## Reading the Comics, July 19, 2015: Rerun Comics Edition

I’m stepping my blog back away from the daily posting schedule. It’s fun, but it’s also exhausting. Sometimes, Comic Strip Master Command helps out. It slowed the rate of mathematically-themed comics *just* enough.

By this post’s title I don’t mean that my post is a rerun. But several of the comics mentioned happen to be. One of the good — maybe best — things about the appearance of comics on Gocomics.com and ComicsKingdom is that comic strips that have ended, such as **Randolph Itch, 2 am** or (alas) **Cul de Sac** can still appear without taking up space. And long-running comic strips such as **Luann** can have earlier strips be seen to a new audience, again without doing any harm to the newest generation of cartoonists. So, there’s that.

Greg Evans’s **Luann Againn** (July 13, originally run July 13, 1987) makes a joke of Tiffany not understanding the odds of a contest. That’s amusing enough. Estimating the probability of something happening does require estimating how many things are possible, though, and how likely they are relative to one another. Supposing that every entry in a sweepstakes is equally likely to win seems fair enough. Estimating the number of sweepstakes entries is another problem.

Tom Toles’s **Randolph Itch, 2 am** (July 13, rerun from July 29, 2002) tells a silly little pirates-and-algebra joke. I like this one for the silliness and the artwork. The only sad thing is there wasn’t a natural way to work equations for a circle into it, so there’d be a use for “r”.

Jeff Harris’s **Shortcuts** kids-information panel for July 13 was all about Isaac Newton. While there’s little here that an adult reader, at least one who’s looking at recreational mathematics blogs, wouldn’t already know, it is after all a kids’ feature. And it helps remind one of how staggeringly much Isaac Newton *did*. The reference to Newton trying to calculate the weight of Noah’s Ark is the only hint of the considerable time Newton spent on what we’d now consider eccentric to crankish work. We don’t think much about Newton’s alchemy or the time he spent to calculating when the Bible might say the world would end, but these were things he worried about greatly. (Richard Thompson’s **Cul de Sac** rerun for July 19th happens to mention Isaac Newton. But it’s more about identifying a common affliction. I’m pretty sure I have it and I’m not even a father. While it’s not mathematical at all, it’s my favorite of this selection of comics.)

Mark Anderson’s **Andertoons** gets its scheduled appearance this roundup for the July 16th comic. It’s about the real question inside solid geometry.

Zach Weinersmith’s **Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal** gets *its* scheduled appearance this roundup for its July 17th strip. It’s a fair enough summary of optimization problems, an important field of mathematics. We often want the best we can get despite mutually exclusive, or even contradictory, goals. One approach to doing that is to quantify the things we want, and find a weighted average of these quantities. The weights are based on how important things are, how much they contradict one another, how much one influences another, and so on. Finding the best possible fit is often a hard problem that has to be given to a computer, so it may find an approximately best solution.

Niklas Eriksson’s **Carpe Diem** (July 18) challenges the idea that mathematics is a universal language. I’m inclined to agree with the alien. Mathematical truths may be universal, but the expressions of them are *extremely* culturally dependent. And the selection of which truths are interesting enough to notice is even *more* dependent on the time and place of the writer.

Bill Amend’s **FoxTrot Classics** (July 18, rerun from 2004) has Jason work out how much volume “half a teaspoon” is in the most complex way available. It’s all right. He’s having fun.

And again, please, do let me know what comics you thought strongest or what jokes came in too weak to amuse here. I’m interested in what people think.

## KnotTheorist 3:24 am

onMonday, 20 July, 2015 Permalink |What a great collection of mathematical comics! I liked them all, but my favorite was the Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal one about opimization.

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## Joseph Nebus 5:06 am

onTuesday, 21 July, 2015 Permalink |Quite glad you liked them. Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal is an interesting comic strip because I have a lot of cause to talk about it here. It often gets into some mathematical concept in pretty substantial detail, in the service of setting up its joke. That’s a hard thing to do. It’s surprising it can be reasonably successful at that.

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## The ‘Nothing Is Happening In Apartment 3-G’ Update | Joseph Nebus's Sense Of Humor 12:12 am

onTuesday, 21 July, 2015 Permalink |[…] very reminiscent of being something-ish, without anything actually happening. In the meantime, I had another bunch of mathematics comics to review over on my other blog. There’s some silly pirate jokes in there. You’d probably […]

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## My Mathematics Blog’s July 2015 Statistics, Plus Their Implications | nebusresearch 3:01 pm

onSunday, 2 August, 2015 Permalink |[…] Reading the Comics, July 19, 2015: Rerun Comics Edition […]

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## Reading the Comics, October 17, 2015: Rerun Edition | nebusresearch 9:00 am

onMonday, 19 October, 2015 Permalink |[…] Toles’s Randolph Itch, 2 am for the 15th of October is a rerun, not just from 1999 but from earlier this year. I don’t know if the strip is being run out of order or if the strip ran a shorter time than I […]

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