I’m sorry to have fallen silent the last few days; it’s been a bit busy and I’ve been working on follow-ups to a couple of threads. Fortunately Comic Strip Master Command is still around and working to make sure I don’t disappear altogether, and I have a selection of comic strips which at least include a Jumble world puzzle, which should be a fun little diversion.
Tony Rubino and Gary Markstein’s Daddy’s Home (March 23) asks what seems like a confused question to me, “if you believe in infinity, does that mean anything is possible?” As I say, I’m not sure I understand how belief in infinity comes into play, but that might just reflect my background: I’ve been thoroughly convinced that one can describe collections of things that have infinitely many elements — the counting numbers, rectangles, continuous functions — as well as that one can subdivide things — like segments of a number line — infinitely many times — as well as of quantities that are larger than any finite number and so must be infinitely large; so, what’s to not believe in? (I’m aware that there are philosophical and theological questions that get into things termed “potential” and “actual” infinities, but I don’t understand the questions those terms are meant to address.) The phrasing of “anything is possible” seems obviously flawed to me. But if we take it to mean instead “anything not logically inconsistent or physically prohibited is possible” then we seem to have a reasonable question, if that hasn’t just reduced to “anything not impossible is possible”. I guess ultimately I just wonder if the kid is actually trying to understand anything or if he’s just procrastinating.
Dan Thompson’s Lost Sheep (March 23) is a word-problem resistance question, although it’s actually more of a logic than an arithmetic puzzle. The talk about the bus number and the time taken to travel are confounds, the sort of thing that it seems to me really bothers students because word problems tend to contain only and precisely the information — especially numbers — needed to solve the question. One of the comments on Gocomics.com points out that the bus driver’s wife should be counted as one of the people who boards the bus, although then we have to ask why the bus driver doesn’t count as one of the eighteen who boards also, and whether the bus was empty when boarding started.
David L Hoyt and Jeff Knurek’s Jumble (March 23) mentions a mathematics teacher and at the risk of spoiling the puzzle draws arithmetic in as iconic of what mathematics teachers do. Fair enough, that.
Eric the Circle (March 24), this one by “Naratex”, just plays on the various kinds of triangles.
Gordon Bess’s Redeye (March 25, rerun from November 11, 1968) does a New Math joke, which is why I’m not tempted to look at the comments at all. I do feel the need to point out that the matching up of counting numbers to shots fired, and of shots fired to the number of bullets available, is precisely the sort of matching sets of one thing to sets of another which almost defined the New Math, or at least the part of the New Math where parents stopped listening and demanded they stop all this weirdo moon-man stuff and get back to counting already.
Ryan North’s Dinosaur Comics (March 26) sees the T-rex wondering what life would be like were light to be extremely slow (from our perspective). Working out what physics might look like if physical constants were different can be a good exercise, and might help in making intimate the ways physics gets strange at speeds and sizes very different from ours; I remember vividly an episode of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos which played with the challenges of bicycling around a small Italian village with a speed of light of 30 kilometers per hour (or some similarly modest number, approachable by a skilled bicyclist).
Dave Whammond’s Reality Check (March 26) apparently got the notice about Pi Day late, but decided to participate anyway. Good spirit.