How do we determine distances between the earth, sun, and moon, and from the sun to other planets, stars, and distant galaxies? We can't measure these directly, but indirect methods, combined with some basic high school math, can provide convincing and accurate results. A public lecture by Fields medalist Terry Tao (SLYT)
At the Far Ends of a New Universal Law
The law appeared in full form two decades later, when the mathematicians Craig Tracy and Harold Widom proved that the critical point in the kind of model May used was the peak of a statistical distribution. Then, in 1999, Jinho Baik, Percy Deift and Kurt Johansson discovered that the same statistical distribution also describes variations in sequences of shuffled integers — a completely unrelated mathematical abstraction. Soon the distribution appeared in models of the wriggling perimeter of a bacterial colony and other kinds of random growth. Before long, it was showing up all over physics and mathematics. “The big question was why,” said Satya Majumdar, a statistical physicist at the University of Paris-Sud. “Why does it pop up everywhere?”
Privilege and oppression explained through math - specifically, matrices and Venn diagrams.
So you wanna join this bitcoin thing but can't afford the processing cycles to actually mine stuff? Now you can earn bitcoins using pencil and paper!
Hyperreal numbers: infinities and infinitesimals - "In 1976, Jerome Keisler, a student of the famous logician Tarski, published this elementary textbook that teaches calculus using hyperreal numbers. Now it's free, with a Creative Commons copyright!" (pdf—25mb :) [more inside]
DataGenetics is "a technology consultancy specializing in unlocking the value stored in large databases" and which runs an interesting blog. [more inside]
Norbert Wiener: The Eccentric Genius Whose Time May Have Finally Come (Again) - "The most direct reason for Wiener's fall to relative obscurity was the breakthrough of a young mathematician and engineer named Claude Shannon." [more inside]
Math or Maths? A few minutes with Dr Lynne Murphy (an American linguist in England) should clear this right up. Via Numberphile.
Computers are providing solutions to math problems that we can't check - "A computer has solved the longstanding Erdős discrepancy problem! Trouble is, we have no idea what it's talking about — because the solution, which is as long as all of Wikipedia's pages combined, is far too voluminous for us puny humans to confirm." (via; previously ;)
Finite time blowup for an averaged three-dimensional Navier-Stokes equation - "[Terence Tao] has shown that in an alternative abstract universe closely related to the one described by the Navier-Stokes equations, it is possible for a body of fluid to form a sort of computer, which can build a self-replicating fluid robot that, like the Cat in the Hat, keeps transferring its energy to smaller and smaller copies of itself until the fluid 'blows up.' " [1,2,3] (previously)
Network Theory Overview - "The idea: nature and the world of human technology are full of networks! People like to draw diagrams of networks. Mathematical physicists know that in principle these diagrams can be understood using category theory. But why should physicists have all the fun? This is the century of understanding living systems and adapting to life on a finite planet. Math isn't the main thing we need, but it's got to be part of the solution... so one thing we should do is develop a unified and powerful theory of networks." (via ;)
A/B testing has become a familiar term for most people running web sites, especially e-commerce sites. Unfortunately, most A/B test results are illusory (PDF, 312 kB). Here's how not to run an A/B test. Do use this sample size calculator or this weird trick.
It's a bit late for the holiday, but math(s) comedian Helen Arney sings about her Christmas wish -- the largest known Mersenne Prime, Mersenne 48. [more inside]
Closing in on the twin prime conjecture (Quanta) - "Just months after Zhang announced his result, Maynard has presented an independent proof that pushes the gap down to 600. A new Polymath project is in the planning stages, to try to combine the collaboration's techniques with Maynard's approach to push this bound even lower." [more inside]
"It's just one of those days where you wake up thinking that if you jazzed up Stravinsky's Owl And The Pussycat it'd be awesome..." [SLYT] [more inside]
Eric Weinstein has a PhD in mathematical physics from Harvard, but has spent most of the last 10 years outside academia working as an economic consultant for a New York hedge fund. Now he apparently has a new theory of everything that claims to be able to explain quantum gravity, dark matter and dark energy. Actual details have not yet been provided and some physicists are dismissive. But his work has received enthusiastic endorsement from Oxford's Simonyi Professor of Public Understanding Marcus du Sautoy, with whom he has been discussing the theory over the last two years. [more inside]
In August of last year, mathematician Shinichi Mochizuki reported that he had solved one of the great puzzles of number theory: the ABC conjecture (previously on Metafilter). Almost a year later, no one else knows whether he has succeeded. No one can understand his proof.
The British countryside generator uses Voronoi diagrams to recreate the patchwork quilt look of your stereotypical UK landscape of rolling meadows, woodlands and crop fields, enclosed by hedgerows and drystone walls.
Using computer systems for doing mathematical proofs - "With the proliferation of computer-assisted proofs that are all but impossible to check by hand, Hales thinks computers must become the judge." [more inside]
"Draw some random points on a piece of paper and join them up to make a random polygon. Find all the midpoints and connecting them up to give a new shape, and repeat. The resulting shape will get smaller and smaller, and will tend towards an ellipse!" [code to make this in Mathematica] [a version which allows you to watch the process step by step, with 10 vertices or 100]
The Nature of Computation - Intellects Vast and Warm and Sympathetic: "I hand you a network or graph, and ask whether there is a path through the network that crosses each edge exactly once, returning to its starting point. (That is, I ask whether there is a 'Eulerian' cycle.) Then I hand you another network, and ask whether there is a path which visits each node exactly once. (That is, I ask whether there is a 'Hamiltonian' cycle.) How hard is it to answer me?" (via) [more inside]
"We have little trouble recognizing that a chess grandmaster’s victory over a novice is skill, as well as assuming that Paul the octopus’s ability to predict World Cup games is due to chance. But what about everything else?" [Luck and Skill Untangled: The Science of Success]
Morton and Vicary on the Categorified Heisenberg Algebra - "In quantum mechanics, position times momentum does not equal momentum times position! This sounds weird, but it's connected to a very simple fact. Suppose you have a box with some balls in it, and you have the magical ability to create and annihilate balls. Then there's one more way to create a ball and then annihilate one, than to annihilate one and then create one. Huh? Yes: if there are, say, 3 balls in the box to start with, there are 4 balls you can choose to annihilate after you've created one but only 3 before you create one..." [more inside]
Beeminder provides an interesting and novel solution to the problem of akrasia. Got a long term goal or habit you'd like to change or develop (like losing weight or writing every day), then set out your targets, record your progress every day and pay cold hard cash the day you fall off the 'yellow brick road'. [more inside]
Free online graph paper generators: variations of squares, triangle, rhombus, and hexagonal, circular and polar, for drawing, gaming, writing, note-taking and much more. Blank Sheet Music (Flash) for all arrangements (PDF). Create and edit your own grids, probability and logarithmic graphs, petri-dish inserts and storyboards. Also, multilingual monthly and yearly calendars. Plus, more than you ever wanted to know about ISO paper dimensions and printable paper models of polyhedra. Prev-ious-ly.
FatFonts creates numerical fonts where the amount of ink/pixels for each number is in direct proportion to its value.
In Russian roulette, is it best to go first? | The Mathematics of Tetris | What is the result of infinity minus infinity? [more inside]
Geometrically the irrationality of the square root of 2 means that there is no integer-by-integer square whose area is twice the area of another integer-by-integer square. A visual proof that the square root of 2 is irrational (not found in previous visual proof post.)
Science through yarn: Wooly Thoughts. The Home of Mathematical Knitting, including knitted klein bottles and hyperbolic planes. The Museum of Scientifically Accurate Fabric Brain Art (previously). Much, much, more on knitting, crochet and quilting used to visualize complex theories in topology, probability, chaos and fractals. [more inside]
Beaded Polyhedra ❂ More beadwork (mathematical and otherwise) by Gwen Fisher ❂ Still more beadwork galleries at beAdinfinitum ❂ Three-dimensional finite point groups and the symmetry of beaded beads [pdf - some algebra, but lots of illustrations]
A thread full of proofs without words at MathOverflow and quite a lot more of them courtesy of Google Books.
Harvard's 1869 Entrance Exam (PDF - NYT)
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]
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]
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.
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)
Plus magazine has compiled all their articles on mathematics and the arts into one handy-dandy page full of highly enjoyable articles ranging from limericks and screeching violins to the restoration of frescoes.
Since its first printing in 1964, Abramowitz and Stegun's Handbook of Mathematical Functions has been a standard (and public domain) reference manual for special functions and applied mathematics. This week, NIST released its successor, the Digital Library of Mathematical Functions, online to the public.
The Soroban is recognisable to most in the West as an Abacus. Despite the prevalence of electronic calculators, the Soroban is still incredibly popular in Japan, with parents oft paying for private tutors to teach their children. The remarkable phenomenon of Flash Anzan is observed after a few years of practice, when users no longer need a real Soroban and can work off an imaginary one.
Mathematics Illuminated is a set of thirteen surveys in varied topics in mathematics, nicely produced with video, text, and interactive Flash gadgets for each of the topics.
Does a group of indigenous South Americans hold the key to our relationship with maths? Still, I thought it odd that numbers larger than five did not crop up at all in Amazonian daily life. What if you ask a Munduruku with six children how many kids they have? "He will say, 'I don't know,'" Pica said. "It is impossible to express."
The Carol Syndrome "Carol's perception that she scares men away is not a delusion after all. … It is not a matter of bad luck but a collateral effect of interactive rationality. A paradoxical consequence is that Carol's attractiveness acts as a repellent." Game theory (mis?)applied to dating. [more inside]
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