Some More Stuff To Read


I’ve actually got enough comics for yet another Reading The Comics post. But rather than overload my Recent Posts display with those I’ll share some pointers to other stuff I think worth looking at.

So remember how the other day I said polynomials were everything? And I tried to give some examples of things you might not expect had polynomials tied to them? Here’s one I forgot. Howard Phillips, of the HowardAt58 blog, wrote recently about discrete signal processing, the struggle to separate real patterns from random noise. It’s a hard problem. If you do very little filtering, then meaningless flutterings can look like growing trends. If you do a lot of filtering, then you miss rare yet significant events and you take a long time to detect changes. Either can be mistakes. The study of a filter’s characteristics … well, you’ll see polynomials. A lot.

For something else to read, and one that doesn’t get into polynomials, here’s a post from Stephen Cavadino of the CavMaths blog, abut the areas of lunes. Lunes are … well, they’re kind of moon-shaped figures. Cavadino particularly writes about the Theorem of Not That Hippocrates. Start with a half circle. Draw a symmetric right triangle inside the circle. Draw half-circles off the two equal legs of that right triangle. The area between the original half-circle and the newly-drawn half circles is … how much? The answer may surprise you.

Cavadino doesn’t get into this, but: it’s possible to make a square that has the same area as these strange crescent shapes using only straightedge and compass. Not That Hippocrates knew this. It’s impossible to make a square with the exact same area as a circle using only straightedge and compass. But these figures, with edges that are defined by circles of just the right relative shapes, they’re fine. Isn’t that wondrous?

And this isn’t mathematics but what the heck. Have you been worried about the Chandler Wobble? Apparently there’s been a bit of a breakthrough in understanding it. Turns out water melting can change the Earth’s rotation enough to be noticed. And to have been noticed since the 1890s.

Reading the Comics, April 10, 2015: Getting Into The Story Problem Edition


I know it’s been like forever, or four days, since the last time I had a half-dozen or so mathematically themed comic strips to write about, but if Comic Strip Master Command is going to order cartoonists to give me stuff to write about I’m not going to turn them away. Several seemed to me about the struggle to get someone to buy into a story — the thing being asked after in a word problem, perhaps, or about the ways mathematics is worth knowing, or just how the mathematics in a joke’s setup are presented — and how skepticism about these things can turn up. So I’ll declare that the theme of this collection.

Steve Sicula’s Home And Away started a sequence on April 7th about “is math really important?”, with the father trying to argue that it’s so very useful. I’m not sure anyone’s ever really been convinced by the argument that “this is useful, therefore it’s important, therefore it’s interesting”. Lots of things are useful or important while staying fantastically dull to all but a select few souls. I would like to think a better argument for learning mathematics is that it’s beautiful, and astounding, and it allows you to discover new ways of studying the world; it can offer all the joy of any art, even as it has a practical side. Anyway, the sequence goes on for several days, and while I can’t say the arguments get very convincing on any side, they do allow for a little play with the fourth wall that I usually find amusing in comics which don’t do that much.

Continue reading “Reading the Comics, April 10, 2015: Getting Into The Story Problem Edition”

Monday, June 4, 1962 – Gemini Mission Begins In Simulation


At the Brooks Air Force Base in Texas two men have begun a simulation of a long-duration Gemini Mission. This program, run by the Air Force School of Aviation Medicine, will have them live for fourteen days in an atmosphere simulating that proposed for the Gemini spacecraft. This will be a 100 percent oxygen atmosphere maintained at five pounds per square inch of pressure.

Wednesday, April 18, 1962 – Astronaut Applications Open


NASA is accepting applications for additional astronauts and will be doing so through June 1, 1962. The plan is to select between five and ten new astronauts to augment the existing corps of seven. The new astronauts will support Project Mercury operations, and go on to join the Mercury astronauts in piloting the Gemini spacecraft.
Continue reading “Wednesday, April 18, 1962 – Astronaut Applications Open”

%d bloggers like this: