Reading the Comics, July 1, 2012


This will be a hastily-written installment since I married just this weekend and have other things occupying me. But there’s still comics mentioning math subjects so let me summarize them for you. The first since my last collection of these, on the 13th of June, came on the 15th, with Dave Whamond’s Reality Check, which goes into one of the minor linguistic quirks that bothers me: the claim that one can’t give “110 percent,” since 100 percent is all there is. I don’t object to phrases like “110 percent”, though, since it seems to me the baseline, the 100 percent, must be to some standard reference performance. For example, the Space Shuttle Main Engines routinely operated at around 104 percent, not because they were exceeding their theoretical limits, but because the original design thrust was found to be not quite enough, and the engines were redesigned to deliver more thrust, and it would have been far too confusing to rewrite all the documentation so that the new design thrust was the new 100 percent. Instead 100 percent was the design capacity of an engine which never flew but which existed in paper form. So I’m forgiving of “110 percent” constructions, is the important thing to me.

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How To Multiply By 365 In Your Head


Kevin Fagin’s Drabble from Sunday poses a nice bit of recreational mathematics, the sort of thing one might do for amusement: Ralph Drabble tries to figure how long he’s spent waiting at one traffic light. I want to talk about some of the mental arithmetic tricks I’d use to get through the puzzle without missing the light’s change. In the spirit of the thing I’m doing the calculations for this only in my head, though I admit checking with a calculator afterward to see if I got close.

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Life as a Graduate Student


Life as a graduate student is not exactly the way Tuesday’s Free Range, by Bill Whitehead, presents it. But meetings with one’s advisor do feel terribly close to this.

A Brief Word for the Comic Pages


There’s legitimate mathematical content linked from here, but mostly, I want to promote what seems to be a little-known comic strip that’s working very hard at making me love it. Part of that work has been in producing a couple of mathematics-oriented strips. Grant Snider’s Incidental Comics, part of the gocomics.com comics empire, is a roughly twice-a-week strip filling the page with lots of detail humor. It’s the sort of comic strips which assumes you will remember Ludwig Miles van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House. (However, I did see a Lego block version of the Farnsworth House in Barnes and Noble the other day, so maybe Miles van der Rohe has gone and become all trendy while I wasn’t looking.

Relevant to the nominal base for this little blog, though, is that Snider has posted a few comics based on mathematics jokes. The most recent is that from January 23, titled “Axes of Evil”, and mixes descriptive statistics with horror that is somehow not associated with calculating standard deviations. A little farther back is the December 12, 2011, strip, titled “Function World”, which adapts graphs of some popular functions, such as hyperbolas, the natural logarithm, and the inverse cosine (which is not actually popular, but don’t tell it) into amusement park rides. Do enjoy.

I am not certain how far in the archives people who haven’t got gocomics.com accounts can go before they’re nagged into getting gocomics.com accounts.