Reading the Comics, August 5, 2022: Catching Up Edition

I’ve had several weeks since my last Reading the Comics post. They’ve been quiet enough weeks. Let me share some of the recent offerings from Comic Strip Master Command that I enjoyed, though. I enjoy many comic strips but not all of them mention something on-point here.

Isabella Bannerman’s Six Chix for the 18th of July is a wordplay joke, naming a dog Isosceles to respect his front and hindlegs being equal in length. As I say, I’m including these because I like them, not because I have deep thoughts about them.

A woman explains of her dog, 'His name is Isosceles'. The dog has very long back legs and leans at a considerable angle, his legs making two legs of an isosceles triangle.
Isabella Bannerman’s Six Chix for the 18th of July, 2022. Essays with some mention of Six Chix are at this link.

Bill Amend’s FoxTrot for the 24th of July gets a bit more solidly mathematical, as it’s natural to think of this sort of complicated polyhedron as something mathematicians do. Geometers at least. There’s a comfortable bit of work to be done in these sorts of shapes. They sometimes have appealing properties, for instance balancing weight loads well. Building polyhedrons out of toothpicks and gumdrops, or straws and marshmallows, or some other rigid-and-soft material, is a fine enough activity. I think every mathematics department has some dusty display shelf with a couple of these.

Jason Fox asks his sister, 'Have you ever considered a career in engineering?' Paige Fox asks, 'No, why?' She holds in one hand a complex polyhedron shape of ice cream cones, cone points in scoops connecting a vast complicated shape.
Bill Amend’s FoxTrot for the 24th of July, 2022. This and other essays inspired by FoxTrot are at this link.

There are many shapes that Paige Fox’s construction might be. To my eye Paige Fox seems to be building a truncated icosahedron, that is to say, the soccer-ball shape. It’s an Archimedean solid, one of the family of thirteen shapes made of nonintersecting regular convex polygons. These are the shapes you discover if you go past Platonic solids. The family is named for that Archimedes, although the work in which he discussed them is now lost.

Two panels, one titled Wrong Approach. A teacher explains to skeptical students, 'Kids! Math is fun! It's like a safari to find the value of x.' Right Approach: the teacher, almost out the door, explains, 'If you're a mathematician, there are about 10 people on Earth who understand what you do, and none of them have the power to fire you. You have no set hours, everyone respects you, and you work about 5/8ths of the year. If you go to a bar and tell a woman you are employed for your intellect alone, she will probably sleep with you. But hey, feel free not to do your homework. It's not my problem.'
Zach Weinersmith’s Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal for the 26th of July, 2022. I have many essays describing something mentioned by Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal at this link.

Zach Weinersmith’s Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal for the 26th of July is a different take on the challenge of motivating students to care about mathematics. The “right approach” argument has its appeal, although it’s obviously thinking of “professor” as the only job a mathematician can hold. And even granting that none of the people who understand your work have the power to fire you, that means people who don’t understand your work do have it. Also, people shut down very hard at your promise that they could understand anything about what you do, even when you know how to express it in common-language terms. This gets old fast. I am also skeptical that women are impressed by men at bars who claim to be employed for their intellect.

Anyway, academic jobs are great and more jobs should work by their rules, which, yes, do include extremely loose set hours and built-in seasons where the amount and kind of work you do varies.

Todd, dinosaur, emerges from a tent in the woods and stretches: 'Yawwwn that was some good sleep!' A camp counselor appears from nowhere: 'Quick! What's 47 times 342?' Todd runs away screaming. In the last panel Todd has woken up, in his bed at home; Trent asks, 'Had the math camp dream again, huh?'
Patrick Roberts’s Todd the Dinosaur for the 5th of August, 2022. Essays with some mention of Todd the Dinosaur are at this link.

Patrick Roberts’s Todd the Dinosaur for the 5th of August is a mathematics-anxiety dream, represented with the sudden challenge to do mental arithmetic. 47 times 342 is an annoying problem, yes, but one can at least approximate it fairly well quickly. 47 is almost 50, which is half a hundred. So 47 times 342 has to be nearly half of a hundred times 342, that is, half of 34,200. This is an easy number to cut in half, though: 17,100. To get this exactly? 47 is three less than fifty, so, subtract three times 342. 342 is about a third of a thousand, we can make a better estimate by subtracting a thousand: 16,100.

If you’re really good you notice that 342 is nine more than 333, so, three times 342 is three times nine more than three times 333. That is, it’s 27 more than 999. So the 16,100 estimate is 26 more than the correct number, 16,074. And I believe if you check, you will find the card in your hand is the ace of clubs. Am I not right, professor?

And that’s a look at comic strips through to a bit over a week ago. I intend to have more soon. All my Reading the Comics posts should be at this link. Thanks for being with me for these reviews. See you again soon.

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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