How June 2018 Treated My Mathematics Blog


I’ve broken the habit of watching my WordPress readership statistics day-to-day. This is good. It’s too easy to read random fluctuations as significant changes. And to go from that to supposing that everyone’s decided they hate me now. I do still check monthly. And I try to think what I can learn from that data. Not too hard, and not enough to change what I do. But to where I might think I learned something.

I had another 12-post month. As seems to keep happening I started out with an ambitious program of the weekly Reading the Comics posts, finishing up a couple of open-ended essay threads, and then a few drop-ins as I ran across something interesting. And then my days got all busy and stuff demanded my attention and all I had time for was the comics posts after all. It turned out mostly all right, though. Here’s just how all right:

June 2018, Views: 1,077. Visitors: 681. Views per visitor: 1.58. There should also be a listing that there were 12 posts.
Meanwhile in the world’s dullest domino chain.

So for the sixth month running I beat a thousand page views. Came in at 1,077. It’s my thinnest margin since back in February when there were a mere 1,062 page views. Still, I had a more than this large comfortable round number of page views. The number of unique visitors dropped also, to 681. That’s my lowest number of visitors since February again. But that just seems to reflect there being less traffic overall in June; the number of views per visitor was 1.58, basically the same as May’s 1.52 and April’s 1.53. No archive-divers here, seems.

There were 94 things liked in June; that’s up from April’s and May’s 73, and down from March’s 142. There were 30 comments posted in June, up from May’s 17 and April’s 13, but down from March’s 53. All respectable enough; none exactly suggesting I know how to write stuff people love to share or comment on. Which is on me, of course; no reader’s got the job of responding to stuff they don’t care to.

The popular posts were nearly what I would have guessed: the Buggles and some comics stuff. But there were surprises even in the top five:

So I’m surprised that last month’s readership review post would be among the most popular. I guess it shows the value of having any picture at all, however marginally interesting, in a post. Still seems dangerously self-absorbed. The non-Euclidean geometry one also surprises me, since it was only up for two days and still got as many readers as anything else posted in June. The lesson here, I suppose, is that people love seeing me not know stuff that’s obvious to people familiar with a topic. This is promising for future essays, though, since there are so many obvious things I don’t know.

Then there’s the list of countries that sent me readers to include, since that’s apparently a thing people like:

Country Readers
United States 698
India 62
United Kingdom 45
Canada 44
Germany 19
Philippines 19
Singapore 15
Australia 14
Italy 14
Sweden 14
Poland 11
South Africa 9
Austria 8
France 7
Indonesia 7
Puerto Rico 7
Belgium 4
Brazil 4
Denmark 4
Hong Kong SAR China 4
Mexico 4
Netherlands 4
Norway 4
Spain 4
Czech Republic 3
Egypt 3
Kenya 3
Switzerland 3
United Arab Emirates 3
Argentina 2
Ireland 2
Japan 2
Lithuania 2
Malaysia 2
Nepal 2
Vietnam 2
Brunei 1 (*)
Cambodia 1
Croatia 1
Ecuador 1
Estonia 1
Fiji 1
Georgia 1
Ghana 1
Greece 1
Iraq 1
Malta 1
New Zealand 1
Nigeria 1
Serbia 1 (***)
Slovakia 1
Slovenia 1
South Korea 1 (*)
Thailand 1
Turkey 1

There were 55 countries sending me any readers, down from 58 for three months in a row. There were 19 single-reader countries, down from 22 in May, up from 14 in April. Brunei and South Korea were single-reader countries two months in a row. Serbia’s had a single reader for me four months in a row now.

The Insights panel tells me July started with this blog having had 63,897 total page views, from an admitted 31,020 unique visitors. It logs for the year 2018 a total of 78 posts that attracted, to that point, 196 comments. And that there had been 535 total likes given to something over the year so far. This comes to an average of 2.5 comments per post, and 6.8 likes per posting. By the end of May I had gotten only 2.4 comments and 6.7 likes per post, so, at least I’ve got something figured out.

By the end of June I had posted 69,051 words as WordPress logs things; that’s 13,374 words over June, a bit more than I posted over May despite June being the shorter month. I’m up to an average of 885.3 words per post; at the end of May I was at a mere 843.6 words per post. The trend is obvious; by the end of the year I’ll just never stop writing things. You’ll just see a continuous feed of me putting more heaps of words onto this pile. You’ll be shocked how many times and how many different ways I can type ‘that’ wrong and correct it. Or how often an ‘of course’ creeps into my writing and I have to edit that out.

As ever, I encourage you to read this post and more like it. You can add this page to your WordPress reader by using the button at the upper-right corner of this page. This link is the RSS feed, which gets all my posts as they’re posted, and which you can add to your RSS reader without my ever knowing about. I’m @Nebusj on Twitter. If you see me on Tumblr you’ve found a hoax, since I’m not on Tumblr and every time I look at it I feel helpless and confused.

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How May 2018 Treated My Mathematics Blog


And now the easiest post I write all month: my review of what my readership looked like the past 31 days. I have to admit once more I’m not satisfied with my writership. I didn’t get some projects going that I wanted; but that’s all right. I’ve got five big ideas in mind for the coming several months. Thinking up what to do is always the hard part, other than actually doing it. So that’s my part. Now on to your, the readers’, part. Here I pause while savoring my last moments of not knowing the response was bad.

Oh, how about that. It wasn’t bad. It was even good. Readership was back up in May, rising to 1,274 page views all told. This ties with January for the second-greatest number of readers so far this year. It’s a fair bit up from April’s 1,117. Down from March’s 1,779, but what wouldn’t be? The number of unique visitors rose too, to 837. That’s below March’s tantalizing 999, but up from April’s 731. I did post 12 pieces in May, compared to 11 in April, and 16 in March. I suspect that the number of posts published is the only thing in my control that can influence readership numbers.

A bar chart of readership figures, mostly circling around 1,000 readers per month with a spike two months ago.
Of course the real information is in the Views Per Visitor statistic, but I don’t know what it means.

I can say what people were looking for. The most popular post of the month was, once again, about the number of grooves on a record’s side. I think it’s been getting more popular lately. This shows the power of uploading a better picture of that Buggles album cover, I suppose. The five top posts of the month:

So it’s worth spending some time improving the graphics for my crushingly detailed examination of the area of trapezoids. Writing blogs always say use quality graphics for your articles and it turns out they’re so right.

I struggle still with reader engagement, and I understand that. A lot of what I write is in improv terms hard to advance. I need to be better at writing open things that encourage response. There were a mere 17 comments in May, improved from April’s 13 but still not much at all, especially compared to March’s 53. Which still isn’t great but is something. There were 73 things liked in May, the same number as in April. And way down from March’s 142.

What countries sent me readers? Mostly the United States, as always. But here’s the full roster:

Country Readers
United States 915
Canada 60
India 59
United Kingdom 36
Australia 21
Germany 12
Puerto Rico 11
Denmark 10
Philippines 10
Singapore 10
Malaysia 9
Slovenia 9
Indonesia 8
New Zealand 7
South Africa 7
Israel 6
Spain 6
Brazil 5
Hong Kong SAR China 5
Italy 5
Switzerland 5
Sweden 4
Vietnam 4
Greece 3
Ireland 3
Norway 3
Russia 3
Albania 2
Belgium 2
Ghana 2
Japan 2
Pakistan 2
Slovakia 2
Thailand 2
Turkey 2
Algeria 1
Austria 1
Brunei 1
Costa Rica 1
Egypt 1
European Union 1
Finland 1 (*)
France 1
Jamaica 1
Kuwait 1
Mauritius 1
Morocco 1
Netherlands 1
Poland 1
Qatar 1
Saudi Arabia 1
Serbia 1 (**)
South Korea 1
Sri Lanka 1
Saint Kitts & Nevis 1 (*)
Trinidad & Tobago 1
Ukraine 1

That’s 58 countries which sent me readers over the month. That’s three months in a row the total’s been 58 countries so I assume WordPress is just making these numbers up and figures 58 looks about right. Not suspiciously few, not suspiciously many. We’ll see.

There were 22 single-reader countries. That’s different at least; in April there were 14, and in March 15. Finland and Saint Kitts & Nevis were single-reader countries in April also. Serbia’s been single-reader for three months running now.

The Insights panel tells me that for 2018 so far I’ve had 66 posts, and have accumulated a total of 443 likes and 161 comments. There’s 55,677 total words. This means I published 10,836 total words over the month, which is more than I did in April. I thought I was tired. My year’s average right now is 843.6 words per post; at the end of April that was 830.4. My posts for May alone averaged 903 words. The April posts averaged 772. I knew I was getting more verbose. There’s 2.4 comments and 6.7 likes on average for the post. At the end of April this was 3.5 comments and 6.9 likes per post.

The month officially starts with 62,824 pages viewed from a tracked 30,339 unique visitors. I’ve officially got 759 WordPress visitors, who’re following through their Readers page. I’d be glad if you joined them: you can use the button at the upper-right corner of this page to follow via WordPress. You can also see me as @Nebusj on Twitter. And if you’d prefer you can follow the RSS feed for my posts. If you do that I get absolutely no information about what you read or how interesting you find it, and that’s fine by me.

We ended up putting 38 goldfish back in the pond. The reader with long-term memory may remember we brought 52 in. The fish had a hard winter, one afflicted by water quality issues and feeding issues. We’re trying to recover emotionally, and to work out a plan for better fish care next winter.

How April 2018 Treated My Mathematics Blog


People were far less interested in the number of grooves on a record’s side this past month. That’s what I take away from the readership figures around here for April, as WordPress reports. There were, it appears, some 1,117 pages viewed in April, from 731 unique visitors. That’s well down from March’s 1,779 views and 999 visitors. But March was clearly an outlier; February saw 1,062 page views from 611 visitors. This is four months in a row with at least a thousand page views, so everything seems consistent.

The number of likes fell to 73, down from 142. This seems like a lot of drop, but considering there were 102 likes in February and 112 in January … yeah, that’s a bit lower. Hm. Comments were down, too, with a mere 13 posted in April. There were 53 in March, 30 in February, those are much more engaged numbers. It’s my doing, I know; I had a month of mostly writing about comics and that’s fun, but it’s not much to discuss. What’s to say, “That wasn’t really a student making fun of the story problem!”? Nah. Also I’m abashed to realize I had only eleven posts in April; March had a healthier count of 16.

Statistics chart showing a big spike in March and a return to the roughly twelve-month normal for April 2018.
Definitely more normal than the March 2018 figures.

So what were people reading? One perennial and then a bunch of mostly new stuff:

The Insights panel tells me I’ve gotten to 44,841 total words published this year so far, with 135 total comments and 370 total likes. So, 8,494 words over the month. I’m currently averaging 830.4 words per post, 3.5 comments per post, and 6.9 likes per post. Words and likes are slightly up from March; comments are down a bit.

As I make it out 58 countries sent me readers this past month. That’s the same as March, and up from February’s 54. They’re these:

Country Readers
United States 687
United Kingdom 84
Canada 59
India 38
Australia 21
Singapore 18
Philippines 17
Brazil 16
South Africa 16
Ireland 11
Spain 11
Turkey 11
Puerto Rico 8
Denmark 7
France 7
Afghanistan 6
Italy 6
Netherlands 5
Peru 5
Slovenia 5
Sweden 5
Germany 4
Israel 4
New Zealand 4
Poland 4
Ukraine 4
Mongolia 3
Russia 3
South Korea 3
United Arab Emirates 3
Algeria 2
Argentina 2
Belgium 2
Bulgaria 2
Egypt 2
Hong Kong SAR China 2
Indonesia 2
Japan 2
Lebanon 2
Lithuania 2
Malaysia 2
Norway 2
Romania 2
Switzerland 2
Armenia 1
Czech Republic 1
Finland 1
Gibraltar 1
Iraq 1
Kenya 1
Luxembourg 1
Nigeria 1
Palestinian Territories 1
Senegal 1
Serbia 1 (*)
St. Kitts & Nevis 1
Tunisia 1
Vietnam 1

That’s 14 single-reader countries, down one from March and down two from February. Serbia was a single-reader country in March; nowhere else was. May starts with 61,549 pages viewed from 29,502 admitted unique visitors.

I’d appreciate it if you did follow NebusResearch regularly. I haven’t restored the e-mail postings, although if I go another month or two without anything suspicious turning up in the comments I might try it. But you can follow on your WordPress Reader, by using the button at the upper right corner of the page. Here’s the RSS feed, if you’d rather read the way you like without WordPress being able to trace you. And if you don’t mind Twitter you can follow me as @Nebusj there. Watch as I give the tally of how many goldfish we’re getting back out to the backyard pond!

How March 2018 Treated My Mathematics Blog


Well, one thing I know to post this week is my review of what my readership was like in March. Let me go see what WordPress will tell me about that.

Huh.

Not at all sure what happened there but it looks like I might’ve just had my best month ever. WordPress tells me there were 1,779 page views in March, way up from February’s 1,062 and January’s 1,274. Also it tells me this came from what I’m sure is a record 999 unique visitors and now that’s going to drive me crazy for like ever. There were 611 unique visitors in February and 670 in January. I am not positive but think my previous records were in March 2016 (1,557 views) and April 2016 (757 visitors). That’s on 16 essays posted, up from the 13 in February and 14 in January.

A bar chart showing the 1,779 page views and 999 visitors from March 2018, and lower numbers for other months going back to November 2015.
Is this self-indulgent? No; I’ve learned that people are much more interested in posts when there’s any picture, however unimportant, attached. This is self-serving, an important difference.

Had 53 comments made around here in March, my best since the glory days of early 2016. February saw 30 and January 39 comments and oh I did my best to keep caught up, but it’s hard. There were 143 things liked over the month; that’s up from February’s 102 and January’s 112. Greatest number since August 2017 and my last round of A To Z work.

I don’t know precisely what drew so many readers in, as in, why many people were looking for this. But I know what they were looking for. The most popular, by far, essay this month drew 279 page views. I have to guess some forum found the answer to years of argument and posted a link to settle the issue. The top five:

Insights for the year tell me that (as of the 3rd of April, anyway) I’ve had 44 total posts, with 120 total comments and 301 total likes. There’s 36,347 words posted so far in the year, and an average of 826 words per post. I’m averaging 2.7 comments per post, and averaging 6.8 likes per post. This is dangerous stuff to consider: at the start of March I averaged 2.8 comments per post, but a mere 6.7 likes. In fairness, there’s some comments I need to respond to and just haven’t had the chance; Easter and a pinball event ate up a lot of time.

So what countries are sending me readers, suspecting or otherwise? This bunch:

Country Readers
United States 1,278
Canada 72
United Kingdom 52
India 42
Philippines 37
Singapore 28
Austria 24
Switzerland 21
Brazil 20
Hong Kong SAR China 20
Sweden 20
South Africa 18
Australia 16
Denmark 14
Romania 11
Italy 7
Norway 7
Germany 5
South Korea 5
Algeria 4
Belgium 4
Ireland 4
Spain 4
Thailand 4
Argentina 3
Czech Republic 3
Malaysia 3
New Zealand 3
Poland 3
Puerto Rico 3
Saudi Arabia 3
Egypt 2
Estonia 2
European Union 2
Finland 2
Kenya 2
Kuwait 2
Netherlands 2
Pakistan 2
Portugal 2
Qatar 2
Russia 2
Turkey 2
United Arab Emirates 2
Belize 1
Croatia 1
Ecuador 1
France 1
Greece 1
Israel 1 (*)
Japan 1
Kyrgyzstan 1
Laos 1
Latvia 1
Lebanon 1
Mexico 1
Serbia 1
Ukraine 1
Venezuela 1

That’s 58 countries, up from February’s 54. There’s 15 single-reader countries, down one from February. Israel’s keeps me from having a clean break in the single-reader country streak; there was just the one reader from there in February too. April starts with a logged 60,445 visits, from an admitted 28,781 unique visitors.

If you’d like to follow NebusResearch regularly, please do. There’s a button at the upper-right of the page to add this to your WordPress Reader page. You can also follow me as @Nebusj on Twitter, where I routinely post announcements of new essays here and on my humor blog. (The humor blog normally posts between 7 and 9 pm Eastern Time; the mathematics blog, typically, between 1 and 3 pm Eastern Time.) If you’d rather use your RSS reader here’s the feed for that.

If you’d like posts e-mailed to you as they’re made … I’m sorry, I can’t take signups for that just now. I noticed a weird and large number of signups from people, from addresses that were a bunch of random words followed by four digits and all from outlook.com. I don’t know what angle they’re working but that’s got to be some spammer nonsense going on. So that’s turned off for a while at least. If you’re one of the nearly four people who’ve taken out e-mail subscriptions hold on to those accounts! They’re sure to be worth something someday. It’s not necessary to bag them in mylar just yet, but feel free to do that if you think it’ll be fun.

How February 2018 Treated My Mathematics Blog


It was a less riotously popular month here in February than it was in January. I’d like to blame the shortness of February, but that isn’t it. I know. I’ve got statistics.

The big one that I worry excessively over: total page views. 1,062 of them in February, down from January’s 1,274 but up from December 2017’s 899. And hey, anything above a thousand feels gratifying enough. The count of unique visitors dropped to 611. It had been at 670 in January, but then it was at 599 in December. I’m working on stuff that might affect this. We’ll see. I’d wondered if the readership drop might entirely represent February being such a short month. But WordPress’s insights page lets me know the average number of pages viewed per day. 41 in January (part of a three-way tie for third-highest, alongside September 2017 and November 2015). 38 in February. Still, not bad for a month that went by without a major overarching theme to pull people back in.

It was still a pretty likable month: 102 things clicked on over the course of the month. Down from January’s 112, but still, well ahead of December’s 71. It’s still in the range of liked-essays that I haven’t seen since the last A To Z project. There were 30 comments, once more down from January’s total (39) but up from December’s (24). It seems obvious that all these three data points should track together, although I’ve never tested that and maybe I could have some fun rambling about curve-fitting with it.

Oh, for the one data point wholly within my control: I posted 13 things in February. 14 in January. 11 in December, which was an awful month. (We haven’t found our next rabbit yet. I’ve been gently calling this one rescue every couple days to mention how the person fostering a Flemish Giant we find appealing hasn’t called us back to set a time when we might meet. I have a suspicion the person fostering has decided to quietly adopt the rabbit. And that’s fine, but not being told that gets in the emotional way of looking elsewhere.)

So what all was popular? … Pretty much what I would have guessed without knowing anything about the month:

I’m kind of seriously thinking to take some time off this month and just improve the graphics of the Record Grooves and the Trapezoids articles. And I’m always tickled when what amounts to a self-reblog, like the buy-a-theorem post, comes out more popular than the original post it references. I’m also thinking about setting some day aside to just reblog something from my archives.

What countries sent me readers? This bunch, says WordPress.

Country Readers
United States 703
Canada 47
United Kingdom 44
India 42
Philippines 42
Australia 14
Sweden 14
Singapore 12
France 9
Germany 9
Mexico 8
Pakistan 8
Brazil 6
Puerto Rico 6
Slovenia 6
Netherlands 5
Turkey 5
Algeria 4
Hungary 4
Italy 4
Spain 4
Bulgaria 3
Finland 3
Greece 3
Indonesia 3
Nepal 3
New Zealand 3
Portugal 3
South Africa 3
Switzerland 3
Belgium 2
Hong Kong SAR China 2
Japan 2
Mongolia 2
Romania 2
South Korea 2
Taiwan 2
Uruguay 2
Bahamas 1
Bangladesh 1
Barbados 1
Costa Rica 1
Cyprus 1
Denmark 1
Egypt 1
European Union 1
Ireland 1 (*)
Israel 1
Kenya 1
Lebanon 1
Mozambique 1
Poland 1
Russia 1 (**)
United Arab Emirates 1

That’s 54 countries altogether, if we don’t ask serious questions about the European Union and, for that matter, Hong Kong or Puerto Rico. There’d been 50 countries give or take in January, and 53 in December. There were 16 single-reader countries in February, up from the 14 in January and 15 in December. Ireland was a single-reader country in January too. Russia’s been a single-reader country two months running. And otherwise there’s been a turnover in single-readership countries.

The Insights panel says March started with 58,654 page views here, from an admitted 27,772 unique viewers and aw, isn’t that sweet number? The insights panel is also threatening to ruin me as a person by giving me some new interesting year-to-date statistics. According to these, as of the 5th of March (I didn’t have the chance to check on the 1st, and I don’t know how to find a year-to-specified date) I’ve published 25,359 total words, at an average 845 words per post. 30 posts to date for the year. 207 total likes, 77 total comments. And an average of 2.6 comments and 6.9 likes per post. I just know I’m going to obsess on these, what with how they’re numbers that have decimal points. But this is way more interesting than tracking the most popular day and hour.

If you’d like to be among my readers, congratulations: you’re doing it now. You can follow in your WordPress reader by using the ‘Follow nebusresearch in Reader’ button near the center-right of this page. Or you can get the less-adequately-copy-edited versions delivered in e-mail, using the “follow blog via e-mail” button just underneath that. I’m @Nebusj on Twitter, and I’m closing in on my 10,000th tweet! So this is your chance to be there as it happens. Probably not this month. I’m not that chatty. But sometime.

How January 2018 Treated My Mathematics Blog


First of all, I would like to say this about this tweet:

And that is: I don’t feel threatened at all so nyah.

(And if you want to help them out, please, do send any Calvin and Hobbes strips with mathematical themes over their way.)

Back to my usual self-preening. January 2018 was a successful month around here, in terms of people reading stuff I write. According to WordPress, there were some 1,274 pages viewed from 670 unique visitors. That’s the largest number of pages viewed since March and April 2016, when I had a particularly successful A To Z going. It’s the greatest number of unique visitors since September 2017 when I had a less successful but still pretty good A To Z going. The page views were well above December 2017’s 899, and November’s 1,052. The unique visitors were well above December’s 599 and November’s 604.

I don’t have any real explanation for this. I suspect it’s spillover from my humor blog, which had its most popular month since the comic strip Apartment 3-G died a sad, slow, baffling death. Long story. I think my humor blog was popular because people don’t know what happened to the guy who writes Gasoline Alley. I don’t know either, but I tell people if I do find out anything I’ll tell them, and that’s almost as good as knowing something.

Still, this popularity was accompanied by readers actually liking stuff. There were 112 pages liked in January, beating out the 71 in December and 70 in November by literally dozens of clicks. It’s the highest count since August of 2017 and summer’s A To Z sequence. There were more comments, too, 39 of them. December saw 24 and November 28 and, you see this coming, that’s the largest number of comments since summer 2017’s A To Z sequence.

The popular articles for January were two of the ones I expected, one of the Reading the Comics posts, and then two surprises. What were they? These.

Yes, it’s clickbait-y to talk about weird tricks for limits that mathematicians use. In my defense: mathematicians really do rely on these tricks all the time. So if it’s getting people stuff that’s useful then my conscience is as clear as it is for asking “How many grooves are on a record’s side?” and (implicitly) “How many kinds of trapezoid are there?”

If I’m counting right there were 50 countries from which I drew readers, if “European Union” counts as a country and if “Trinidad and Tobago” don’t count as two. Plus there’s Hong Kong and when you get down to it, “country” is a hard concept to pin down exactly. There were 14 single-reader countries. Here’s the roster of them all:

Country Readers
United States 879
India 89
Philippines 59
United Kingdom 37
Canada 28
Singapore 15
Hong Kong SAR China 11
Netherlands 11
Sweden 11
Belgium 9
Algeria 8
Austria 8
Australia 7
France 7
Italy 7
Switzerland 7
South Africa 6
Brazil 5
Slovenia 5
Argentina 4
Germany 4
Japan 4
Pakistan 4
Indonesia 3
Spain 3
Denmark 2
Egypt 2
European Union 2
Greece 2
Iraq 2
New Zealand 2
Portugal 2
South Korea 2
Thailand 2
Ukraine 2
Bulgaria 1
Czech Republic 1
Ireland 1
Malaysia 1
Mexico 1 (**)
Namibia 1
Norway 1
Russia 1 (*)
Saudi Arabia 1
Sri Lanka 1
Trinidad & Tobago 1
Turkey 1
Uruguay 1 (*)
Vietnam 1

There were 53 countries sending me readers in December and 56 in November so I guess I’m concentrating? There were 15 single-reader countries in December and 22 in November. Russia and Uruguay were single-reader countries in December; Mexico’s been a single-reader country for three months now.

WordPress’s Insights panel says I started the month with 57,592 page views recorded, from 27,161 recorded unique visitors. It also shares with me the interesting statistics that, as I write this and before I post it, I’ve written 16 total posts this year, which have drawn an average two comments and seven likes per post. There’ve been 900 words per post, on average. Overall this year I’ve gotten 39 comments, 110 likes, and have published 14,398 words. I don’t know whether that counts image captions. But this also leads me to learn what previous year statistics were like; I’ve been averaging over 900 words per post since 2015. In 2015 I averaged about 750 words per post, and got three times as many likes and about twice as many comments per post. I’m sure that doesn’t teach me anything. At the least I won’t learn from it.

If all this has convinced you to read my posts, please, keep reading them. You can add them to a WordPress reader by way of the “Follow nebusresearch” sticker on the center-right of the page. Or you can get it delivered by e-mail using the “Follow Blog Via E-Mail” button underneath it. If you’ve got your own RSS reader, you can follow from this feed. There’s probably more ways to follow this, too. And if you want to follow me on Twitter, try @Nebusj, because that’s me and I like having company there.

Reading the Comics, December 30, 2017: Looking To 2018 Edition


The last full week of 2017 was also a slow one for mathematically-themed comic strips. You can tell by how many bits of marginally relevant stuff I include. In this case, it also includes a couple that just mention the current or the upcoming year. So you’ve been warned.

Mac King and Bill King’s Magic in a Minute activity for the 24th is a logic puzzle. I’m not sure there’s deep mathematics to it, but it’s some fun to reason out.

John Graziano’s Ripley’s Believe It Or Not for the 24th mentions the bit of recreational group theory that normal people know, the Rubik’s Cube. The group theory comes in from rotations: you can take rows or columns on the cube and turn them, a quarter or a half or a three-quarters turn. Which rows you turn, and which ways you turn them, form a group. So it’s a toy that inspires deep questions. Who wouldn’t like to know in how few moves a cube could be solved? We know there are at least some puzzles that take 18 moves to solve. (You can calculate the number of different cube arrangements there are, and how many arrangements you could make by shuffling a cube around with 17 moves. There’s more possible arrangements than there are ones you can get to in 17 moves; therefore, there must be at least one arrangement that takes 18 moves to solve.) A 2010 computer-assisted proof by Tomas Rokicki, Herbert Kociemba, Morley Davidson, and John Dethridge showed that at most 20 face turns are needed for every possible cube to be solved. I don’t know if there’s been any success figuring out whether 19 or even 18 is necessarily enough.

Griffith: 'Here we are, Zippy, back in the land of our childhood.' Zippy: 'Are we still in the ninth grade?' Griffith: 'Kind of ... although I still can't remember a thing about algebra.' Zippy: 'So many spitballs and paper airplanes ago!!' Griffith: 'Why did I act up so much in school, Zippy? Was it a Freudian thing?' Zippy: 'It was a cry for kelp.' Griffith: 'Don't you mean a cry for help? I don't think kelp was even a word I knew back in the 50s.' Zippy: 'Seaweed is the fifth dimension!'
Bill Griffith’s Zippy the Pinhead for the 26th of December, 2017. This is not as strongly a memoir or autobiographical strip as Griffith will sometimes do, which is a shame. Those are always captivating. I have fun reading Zippy the Pinhead and understand why people wouldn’t. But the memoir strips I recommend even to people who don’t care for the usual fare.

Bill Griffith’s Zippy the Pinhead for the 26th just mentions algebra as a thing that Griffith can’t really remember, even in one of his frequent nostalgic fugues. I don’t know that Zippy’s line about the fifth dimension is meant to refer to geometry. It might refer to the band, but that would be a bit odd. Yes, I know, Zippy the Pinhead always speaks oddly, but in these nostalgic fugue strips he usually provides some narrative counterpoint.

Larry Wright’s Motley Classics for the 26th originally ran in 1986. I mention this because it makes the odd dialogue of getting “a new math program” a touch less odd. I confess I’m not sure what the kid even got. An educational game? Something for numerical computing? The coal-fired, gear-driven version of Mathematica that existed in the 1980s? It’s a mystery, it is.

Ryan Pagelow’s Buni for the 27th is really a calendar joke. It seems to qualify as an anthropomorphic numerals joke, though. It’s not a rare sentiment either.

Jef Mallett’s Frazz for the 29th is similarly a calendar joke. It does play on 2017 being a prime number, a fact that doesn’t really mean much besides reassuring us that it’s not a leap year. I’m not sure just what’s meant by saying it won’t repeat for another 2017 years, at least that wouldn’t be just as true for (say) 2015 or 2019. But as Frazz points out, we do cling to anything that floats in times like these.