Reading the Comics, September 5, 2015: Again No Pictures Edition


I’m disappointed to say this is another week of mathematically-themed comic strips I don’t have reason to include as pictures here. Gocomics.com links seem, as best I can tell, to stay up and working even for people who haven’t got accounts there. On the other hand this saves space for pictures in my WordPress account. It’s down to about 99 percent empty.

Julie Larson’s The Dinette Set for the 30th of August is about terrible people blustering through life. That’s the premise of the strip. But in this case they apply their blustering terribleness to the problem of working out tips. Any time you want to chain percentages together — 15 percent of something 10 percent off, or so — stop. Don’t work it out in your head. It’s too easy to get what you’re trying to calculate confused. And pay attention to what “100 percent” of whatever you’re talking about would mean. Then proceed with care.

Ed Allison’s surreal Unstrange Phenomenon for the 31st of August uses the Möbius strip as a way for the ever-swimming Fletcher to do laps. I suppose the trouble is this challenges ideas of what a “lap” means.

Richard Thompson’s Richard’s Poor Almanac for the 1st of September is a rerun. I think I may have discussed it here before. It features an appearance by probability’s favorite author, an infinite number of monkeys. The monkeys are portrayed by chimpanzees here, but that’s all right. They work on something more ambitious than just writing the works of Shakespeare.

Eric Teitelbaum and Bill Teitelbaum’s Bottomliners for the 3rd of September is, I guess, really an accounting joke. But it does seem to me that everything adding up perfectly could be a sign of trouble. After all, anything real has some error in it. Numbers get rounded off, or people miscount inventories, or stuff just gets lost. I hear tell that there are even people who will take things not belonging to them. It would be surprising if all the errors happened to cancel out exactly, and suspicious if there were no errors at all.

Lorie Ransom’s The Daily Drawing for the 4th of September is an anthropomorphized calculators joke. And, for that matter, a teaching specialization joke. Yes, I noticed what number is on Sam’s display.

Tom Thaves’s Frank and Ernest also for the 4th of September is a reminder about the use of motivation in encouraging mathematics.

Mark Leiknes’s Cow and Boy Classics from the 5th of September pits Billy in a fight with Mathematics. Mathematics is depicted by the one equation we can count on people recognizing. That said, I’m not sure what Boy — Billy — is getting at by speaking of “math theory explaining why life is too variabled and chaotic to be equationed”. I think that he’s trying to understand something like the Incompleteness Theorems, which tell us that there are mathematical truths that can never be proved true. That’s a heady conclusion to draw, and it doesn’t require a great deal of training to find it. It’s more esoteric than the proof that the set of integers and the set of real numbers are different sizes, but I think it’s about as accessible. Anyway, the notion of mathematics popping in and slapping Billy around is so appealingly silly this is my favorite of the week’s strips.

So Doug Bratton’s Pop Culture Shock Therapy for the 5th of September feels like a letdown by comparison. It’s a silly word problem strip is all.

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Author: Joseph Nebus

I was born 198 years to the day after Johnny Appleseed. The differences between us do not end there.

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