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  • Joseph Nebus 4:00 pm on Thursday, 13 July, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , summer   

    What Would You Like In The Summer 2017 Mathematics A To Z? 

    I would like to now announce exactly what everyone with the ability to draw conclusions expected after I listed the things covered in previous Mathematics A To Z summaries. I’m hoping to write essays about another 26 topics, one for each of the major letters of the alphabet. And, as ever, I’d like your requests. It’s great fun to be tossed out a subject and either know enough about it, or learn enough about it in a hurry, to write a couple hundred words about it.

    So that’s what this is for. Please, in comments, list something you’d like to see explained.

    For the most part, I’ll do a letter on a first-come, first-serve basis. I’ll try to keep this page updated so that people know which letters have already been taken. I might try rewording or rephrasing a request if I can’t do it under the original letter if I can think of a legitimate way to cover it under another. I’m open to taking another try at something I’ve already defined in the three A To Z runs I’ve previously done, especially since many of the terms have different meanings in different contexts.

    I’m always in need of requests for letters such as X and Y. But you knew that if you looked at how sparse Mathworld’s list of words for those letters are.

    Letters To Request:

    • A
    • B
    • C
    • D
    • E
    • F
    • G
    • H
    • I
    • J
    • K
    • L
    • M
    • N
    • O
    • P
    • Q
    • R
    • S
    • T
    • U
    • V
    • W
    • X
    • Y
    • Z

    I’m flexible about what I mean by “a word” or “a term” in requesting something, especially if it gives me a good subject to write about. And if you think of a clever way to get a particular word covered under a letter that’s really inappropriate, then, good. I like cleverness. I’m not sure what makes for the best kinds of glossary terms. Sometimes a broad topic is good because I can talk about how an idea expresses itself across multiple fields. Sometimes a narrow topic is good because I can dig in to a particular way of thinking. I’m just hoping I’m not going to commit myself to three 2500-word essays a week. Those are fun, but they’re exhausting, as the time between Why Stuff Can Orbit essays may have hinted.

    And finally, I’d like to thank Thomas K Dye for creating banner art for this sequence. He’s the creator of the longrunning web comic Newshounds. He’s also got the book version, Newshounds: The Complete Story freshly published, a Patreon to support his comics habit, and plans to resume his Infinity Refugees spinoff strip shortly.

    • gaurish 2:12 pm on Monday, 17 July, 2017 Permalink | Reply

      A – Arithmetic
      C – Cohomology
      D – Diophantine Equations
      E – Elliptic curves
      F – Functor
      G – Gaussian primes/integers/distribution
      H – Height function (elliptic curves)
      I – integration
      L – L-function
      P – Prime number
      Z – zeta function

      I will tell more later. The banner art is very nice.


    • The Chaos Realm 4:53 pm on Monday, 17 July, 2017 Permalink | Reply

      I used the Riemann Tensor definition/explanation to front one of my sub-chapter pages in my poetry book (courtesy the guidance of a teacher I know). :-)


      • Joseph Nebus 5:35 pm on Tuesday, 18 July, 2017 Permalink | Reply

        Ah, that’s wonderful! There is this beauty in the way mathematical concepts are expressed — not the structure of the ideas, but the way we write them out, especially when we get a good idea of what we want to express. I’d like if more people could appreciate that without worrying that they don’t know, say, what a Ricci Flow would be.

        Liked by 1 person

        • The Chaos Realm 5:51 pm on Tuesday, 18 July, 2017 Permalink | Reply

          Thanks! I know there’s a really poetic beauty about astrophysics that I have loved for years. I may not understand all the equations, but I do feel I “get” physics in a way. looks up Ricci Flow. It’s definitely one of my major forms of inspirations…one of my most used muses!


          • Joseph Nebus 6:18 pm on Sunday, 23 July, 2017 Permalink | Reply

            I’m glad you do enjoy. There’s a lot about physics and mathematics that can’t be understood without great equations, but then there’s a lot about architecture that can’t be understood without a lot of mathematics and legal analyses. Nevertheless anyone can appreciate a beautiful building, and surely people can be told interesting enough stories about mathematics to appreciate the beauty there. Ideally, anyway.

            Liked by 1 person

  • Joseph Nebus 1:20 pm on Tuesday, 30 June, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , summer,   

    Reading the Comics, June 30, 2015: Fumigating The Theater Edition 

    One of my favorite ever episodes of The Muppet Show when I was a kid had the premise the Muppet Theater was being fumigated and so they had to put on a show from the train station instead. (It was the Loretta Lynn episode, third season, number eight.) I loved seeing them try to carry on as normal when not a single thing was as it should be. Since then — probably before, too, but I don’t remember that — I’ve loved seeing stuff trying to carry on in adverse circumstances.

    Why this is mentioned here is that Sunday night my computer had a nasty freeze and some video card mishaps. I discovered that my early-2011 MacBook Pro might be among those recalled earlier this year for a service glitch. My computer is in for what I hope is a simple, free, and quick repair. But obviously I’m not at my best right now. I might be even longer than usual answering people and goodness knows how the statistics survey of June will go.

    Anyway. Rick Kirkman and Jerry Scott’s Baby Blues (June 26) is a joke about motivating kids to do mathematics. And about how you can’t do mathematics over summer vacation.

    Ruben Bolling’s Tom The Dancing Bug (June 26) features a return appearance of Chaos Butterfly. Chaos Butterfly does what Chaos Butterfly does best.

    Charles Schulz’s Peanuts Begins (June 26; actually just the Peanuts of March 23, 1951) uses arithmetic as a test of smartness. And as an example of something impractical.

    Alex Hallatt’s Arctic Circle (June 28) is a riff on the Good Will Hunting premise. That movie’s particular premise — the janitor solves an impossible problem left on the board — is, so far as I know, something that hasn’t happened. But it’s not impossible. Training will help one develop reasoning ability. Training will provide context and definitions and models to work from. But that’s not essential. All that’s essential is the ability to reason. Everyone has that ability; everyone can do mathematics. Someone coming from outside the academy could do first-rate work. However, I’d bet on the person with the advanced degree in mathematics. There is value in training.

    The penguin-janitor offers a solution to the unsolved mathematics problem on the blackboard. It's a smiley face. It wasn't what they were looking for.

    Alex Hallatt’s Arctic Circle for the 28th of June, 2015.

    But as many note, the Good Will Hunting premise has got a kernel of truth in it. In 1939, George Dantzig, a grad student in mathematics at University of California/Berkeley, came in late to class. He didn’t know that two problems on the board were examples of unproven theorems, and assumed them to be homework. So he did them, though he apologized for taking so long to do them. Before you draw too much inspiration from this, though, remember that Dantzig was a graduate student almost ready to start work on a PhD thesis. And the problems were not thought unsolvable, just conjectures not yet proven. Snopes, as ever, provides some explanation of the legend and some of the variant ways the story is told.

    Mac King and Bill King’s Magic In A Minute (June 28) shows off a magic trick that you could recast as a permutations problem. If you’ve been studying group theory, and many of my Mathematics A To Z terms have readied you for group theory, you can prove why this trick works.

    Guy Gilchrist’s Nancy (June 28) carries on Baby Blues‘s theme of mathematics during summer vacation being simply undoable.

    As only fifty percent of the population is happy, and one person is in a great mood, what must the other one be in?

    Piers Baker’s Ollie and Quentin for December 28, 2014, and repeated on June 28, 2015.

    Piers Baker’s Ollie and Quentin (June 28) is a gambler’s fallacy-themed joke. It was run — on ComicsKingdom, back then — back in December, and I talked some more about it then.

    Mike Twohy’s That’s Life (June 28) is about the perils of putting too much attention into mental arithmetic. It’s also about how perilously hypnotic decimals are: if the pitcher had realized “fourteen million over three years” must be “four and two-thirds million per year” he’d surely have been less distracted.

    • Thumbup 2:42 pm on Tuesday, 30 June, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Smart kid. It definitely doesn’t mix!


      • Joseph Nebus 6:44 pm on Saturday, 4 July, 2015 Permalink | Reply

        I’m actually a little surprised Hammy didn’t think mathematics and candy couldn’t mix. The use seems quite dear to a kid’s heart. At least I would’ve thought it dear when I was a kid.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Thumbup 7:33 pm on Saturday, 4 July, 2015 Permalink | Reply

          Joseph Nebus, Really?! Cool. Mathematics rather an amazing thing. Yeah. You have a good fourth.


    • scifihammy 3:41 pm on Tuesday, 30 June, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Love the cartoons – especially the “smiley face” answer and the 50%! So many people I know don’t get that either. :)


      • Joseph Nebus 6:47 pm on Saturday, 4 July, 2015 Permalink | Reply

        Well, the 50 percent thing is a tricky point. I mean, all probabilities are tricky; that’s why you should never, ever, ever trust your instinctive response to a probability question. But applying a probability is even more tricky. I imagine that’s because we have a feeling for how things “ought” to be, but they never actually are that way. It’s very hard to feel confident in the application of something when every example seems wrong in one way or another.

        Liked by 1 person

        • scifihammy 7:08 am on Sunday, 5 July, 2015 Permalink | Reply

          That’s it exactly! Took me a while to grasp that you can toss a coin 99 times and get 99 Heads in a row, but that still doesn’t mean that the next toss will be Tails; probably more likely the coin is weighted! ;) Still, as you say, it is hard to ignore your instinct on an outcome.


          • Joseph Nebus 6:38 pm on Sunday, 5 July, 2015 Permalink | Reply

            At 99 heads in a row I’d certainly bet on the coin being weighted.

            Still, yeah; I forget where (possibly one of John D Cook’s Twitter feeds) I saw the warning from. But it’s good to remember that there are entire fields of psychology dedicated to studying how bad people’s intuitive feeling for probability problems are.

            Liked by 1 person

    • sheldonk2014 10:35 pm on Tuesday, 30 June, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I love thus as a theory things being dine under adverse circumstances
      Didn’t even think that was a actual theory
      That’s great


      • Joseph Nebus 6:50 pm on Saturday, 4 July, 2015 Permalink | Reply

        I’m not so sure it’s a theory so much as it is making sure the show goes on. But it did produce a great Muppet Show episode. Of course, aren’t they all great? Even the bad ones still have Fozzie Bear.


    • ivasallay 8:58 am on Saturday, 4 July, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I thought Baby Blues was cute, but Nancy offended me.


      • Joseph Nebus 6:53 pm on Saturday, 4 July, 2015 Permalink | Reply

        That’s an interesting split of feelings, given they’re basically the same joke. What do you suppose makes the difference?

        Liked by 1 person

    • ivasallay 6:24 am on Wednesday, 8 July, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      The kid in Baby Blues was only speaking for himself. Nancy implied that the whole world should feel that way.


  • Joseph Nebus 4:51 pm on Friday, 18 July, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , cursive, , , , , summer   

    Reading the Comics, July 18, 2014: Summer Doldrums Edition 

    Now, there, see? The school year (in the United States) has let out for summer and the rush of mathematics-themed comic strips has subsided; it’s been over two weeks since the last bunch was big enough. Given enough time, though, a handful of comics will assemble that I can do something with, anything, and now’s that time. I hate to admit also that they’re clearly not trying very hard with these mathematics comics as they’re not about very juicy topics. Call it the summer doldroms, as I did.

    Mason Mastroianni and Mick Mastroianni’s B.C. (July 6) spends most of its text talking about learning cursive, as part of a joke built around the punch line that gadgets are spoiling students who learn to depend on them instead of their own minds. So it would naturally get around to using calculators (or calculator apps, which is a fair enough substitute) in place of mathematics lessons. I confess I come down on the side that wonders why it’s necessary to do more than rough, approximate arithmetic calculations without a tool, and isn’t sure exactly what’s gained by learning cursive handwriting, but these are subjects that inspire heated and ongoing debates so you’ll never catch me admitting either position in public.

    Eric the Circle (July 7), here by “andel”, shows what one commenter correctly identifies as a “pi fight”, which might have made a better caption for the strip, at least for me, because Eric’s string of digits wasn’t one of the approximations to pi that I was familiar with. I still can’t find it, actually, and wonder if andel didn’t just get a digit wrong. (I might just not have found a good web page that lists the digits of various approximations to pi, I admit.) Erica’s approximation is the rather famous 22/7.

    Richard Thompson’s Richard’s Poor Almanac (July 7, rerun) brings back our favorite set of infinite monkeys, here, to discuss their ambitious book set at the Museum of Natural History.

    Tom Thaves’s Frank and Ernest (July 16) builds on the (true) point that the ancient Greeks had no symbol for zero, and would probably have had a fair number of objections to the concept.

    'The day Einstein got the wind knocked out of his sails': Einstein tells his wife he's discovered the theory of relativity.

    Joe Martin’s _Mr Boffo_ strip for the 18th of July, 2014.

    Joe Martin’s Mr Boffo (July 18, sorry that I can’t find a truly permanent link) plays with one of Martin’s favorite themes, putting deep domesticity to great inventors and great minds. I suspect but do not know that Martin was aware that Einstein’s first wife, Mileva Maric, was a fellow student with him at the Swiss Federal Polytechnic. She studied mathematics and physics. The extent to which she helped Einstein develop his theories is debatable; as far as I’m aware the evidence only goes so far as to prove she was a bright, outside mind who could intelligently discuss whatever he might be wrangling over. This shouldn’t be minimized: describing a problem is often a key step in working through it, and a person who can ask good follow-up questions about a problem is invaluable even if that person doesn’t do anything further.

    Charles Schulz’s Peanuts (July 18) — a rerun, of course, from the 21st of July, 1967 — mentions Sally going to Summer School and learning all about the astronomical details of summertime. Astronomy has always been one of the things driving mathematical discovery, but I admit, thinking mostly this would be a good chance to point out Dr Helmer Aslaksen’s page describing the relationship between the solstices and the times of earliest and latest sunrise (and sunset). It’s not quite as easy as finding when the days are longest and shortest. Dr Aslaksen has a number of fascinating astronomy- and calendar-based pages which I think worth reading, so, I hope you enjoy.

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