician's Lament

“…if I had to design a mechanism for the express purpose of destroying a child’s natural curiosity and love of pattern-making, I couldn’t possibly do as good a job as is currently being done — I simply wouldn’t have the imagination to come up with the kind of senseless, soul-crushing ideas that constitute contemporary mathematics education.” [more inside]
posted by blasdelf on Apr 10, 2008 - 79 comments

Behind Door Number One...

The Monty Hall Problem has struck again, and this time it’s not merely embarrassing mathematicians. If the calculations of a Yale economist are correct, there’s a sneaky logical fallacy in some of the most famous experiments in psychology." The NY Times' John Tierney reports on new research into cognitive dissonance as examined through the famous Monty Hall Problem. [A previous MetaFilter thread about the Monty Hall Problem: Let's Make A Deal!]
posted by amyms on Apr 8, 2008 - 119 comments

Matchbox Computing

"Once you've constructed your Hexapawn opponent, it's time to start playing against it... If you play this game repeatedly ... you'll quickly notice that your matchbox opponent plays better and better until it is unbeatable!" Martin Gardner created a game called Hexapawn, and also devised an artificially intelligent opponent you can build yourself out of matchboxes and colored beads. Bonus link: An interview with Martin Gardner.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner on Apr 1, 2008 - 17 comments

A road is a road is a road

Did you know that you can create a simple set of directions to your house that works no matter where the recipient starts from? After 38 years this remarkable conjecture has now been proved by a 63-year old former security guard.
posted by unSane on Mar 21, 2008 - 46 comments

The Geometry of Music

The connection between mathematics and music is often touted in awed, mysterious tones, but it is grounded in hard-headed science. For example, mathematical principles underlie the organization of Western music into 12-note scales. And even a beginning piano student encounters geometry in the "circle of fifths" when learning the fundamentals of music theory. ...according to Dmitri Tymoczko, a composer and music theorist at Princeton University, these well-known connections reveal only a few threads of the hefty rope that binds music and math.
The Geometry of Music
See also The Geometry of Musical Chords - Dmitri Tymoczko, Science 7 July 2006: Abstract
See also Dmitri Tymoczko, Composer and Music Theoristvia [more inside]
posted by y2karl on Mar 16, 2008 - 29 comments

golden ratio in the amen break

The Amen Break and the Golden Ratio by mathematics educator and author, Michael S. Schneider. Schneider, having already researched and written about the golden ratio extensively, noticed it right away when hearing the the amen break for the first time (amen break previously on the blue). While some composers have been known to intentionally incorporate fibonacci numbers and the golden ratio into their works, perhaps this is just another one of the many instances of the ratio showing up in nature.
posted by p3t3 on Mar 12, 2008 - 27 comments

Big book of algorithms

If you could use a great big free handbook of discrete math and algorithms, Jörg Arndt's fxtbook wants to be your friend. Plain text table of contents to whet your appetite.
posted by Wolfdog on Mar 5, 2008 - 11 comments

learning math online

Free math courses online, from very basic to brainiac. [more inside]
posted by nickyskye on Feb 26, 2008 - 19 comments

Would you like to play a game?

Fun and games with mathematics and mathematical puzzles (e.g. heart basket, Rubik's Cube, Rubik's Magic, hypercubes, and more) in both English and (with yet more content in) German.
posted by Blazecock Pileon on Feb 18, 2008 - 6 comments

Men from Nantucket need not apply

The man who runs xkcd
has created the LimerickDB.
Though often quite dirty
There are more that are nerdy;
If you check out the best ones, you'll see.
posted by kyleg on Feb 5, 2008 - 88 comments

Basic Concepts in Science: A List

Basic Concepts in Science: A List A regularly updated list of blog entries explaining the basics of science and mathematics.
posted by LeeJay on Jan 25, 2008 - 16 comments

A Visual Dictionary of Famous Plane Curves

A Visual Dictionary of Famous Plane Curves is an outstanding resource for curves found in nature, man-made objects, and mathematics. Other websites that list exotically named curves also animate how they are created. One of the most unusually named curves, the “Witch of Agnesi”, has an unusual etymology. A number of these curves will be familiar to anyone who has used a Spirograph. Previously.
posted by Tube on Jan 19, 2008 - 13 comments

Wheel me out

MATSYS Based on the idea that architecture can be understood as a material body with its own intrinsic and extrinsic forces relating to form, growth, and behavior, the studio investigates methodologies of performative integration through geometric and material differentiation.

B_Complex, N_Table, Endless Ocean, Endless Sky (more), P_Wall. more.
posted by klangklangston on Jan 18, 2008 - 6 comments

math for dummies

Calculations and conversions made simple.
posted by Viomeda on Dec 19, 2007 - 33 comments

There's definitely a method to my madness. Definitely.

Lightning calculator and "mathemagician" Art Benjamin goes through his paces in a 15 minute video.
posted by Wolfdog on Dec 19, 2007 - 32 comments


Ever wondered if and where a specific set of numbers could be found in pi? Maybe you'd like to know where your birthday is? Or maybe just something funny. [prev. here, here] [more inside]
posted by TimeTravelSpeed on Dec 4, 2007 - 68 comments

Squaring the square

Nowhere-neat tilings are actually pretty neat. We all know you can't "square the circle", but do you know the story of squaring the square? (And by the way, even if you can't construct π with a ruler and compass, you can come awfully close without too much work.)
posted by Wolfdog on Dec 4, 2007 - 10 comments

Cut The Knot

Interactive mathematics miscellany and puzzles, including 75 proofs of the Pythagorean Theorem, an interactive column using Java applets, and eye-opening demonstrations. (Actually, much more.)
posted by parudox on Dec 1, 2007 - 11 comments

“It's one minute before 12.”

“The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function.” (RealVideo) Al Bartlett, retired University of Colorado Professor of Physics, gives a stunning hour-long old-school lecture (overhead projector!) on exponential growth and its inevitable results. [more inside]
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul on Nov 20, 2007 - 83 comments

Symmetry. Shakespeare. Islamic medicine. Creative writing challenges.

Symmetry. Shakespeare. Islamic medicine. Creative writing challenges. Four podcast series from University of Warwick.
posted by Wolfdog on Nov 18, 2007 - 2 comments

A Study in the Trickyness Involved in Rocking a Rhyme

Rap represented in mathematical charts and graphs.
posted by 31d1 on Nov 9, 2007 - 66 comments

Freely-available textbooks

Open Text Book: a blog which lists freely-available online textbooks. [more inside]
posted by Upton O'Good on Oct 25, 2007 - 12 comments


No, I'm sorry, it does. There are some arguments that never end. John or Paul? "Another thing coming" or "Another think coming?" But none has the staying power of "Is 0.999999...., with the 9s repeating forever, equal to 1?" A high school math teacher takes on all doubters. Round 2. Round 3. Refutations of some popular "They're not equal" arguments. Refutations, round 2. You don't have to a mathematician to get in on the fun: .99999=1 discussed on a conspiracy theory website, an Ayn Rand website (where it is accused to violating the "law of identity"), and a World of Warcraft forum. But never, as far as I can tell, on MetaFilter.
posted by escabeche on Sep 30, 2007 - 256 comments


Worried about inaccuracies in Wikipedia? Try Scholarpedia, a peer-reviewed encyclopedia, with articles written by experts in their field. [more inside]
posted by Upton O'Good on Sep 27, 2007 - 26 comments

Life is complex: it has both real and imaginary components

More than fifty selected articles from The Princeton Companion of Mathematics (username: Guest, password: PCM) — a thematically-organized compendium of mathematics and mathematicians from Fields Medal-winner Tim Gowers. [via, previously]
posted by Blazecock Pileon on Sep 27, 2007 - 8 comments

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