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  • Joseph Nebus 6:00 pm on Thursday, 16 February, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Crock, , , Mr Lowe, , Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, ,   

    Reading the Comics, February 11, 2017: Trivia Edition 

    And now to wrap up last week’s mathematically-themed comic strips. It’s not a set that let me get into any really deep topics however hard I tried overthinking it. Maybe something will turn up for Sunday.

    Mason Mastroianni, Mick Mastroianni, and Perri Hart’s B.C. for the 7th tries setting arithmetic versus celebrity trivia. It’s for the old joke about what everyone should know versus what everyone does know. One might question whether Kardashian pet eating habits are actually things everyone knows. But the joke needs some hyperbole in it to have any vitality and that’s the only available spot for it. It’s easy also to rate stuff like arithmetic as trivia since, you know, calculators. But it is worth knowing that seven squared is pretty close to 50. It comes up when you do a lot of estimates of calculations in your head. The square root of 10 is pretty near 3. The square root of 50 is near 7. The cube root of 10 is a little more than 2. The cube root of 50 a little more than three and a half. The cube root of 100 is a little more than four and a half. When you see ways to rewrite a calculation in estimates like this, suddenly, a lot of amazing tricks become possible.

    Leigh Rubin’s Rubes for the 7th is a “mathematics in the real world” joke. It could be done with any mythological animals, although I suppose unicorns have the advantage of being relatively easy to draw recognizably. Mermaids would do well too. Dragons would also read well, but they’re more complicated to draw.

    Mark Pett’s Mr Lowe rerun for the 8th has the kid resisting the mathematics book. Quentin’s grounds are that how can he know a dated book is still relevant. There’s truth to Quentin’s excuse. A mathematical truth may be universal. Whether we find it interesting is a matter of culture and even fashion. There are many ways to present any fact, and the question of why we want to know this fact has as many potential answers as it has people pondering the question.

    Zach Weinersmith’s Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal for the 8th is a paean to one of the joys of numbers. There is something wonderful in counting, in measuring, in tracking. I suspect it’s nearly universal. We see it reflected in people passing around, say, the number of rivets used in the Chrysler Building or how long a person’s nervous system would reach if stretched out into a line or ever-more-fanciful measures of stuff. Is it properly mathematics? It’s delightful, isn’t that enough?

    Scott Hilburn’s The Argyle Sweater for the 10th is a Fibonacci Sequence joke. That’s a good one for taping to the walls of a mathematics teacher’s office.

    'Did you ever take a date to a drive-in movie in high school?' 'Once, but she went to the concession stand and never came back.' 'Did you wonder why?' 'Yeah, but I kept on doing my math homework.'

    Bill Rechin’s Crock rerun for the 11th of February, 2017. They actually opened a brand-new drive-in theater something like forty minutes away from us a couple years back. We haven’t had the chance to get there. But we did get to one a fair bit farther away where yes, we saw Turbo, that movie about the snail that races in the Indianapolis 500. The movie was everything we hoped for and it’s just a shame Roger Ebert died too young to review it for us.

    Bill Rechin’s Crock rerun for the 11th is a name-drop of mathematics. Really anybody’s homework would be sufficiently boring for the joke. But I suppose mathematics adds the connotation that whatever you’re working on hasn’t got a human story behind it, the way English or History might, and that it hasn’t got the potential to eat, explode, or knock a steel ball into you the way Biology, Chemistry, or Physics have. Fair enough.

  • Joseph Nebus 6:00 pm on Sunday, 12 February, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Agnes, , , , , Lay Lines, , Pooch Cafe, Rabbits Against Magic, Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal   

    Reading the Comics, February 6, 2017: Another Pictureless Half-Week Edition 

    Got another little flood of mathematically-themed comic strips last week and so once again I’ll split them along something that looks kind of middle-ish. Also this is another bunch of GoComics.com-only posts. Since those seem to be accessible to anyone whether or not they’re subscribers indefinitely far into the future I don’t feel like I can put the comics directly up and will trust you all to click on the links that you find interesting. Which is fine; the new GoComics.com design makes it annoyingly hard to download a comic strip. I don’t think that was their intention. But that’s one of the two nagging problems I have with their new design. So you know.

    Tony Cochran’s Agnes for the 5th sees a brand-new mathematics. Always dangerous stuff. But mathematicians do invent, or discover, new things in mathematics all the time. Part of the task is naming the things in it. That’s something which takes talent. Some people, such as Leonhard Euler, had the knack a great novelist has for putting names to things. The rest of us muddle along. Often if there’s any real-world inspiration, or resemblance to anything, we’ll rely on that. And we look for terminology that evokes similar ideas in other fields. … And, Agnes would like to know, there is mathematics that’s about approximate answers, being “right around” the desired answer. Unfortunately, that’s hard. (It’s all hard, if you’re going to take it seriously, much like everything else people do.)

    Scott Hilburn’s The Argyle Sweater for the 5th is the anthropomorphic numerals joke for this essay.

    Carol Lay’s Lay Lines for the 6th depicts the hazards of thinking deeply and hard about the infinitely large and the infinitesimally small. They’re hard. Our intuition seems well-suited to handing a modest bunch of household-sized things. Logic guides us when thinking about the infinitely large or small, but it takes a long time to get truly conversant and comfortable with it all.

    Paul Gilligan’s Pooch Cafe for the 6th sees Poncho try to argue there’s thermodynamical reasons for not being kind. Reasoning about why one should be kind (or not) is the business of philosophers and I won’t overstep my expertise. Poncho’s mathematics, that’s something I can write about. He argues “if you give something of yourself, you inherently have less”. That seems to be arguing for a global conservation of self-ness, that the thing can’t be created or lost, merely transferred around. That’s fair enough as a description of what the first law of thermodynamics tells us about energy. The equation he reads off reads, “the change in the internal energy (Δ U) equals the heat added to the system (U) minus the work done by the system (W)”. Conservation laws aren’t unique to thermodynamics. But Poncho may be aware of just how universal and powerful thermodynamics is. I’m open to an argument that it’s the most important field of physics.

    Jonathan Lemon’s Rabbits Against Magic for the 6th is another strip Intro to Calculus instructors can use for their presentation on instantaneous versus average velocities. There’s been a bunch of them recently. I wonder if someone at Comic Strip Master Command got a speeding ticket.

    Zach Weinersmith’s Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal for the 6th is about numeric bases. They’re fun to learn about. There’s an arbitrariness in the way we represent concepts. I think we can understand better what kinds of problems seem easy and what kinds seem harder if we write them out different ways. But base eleven is only good for jokes.

    • davekingsbury 10:01 pm on Monday, 13 February, 2017 Permalink | Reply

      He argues “if you give something of yourself, you inherently have less”. That seems to be arguing for a global conservation of self-ness, that the thing can’t be created or lost, merely transferred around.

      How, I wonder, to marry that with Juliet’s declaration of love for Juliet?

      “My bounty is as boundless as the sea,
      My love as deep; the more I give to thee,
      The more I have, for both are infinite.”


      • Joseph Nebus 11:08 pm on Thursday, 16 February, 2017 Permalink | Reply

        Oh, well, infinities are just trouble no matter what. Anything can happen with them.

        I suppose there’s also the question of how the Banach-Tarski Paradox affects love.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Downpuppy (@Downpuppy) 12:30 am on Tuesday, 14 February, 2017 Permalink | Reply

      Agnes is the first Fuzzy Math reference I’ve seen in about 10 years.

      Squirrel Girl counted to 31 on one hand to defeat Count Nefario, but SMBC is more an ASL snub


      • Joseph Nebus 11:12 pm on Thursday, 16 February, 2017 Permalink | Reply

        I’m a little surprised fuzzy mathematics doesn’t get used for more comic strips, but I don’t suppose it lends itself to too many different jokes. On the other hand, neither does Pi Day and we’ll see a bunch of those over the coming month.

        I had expected, really, Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal to go with 1,024 as a natural base if you use your hands in a particularly digit-efficient way.


  • Joseph Nebus 6:00 pm on Thursday, 19 January, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, The Daily Drawing, The Elderberries, Ziggy   

    Reading the Comics, January 14, 2017: Maybe The Last Jumble? Edition 

    So now let me get to the other half of last week’s comics. Also, not to spoil things, but this coming week is looking pretty busy so I may have anothe split-week Reading the Comics coming up. The shocking thing this time is that the Houston Chronicle has announced it’s discontinuing its comics page. I don’t know why; I suppose because they’re fed up with people coming loyally to a daily feature. I will try finding alternate sources for the things I had still been reading there, but don’t know if I’ll make it.

    I’m saddened by this. Back in the 90s comics were just coming onto the Internet. The Houston Chronicle was one of a couple newspapers that knew what to do with them. It, and the Philadelphia Inquirer and the San Jose Mercury-News, had exactly what we wanted in comics: you could make a page up of all the strips you wanted to read, and read them on a single page. You could even go backwards day by day in case you missed some. The Philadelphia Inquirer was the only page that let you put the comics in the order you wanted, as opposed to alphabetical order by title. But if you were unafraid of opening up URLs you could reorder the Houston Chronicle page you built too.

    And those have all faded away. In the interests of whatever interest is served by web site redesigns all these papers did away with their user-buildable comics pages. The Chronicle was the last holdout, but even they abolished their pages a few years ago, with a promise for a while that they’d have a replacement comics-page scheme up soon. It never came and now, I suppose, never will.

    Most of the newspapers’ sites had become redundant anyway. Comics Kingdom and GoComics.com offer user-customizable comics pages, with a subscription model that makes it clear that money ought to be going to the cartoonists. I still had the Chronicle for a few holdouts, like Joe Martin’s strips or the Jumble feature. And from that inertia that attaches to long-running Internet associations.

    So among the other things January 2017 takes away from us, it is taking the last, faded echo of the days in the 1990s when newspapers saw comics as awesome things that could be made part of their sites.

    Lorie Ransom’s The Daily Drawing for the 11th is almost but not quite the anthropomorphized-numerals joke for this installment. It’s certainly the most numerical duck content I’ve got on record.

    Tom II Wilson’s Ziggy for the 11th is an Early Pi Day joke. Cosmically there isn’t any reason we couldn’t use π in take-a-number dispensers, after all. Their purpose is to give us some certain order in which to do things. We could use any set of numbers which can be put in order. So the counting numbers work. So do the integers. And the real numbers. But practicality comes into it. Most people have probably heard that π is a bit bigger than 3 and a fair bit smaller than 4. But pity the two people who drew e^{\pi} and \pi^{e} figuring out who gets to go first. Still, I won’t be surprised if some mathematics-oriented place uses a gimmick like this, albeit with numbers that couldn’t be confused. At least not confused by people who go to mathematics-oriented places. That would be for fun rather than cake.

    CTEFH -OOO-; ITODI OOO--; RAWDON O--O-O; FITNAN OO--O-. He wanted to expand his collection and the Mesopotamian abacus would make a OOOO OOOOOOOO.

    the Jumble for the 11th of January, 2017. This link’s all but sure to die the 1st of February, so, sorry about that. Mesopotamia did have the abacus, although I don’t know that the depiction is anything close to what the actual ones looked like. I’d imagine they do, at least within the limits of what will be an understandable drawing.

    I can’t promise that the Jumble for the 11th is the last one I’ll ever feature here. I might find where David L Hoyt and Jeff Knurek keep a linkable reference to their strips and point to them. But just in case of the worst here’s an abacus gag for you to work on.

    Corey Pandolph, Phil Frank, and Joe Troise’s The Elderberries for the 12th is, I have to point out, a rerun. So if you’re trying to do the puzzle the reference to “the number of the last president” isn’t what you’re thinking of. It is an example of the conflation of intelligence with skill at arithmetic. It’s also an example the conflation of intelligence with a mastery of trivia. But I think it leans on arithmetic more. I am not sure when this strip first appeared. “The last president” might have been Bill Clinton (42) or George W Bush (43). But this means we’re taking the square root of either 33 or 34. And there’s no doing that in your head. The square root of a whole number is either a whole number — the way the square root of 36 is — or else it’s an irrational number. You can work out the square root of a non-perfect-square by hand. But it’s boring and it’s worse than just writing “\sqrt{33} ” or “\sqrt{34} ”. Except in figuring out if that number is larger than or smaller than five or six. It’s good for that.

    Dave Blazek’s Loose Parts for the 13th is the actuary joke for this installment. Actuarial studies are built on one of the great wonders of statistics: that it is possible to predict how often things will happen. They can happen to a population, as in forecasts of how many people will be in traffic accidents or fires or will lose their jobs or will move to a new city. We may have no idea to whom any of these will happen, and they may have no way of guessing, but the enormous number of people and great number of things that can combine to make a predictable state of affairs. I suppose it’s imaginable that a group could study its dynamics well enough to identify who screws up the most and most seriously. So they might be able to say what the odds are it is his fault. But I imagine in practice it’s too difficult to define screw-ups or to assign fault consistently enough to get the data needed.

    Zach Weinersmith’s Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal for the 14th is another multiverse strip, echoing the Dinosaur Comics I featured here Sunday. I’ll echo my comments then. If there is a multiverse — again, there is not evidence for this — then there may be infinitely many versions of every book of the Bible. This suggests, but it does not mandate, that there should be every possible incarnation of the Bible. And a multiverse might be a spendthrift option anyway. Just allow for enough editions, and the chance that any of them will have a misprint at any word or phrase, and we can eventually get infinitely many versions of every book of the Bible. If we wait long enough.

  • Joseph Nebus 9:52 pm on Sunday, 1 March, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , , Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal,   

    How February 2015 Treated My Mathematics Blog 

    Of course I’m going to claim February 2015 was a successful month for my mathematics blog here. When have I ever claimed it was a dismal month? Probably I have, though last month wasn’t a case of it.

    Anyway, according to WordPress’s statistics page, both the old and the new (which they’re getting around to making less awful), in February the mathematics blog had 859 views, down from January’s 944, but up from December’s 831. This is my second-highest on record. That said, I do want to point out that with a mere 28 days February was at a relative disadvantage for page clicks, and that January saw an average of 30.45 views per day, while February came in at 30.68, which is a record high.

    There were 407 visitors in February, down from January’s 438 and December’s 424. 407 is the fourth-highest visitor count I have on record, though its 14.54 visitors per day falls short of January 2015’s 15.64, and way short of the all-time record, January 2013’s 15.26 visitors per day.

    The views per visitor were at 1.96 in December, 2.16 in January, and dropped surely insignificantly to 2.11 for February, and there’s no plausibly splitting that up per day. Anyway, the mathematics blog started March at 21,815 views so there’s every reason to hope it’ll hit that wonderfully uniform count of 22,222 views soon.

    The new statistics page lets me see that I drew 179 “likes” in February, down from 196 in January, but well up from December’s 128. Not to get too bean-counting but that is 6.39 likes per day in February against a mere 6.32 per day in January.

    The most popular posts in February were mostly the comic strip posts, with the perennial favorite of trapezoids sneaking in. Getting more than thirty views each in February were:

    1. Reading the Comics, February 4, 2015: Neutral Edition, where I really showed off the weakness of naming each edition.
    2. Reading the Comics, February 14, 2015: Valentine’s Eve Edition, again, an edition name that’s not really better than just giving the date.
    3. Reading the Comics, January 29, 2015: Returned Motifs Edition, which is the one where I learned anything about the history of blackjack.
    4. How Many Trapezoids I Can Draw, which is the closest I’ll come to classifying the sporadic finite simple groups.
    5. Reading the Comics, February 20, 2015: 19th-Century German Mathematicians Edition, because Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal name-dropped Georg Cantor and Bernard Riemann.
    6. How To Re-Count Fish, describing problems in the post …
    7. How To Count Fish, which was somehow read three fewer times than the Re-Count one was.
    8. Denominated Mischief, in which a bit of arithmetic manipulation proves that 7 equals 11.

    In the listing of nations: as ever the countries sending me the most readers were the United States, with a timely 555; Canada with 83, and the United Kingdom with 66. The United States is down from January, but Canada and the United Kingdom strikingly higher. Germany sent 27 (up from 22), Austria 23 (down from 32), and Slovenia came from out of nowhere to send 21 readers this time around. India dropped from 18 to 6.

    There were sixteen single-reader countries in February, up from January’s 14: Chile, Czech Republic, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Jamaica, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Philippines, Poland, Romania, Swaziland, Sweden, Venezuela, and Vietnam. The repeats from January are Hungary, Japan, and Mexico; Mexico is on a three-month streak.

    There weren’t any really good, strange, amusing search terms bringing people here this past month, sad to say. The most evocative of them were:

    • topic about national mathematics day (I think this must be a reference to India’s holiday)
    • price is right piggy bank game (I’ve never studied this one, but I have done bits on the Item Up For Bid and on the Money Game)
    • jokes about algebraic geometry (are there any?)
    • groove spacing 78 and 45 (Yeah, I couldn’t find a definitive answer, but something like 170 grooves per inch seems plausible. Nobody’s taken me up on my Muzak challenge.)
    • two trapezoids make a (well, at least someone’s composing modernist, iconoclastic poetry around here)
    • sketch on how to inscribe more than one in a cycle in a triangle according to g.m green (I think this guy should meet the algebraic geometry jokester)
    • Kurt Struble 4:22 am on Tuesday, 3 March, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      i love your blog … it’s like art to me … imagine … 50 people look at a picture and they all know what the picture is … what it means .,.., they appreciate it for what it is .,.. each person has a casual relationship with the painting or picture … they’re rather blasé about the picture and what it means because what it displays is concrete to them … to them, it’s the same message they may have seen before but perhaps shaped differently or with some creative flares here and there …

      but ME when i read what you have written! it’s abstract .,.. it’s new … it’s unique … out of the ordinary … a different language yet … the same yet … different …

      i’m sure your posts don’t mean the same to me as they do to the myriad of readers (i’m assuming) who who understand it in more concrete terms … for me, there is such an abstract quality about the words and the thoughts … there are gaps in understanding for me, which make it anything but concrete …

      so, what i’m reading are abstract thoughts that beg interpretation outside the realm of rational thought … since the gaps in understanding are beyond my understanding in many cases … i interpret from from my subconscious mind … since there’s no other way to understand .,..

      since i have to provide my own understanding. i see your words and thoughts on several levels of interpretation … none of which are ”right” but, none of which are ”not right” …

      my mind jumps or flows from one interpretation to the next … wondering … envisioning different possibilities …

      imagine looking at a jackson pollack painting … letting your mind wander so that images and interpretations appear … watching the colors emerge and mean something from moment to moment …

      while your words and the concepts they tell about may not be quite as dramatic as a jackson pollack painting, well .,.. you get the message .,..

      when abstract forms and words are presented … there is only one way to understand and that’s to go below the surface … to reach into the subconscious mind where dreams are to fill in the spaces …

      what you write most often to me, is abstract … not concrete as it probably is to most of your readers … sorry for being redundant … so it is an artistic trip of unique proportions to me …. and for some reason i find your posts humorous .,.. but also on a subconscious level because i don’t know why they are humorous … (your comment about the interesting artwork you pulled from beneath your swimming pool heater was the best joke i’ve heard in a long time but …. i have no idea why it was so hilarious .. ! do your readers feel the same way? ks

      there’s an interesting philosophical question in there somewhere … but, that’s for another time … or not …. anyway … whether you meant it or not .. thanks for presenting me with some interesting art work …. while tickling my creativity funny bone at the same time …ks


      • Joseph Nebus 11:32 pm on Thursday, 5 March, 2015 Permalink | Reply

        Well, goodness. I’m not at all sure what to say. I appreciate that you do like my writing, though, and I’m glad you’re enjoying it in whatever way you do.


    • mathtuition88 3:51 am on Thursday, 5 March, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Very nice number of likes!


    • Angie Mc 5:53 pm on Friday, 6 March, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Great work as always, Joseph. How do you go about collecting and describing these stats? Do you pull everything from the WP stats page? Do you collect the stats in some other way to compare? How long does it take you to make sense of these stats and write up this post?

      Happy weekend from your stat interested but detail-impaired friend :D


      • Joseph Nebus 1:03 am on Sunday, 8 March, 2015 Permalink | Reply

        I get the statistics when I’m logged in to WordPress from a menu underneath the “WordPress/My Sites” menu bar. The page itself for me is at https://wordpress.com/stats/nebusresearch.wordpress.com so I’d imagine yours would be at https://wordpress.com/stats/familyanswersfast.wordpress.com

        Writing the statistics post takes me something like twenty to thirty minutes, mostly because I’ve settled into a rough template of what to report on — views, visitors, popular countries, popular articles, that sort of thing — with the exact order varied as whim takes me. And for all that I’ve wondered if there are ways to streamline the composition, since this is a boilerplate sort of article. I’ve very nearly got to looking into whether I can export data to a spreadsheet. (This would also help for when I’ve realized belatedly that I wanted to track something I hadn’t thought of before, like the number of readers from India over the month or such.)

        Liked by 1 person

        • Angie Mc 4:26 am on Monday, 9 March, 2015 Permalink | Reply

          Thanks so much and now I see that I have what I need at WP and need to utilize it! I was wondering if you had your stats on a spreadsheet because you glean so much from the WP stats page. When I look at mine I see a bunch of mush. I’m a very macro-thinker so these details blur if I don’t focus and give them a container that makes sense to me. I actually appreciate stats very much, for example, in how they helped me to better understand program evaluation and design. So, you’ve inspired me to take advantage of the stats I have and figure out how they can help me to improve. When I have a chunk of time, I’m going to look at your template again and see if I can get the hang of it. Thanks very much, Joseph!


          • Joseph Nebus 12:04 am on Tuesday, 10 March, 2015 Permalink | Reply

            Goodness, I’m glad if I can be of any help. I don’t think that I make very good use of my statistics page, though. It’s indicated that the thing I would have guessed is most popular — comic strip posts — actually is most popular, and I suppose that makes me feel more confident that I’m doing the right thing in posting so many of them, but I don’t think I’ve drawn many lessons about writing besides that.

            Particularly I feel like I ought to be able to do something smarter with knowing what search terms bring people to my blog, but I haven’t found a clear direction from them.

            Liked by 1 person

        • Angie Mc 4:33 am on Monday, 9 March, 2015 Permalink | Reply

          One more thank you, for you here https://familyanswersfast.wordpress.com/2015/03/07/inspiring-friends-plus-a-tip-on-how-to-delegate-blog-award/ It’s given freely and, who knows, maybe there’s some math problem in there somewhere :D


    • elkement 11:09 am on Sunday, 8 March, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      OK – I need to click more this month :-)


  • Joseph Nebus 4:03 pm on Sunday, 17 August, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal,   

    Reading the Comics, August 16, 2014: Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal Edition 

    Zach Weinersmith’s Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal is a long-running and well-regarded web comic that I haven’t paid much attention to because I don’t read many web comics. XKCD, Newshounds, and a couple others are about it. I’m not opposed to web comics, mind you, I just don’t get around to following them typically. But Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal started running on Gocomics.com recently, and Gocomics makes it easy to start adding comics, and I did, and that’s served me well for the mathematical comics collections since it’s been a pretty dry spell. I bet it’s the summer vacation.

    Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal (July 30) seems like a reach for inclusion in mathematical comics since its caption is “Physicists make lousy firemen” and it talks about the action of a fire — and of the “living things” caught in the fire — as processes producing wobbling and increases in disorder. That’s an effort at describing a couple of ideas, the first that the temperature of a thing is connected to the speed at which the molecules making it up are moving, and the second that the famous entropy is a never-decreasing quantity. We get these notions from thermodynamics and particularly the attempt to understand physically important quantities like heat and temperature in terms of particles — which have mass and position and momentum — and their interactions. You could write an entire blog about entropy and probably someone does.

    Randy Glasbergen’s Glasbergen Cartoons (August 2) uses the word-problem setup for a strip of “Dog Math” and tries to remind everyone teaching undergraduates the quotient rule that it really could be worse, considering.

    Nate Fakes’s Break of Day (August 4) takes us into an anthropomorphized world that isn’t numerals for a change, to play on the idea that skill in arithmetic is evidence of particular intelligence.

    Jiggs tries to explain addition to his niece, and learns his brother-in-law is his brother-in-law.

    George McManus’s _Bringing Up Father_, originally run the 12th of April, 1949.

    George McManus’s Bringing Up Father (August 11, rerun from April 12, 1949) goes to the old motif of using money to explain addition problems. It’s not a bad strategy, of course: in a way, arithmetic is one of the first abstractions one does, in going from the idea that a hundred of something added to a hundred fifty of something will yield two hundred fifty of that thing, and it doesn’t matter what that something is: you’ve abstracted out the ideas of “a hundred plus a hundred fifty”. In algebra we start to think about whether we can add together numbers without knowing what one or both of the numbers are — “x plus y” — and later still we look at adding together things that aren’t necessarily numbers.

    And back to Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal (August 13), which has a physicist type building a model of his “lack of dates” based on random walks and, his colleague objects, “only works if we assume you’re an ideal gas molecule”. But models are often built on assumptions that might, taken literally, be nonsensical, like imagining the universe to have exactly three elements in it, supposing that people never act against their maximal long-term economic gain, or — to summon a traditional mathematics/physics joke — assuming a spherical cow. The point of a model is to capture some interesting behavior, and avoid the complicating factors that can’t be dealt with precisely or which don’t relate to the behavior being studied. Choosing how to simplify is the skill and art that earns mathematicians the big money.

    And then for August 16, Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal does a binary numbers joke. I confess my skepticism that there are any good alternate-base-number jokes, but you might like them.

    • ivasallay 8:15 pm on Monday, 18 August, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      I LOVED the binary joke!


      • Thomas Anderson 6:34 pm on Tuesday, 19 August, 2014 Permalink | Reply

        SMBC is one of those webcomics that I read most every day, and some days I get caught up in reading the backlog that I don’t get anything else done. I love it so much.


        • Joseph Nebus 3:28 pm on Wednesday, 20 August, 2014 Permalink | Reply

          I’m glad you enjoy it so. I haven’t been reading it, but that’s just a reflection of my having some strikingly old-fashioned habits about comic strips.


      • Joseph Nebus 3:27 pm on Wednesday, 20 August, 2014 Permalink | Reply

        Aw, I’m glad to have shared it with you, then.


    • elkement 9:09 am on Sunday, 24 August, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      A lot of jokes like the ‘Physicists would be lousy firemen’ could be / are created along the same lines I guess – physicists explaining everyday things too complicated or not in an appropriate way :-)
      But I like this joke a lot – the essence of the statistical character of physical properties dealt with in thermodynamics covered by a simple cartoon.


      • Joseph Nebus 8:37 pm on Tuesday, 26 August, 2014 Permalink | Reply

        Oh, certainly. I suppose there’s always going to be some humor in having things explained in such precise technical terms that the everyday becomes confusing. And professions are going to blend together at some point too; I could imagine a lawyer choosing to describe a fire in almost the same way.


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