Reading the Comics, June 18, 2022: Pizza Edition


I’m back with my longest-running regular feature here. As I’ve warned I’m trying not to include every time one of the newspaper comics (that is, mostly, ones running on Comics Kingdom or GoComics) mentions the existence of arithmetic. So, for example, both Frank and Ernest and Rhymes with Orange did jokes about the names of the kinds of triangles. You can clip those at your leisure; I’m looking to discuss deeper subjects.

Scott Hilburn’s The Argyle Sweater is … well, it’s just an anthropomorphic-numerals joke. I have a weakness for The Wizard of Oz, that’s all. Also, I don’t know but somewhere in the nine kerspillion authorized books written since Baum’s death there be at least one with a “wizard of odds” plot.

A scene as from The Wizard of Oz. A numeral 10, in tin, with an axe beside speaks to an 8 in a gingko dress and a 22. The 10 says, 'I'm a 10 man, but I'd like to be an 11.' The 8 says, 'Come with me and two-two! We're off to see the Wizard! The Wonderful Wizard of Odds!'
Scott Hilburn’s The Argyle Sweater for the 12th of June, 2022. This and many other essays mentioning The Argyle Sweater are at this link.

Bill Amend’s FoxTrot reads almost like a word problem’s setup. There’s a difference in cost between pizzas of different sizes. Jason and Marcus make the supposition that they could buy the difference in sizes. They are asking for something physically unreasonable, but in a way that mathematics problems might do. The ring of pizza they’d be buying would be largely crust, after all. (Some people like crust, but I doubt any are ten-year-olds like Jason and Marcus.) The obvious word problem to spin out of this is extrapolating the costs of 20-inch or 8-inch pizzas, and maybe the base cost of making any pizza however tiny.

Jason and Marcus, kids, at a pizzeria's cashier: 'Your 16-inch cheese pizzas cost $17.99 and your 12-inch ones cost $14.99?' Steve the cashier: 'Um, correct.' Jason: 'We'd like to order the difference.' Steve: 'The what?' Jason: 'A 16-inch-diameter circle has an area of 201 square inches and a 12-inch diameter circle has an area of 113 square inches. We'd like the difference of 88 square inches of pizza.' Marcus, offering: 'Here's $3.' Silent penultimate panel as Steve looks at this strange pair. Later, Jason's older brother Pete says, 'My friend Steve says you very briefly dropped by the pizza shop today.' Jason: 'Your friend Steve needs a math tutor.'
Bill Amend’s FoxTrot for the 12th of June, 2022. This and other essays about FoxTrot are at this link.

You can think of a 16-inch-wide circle as a 12-inch-wide circle with an extra ring around it. (An annulus, we’d say in the trades.) This is often a useful way to look at circles. If you get into calculus you’ll see the extra area you get from a slight increase in the diameter (or, more likely, the radius) all over the place. Also, in three dimensions, the difference in volume you get from an increase in diameter. There are also a good number of theorems with names like Green’s and Stokes’s. These are all about what you can know about the interior of a shape, like a pizza, from what you know about the ring around the edge.

Jarvis, the valet: 'Preparing for your mathematics final, sir?' Sedgwick, the awful child: 'Yes. But I'm not too terribly concerned. We're allowed an abacus during the test to aid in our calculations.' Jarvis looks over the abacus and says, 'Well ... this should help simplify the ... ' Sedgwick: 'And of course we're allowed a hyperbolic abacus to perform functions like square roots ... sine ... cosine ... etc ... ' He holds up an icosahedral device with beads all over.
Jim Meddick’s Monty for the 15th of June, 2022. The essays with some mention of Monty are at this link.

Jim Meddick’s Monty sees Sedgwick, spoiled scion of New Jersey money, preparing for a mathematics test. He’s allowed the use of an abacus, one of the oldest and best-recognized computational aides. The abacus works by letting us turn the operations of basic arithmetic into physical operations. This has several benefits. We (generally) understand things in space pretty well. And the beads and wires serve as aides to memory, always a struggle. Sedgwick also brings out a “hyperbolic abacus”, a tool for more abstract operations like square roots and sines and cosines. I don’t know of anything by that name, but you can design mechanical tools to do particular computations. Slide rules, for example, generally have markings to let one calculate square roots and cube roots easily. Aircraft pilots might use a flight computer, a set of plastic discs to do quick estimates of flight time, fuel consumption, ground speed, and such. (There’s even an episode of the original Star Trek where Spock fiddles with one!)

I have heard, but not seen, that specialized curves were made to let people square circles with something approximating a compass-and-straightedge method. A contraption to calculate sines and cosines would not be hard to imagine. It would need to be a post on a hinge, mostly, with a set of lines to read off sine and cosine values over a range of angles. I don’t know of one that existed, as it’s easy enough to print out a table of trig functions, but it wouldn’t be hard to make.

And that’s enough for this week. This and all my other Reading the Comics posts should be at this link. I hope to get this back to a weekly column, but that does depend on Comic Strip Master Command doing what’s convenient for me. We’ll see how it turns out.

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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. He/him.

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