Reading the Comics, June 4, 2015: Taking It Easy Edition


I do like looking for thematic links among the comic strips that mention mathematical topics that I gather for these posts. This time around all I can find is a theme of “nothing big going on”. I’m amused by some of them but don’t think there’s much depth to the topics. But I like them anyway.

Mark Anderson’s Andertoons gets its appearance here with the May 25th strip. And it’s a joke about the hatred of fractions. It’s a suitable one for posting in mathematics classes too, since it is right about naming three famous irrational numbers — pi, the “golden ratio” phi, and the square root of two — and the fact they can’t be written as fractions which use only whole numbers in the numerator and denominator. Pi is, well, pi. The square root of two is nice and easy to find, and has that famous legend about the Pythagoreans attached to it. And it’s probably the easiest number to prove is irrational.

The “golden ratio” is that number that’s about 1.618. It’s interesting because 1 divided by phi is about 0.618, and who can resist a symmetry like that? That’s about all there is to say for it, though. The golden ratio is otherwise a pretty boring number, really. It’s gained celebrity as an “ideal” ratio — that a rectangle with one side about 1.6 times as long as the other is somehow more appealing than other choices — but that’s rubbish. It’s a novelty act among numbers. Novelty acts are fun, but we should appreciate them for what they are.

Rick Stromoski’s Soup To Nutz for May 28 has Royboy identify what Roman numerals are. Roman numerals are fun, but I’m not sure we really need to study them for more than amusement value.

Dan Thompson’s Brevity for May 29 puts “crystal math” jokes into the newspaper. (I’m assuming Brevity appears in newspapers.)

Jef Mallett’s Frazz of May 29 compares fractions to thunderstorm-y days. I am not being deliberately funny when I say I like thunderstorm-y days. Some folks are like me.

Mark Parisi’s Off The Mark for May 30th I’m just going to go ahead and declare is a response to the controversial Wrong Hands that John Atkinson published on the 23rd of April.

Gray Morrow and and Mark Kneece’s Tarzan from May 31st is a reprint from an early 1990s story. The story is built around the premise of the Library of Alexandria’s contents being spirited away to a secret repository designed by Hypatia, the 4th/early 5th century philosopher/astronomer/mathematician. As a story’s starting point that’s a pretty good one. The contents of the library as they existed around its burning in 391 (there were several burnings) would be a great prize. Hiding the real books away would be an awesome but imaginable feat. Hypatia has, in legend, been credited with developing the hydrometer, for measuring the relative density of liquids. (This legend is disputed.) So that’s enough, for the sake of a rip-roaring pulp adventure story, to make Hypatia able to design a climate- and humidity-controlled library. Hypatia was also a woman, though. Morrow and Kneece missed by just a tiny bit.

Zach Weinersmith’s Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal for the second of June shows off the diagram you’d use and the equations you’d write out to understand the problem of something falling off a wall. The application to nursery rhymes is obvious. And then entropy gets into the act. As Weinersmith correctly notes, entropy is always in the act.

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