How August 2018 Treated My Mathematics Blog


And with the start of the month it’s my chance to do my usual self-examination. In this I look over what was popular, and how popular, and draw no usable conclusions from this. The month didn’t end as I had hoped, owing to family matters. But then nothing ever does quite go as one hopes. We just have to carry on anyway. But looking over WordPress’s review of readership around here:

August 2018 statistics: 1,421 views. 913 visitors. 1.56 views per visitor. 14 posts published.
I’m a little surprised to have had fourteen posts. I was pulled away from my writing the last week of the month so thought I would just have a gap.

Huh. August was a busy month, with 1,421 recorded page views. The last several months had been 1,058 and 1,077. This is the third-highest number of page views since April of 2016 at least. And that’s from 913 unique visitors, which is the second-highest number of unique visitors I’ve got on record. (March 2018 continues to taunt me with 999 unique visitors.) People found something they liked.

They liked 57 things, which compares to July’s 37 by being larger. It’s still an anemic total, though. June had 94 likes, and even that is way down from a year ago. August 2017 had 147 likes. And there was a time there’d be 345 likes in a month. That time was April 2016. Comments drifted slightly downward, to 27 from July’s 28 or June’s 30. I count that as holding still, anyway. As ever, I need to do better writing things that encourage responses.

The roster of most popular articles suggests that I’m catching on as a reference for the record-groove counting problem. Just under 200 page views were of that alone. The next-most-popular piece had only 67 views. Don’t think I’m not considering studying power-law scaling of my posts. If you have no idea what I’m on about, don’t worry. I may get to it. But here’s the most popular posts for the past month:

I’m still taking nominations for the A-To-Z, by the way, and shall be for a while yet. Also, discussions of fun mathematics which don’t fit the A-To-Z format may yet belong in the Mathematics Blog Carnival, to appear here at the end of September. Please let me know of anything that’s educational or playful or just fun that you’d like to see shared with more people. Can be your own writing; can be something you think more people should know.

What countries of the world, plus the European Union, sent me readers in August? And how many? Here’s the official roster as WordPress make it out.

Country Readers
United States 802
Philippines 232
Canada 52
Turkey 44
India 40
United Kingdom 31
Australia 30
European Union 26
France 18
Germany 12
Bhutan 8
Italy 7
Singapore 7
Belgium 6
Czech Republic 6
Netherlands 6
Peru 6
Puerto Rico 6
Spain 6
Israel 5
Pakistan 5
Sweden 5
Brazil 4
Finland 4
Mexico 4
New Zealand 4
Nigeria 4
Norway 4
Algeria 3
Indonesia 3
South Africa 3
South Korea 3
United Arab Emirates 3
Denmark 2
Malaysia 2
Vietnam 2
Argentina 1
Austria 1 (*)
Chile 1
Colombia 1
Egypt 1
Estonia 1
Ethiopia 1
Hong Kong SAR China 1
Ireland 1 (*)
Latvia 1
Luxembourg 1
Panama 1
Portugal 1
Romania 1 (*)
Slovenia 1
Sri Lanka 1

They list 52 countries sending me any readers. This is the same as in July. There were 16 single-reader countries, again the same as in July. I know, I’m worried I made a mistake with the data too. Ah, but here. Austria, Ireland, and Romania are on two-month streaks as single-reader countries. Nobody’s been on the roster more than two months in a row. Serbia just missed the half-year milestone.

The Insights panel would have me believe I started September on 66,380 page views, from 32,601 recorded unique visitors. I’ll go along with that gag. For the year to date, I’ve posted — well, I forgot to take a snapshot of the data before Sunday’s Reading the Comics post published. If we pretend the 2nd of September was part of August, though, then: I’ve had 105 posts so far this year; 14 in August and 15 in the Greater August that included this past Sunday. I’ve accumulated 269 total comments, for an average of 2.6 comments per post. This is the same average I had at the start of August. I gathered a total of 633 likes, for an average of 6.0 likes per post this year. Start of August I’d had 6.4 likes per post. Counting Sunday’s post I had 97,634 total words published so far this year, 14,551 of them in August. In July I had 14,032 words in only twelve posts. My words-per-post average is up to 930. Start of August it had drifted down to 885.3.

If you’d like to read my posts you’ve got options. They all involve reading, though. Maybe having them read to you. But all my posts are available by RSS feed. If you like the WordPress reader, there’s a button at the upper-right corner of the page. And if you’d like to see messages announced on Twitter, I’m @Nebusj there. And yes, I am sniffing around Mathstodon.xyz, the mathematics-themed instance of the Twitter-like social site Mastodon. Just browsing its public feed can be fun. There’s a mix of people sharing neat stuff they ran across, little puzzles that’ve been bothering them, and legitimate current research. I do not have an account there and might not make one at all. But I’m thinking about whether I ought. Will tell you if and when I do.

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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 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.

What 2017 Looked Like To My Mathematics Blog


I do like doing a year-end recap of my readership. And WordPress seems not to be doing its annual little fireworks spectacular animated gif. This is a shame since this year, for the first time, I had two mathematics posts the same day and that would’ve been nice to see animated. (I had messed up the scheduled posting of one of the Summer 2017 A To Z, and had something else already planned to run that day, and it was either bump something too late or go ahead with two things on the same day.)

So what did readership look like for the whole year?

I published 164 posts in 2017, well down from 2016’s 213. 2016 had two A to Z sequences whereas 2017 had just the one. This was a median year for me. In 2015 I’d published 188 posts, and in 2014 a mere 129. In 2013 there were 106. (In 2012 there were 180, but that count is boosted by an experiment in also posting some space-history stuff that just didn’t fit the main content here.)

WordPress.com Traffic record for my blog in 2017. 12,214 views, 76,02 visitors, 1,094 likes, and 301 comments.
I started blogging here in late 2011. Sometime in late 2012 is when WordPress started tracking unique visitors so far as the let us know. 2018 is looking a bit flat but, you know, it’s got some promise of something or other, I like to think.

12,214 pages viewed over the 2017, which is down from 2016’s 12,851. Not very much, though, especially for how much less stuff I published. It’s a bit higher than 2015’s 11,241. I’m not sure what to make of basically flat numbers of page views over three years. Mostly I suspect, deep down, that not being able to easily read the Jumble puzzles, and occasionally include them in Reading the Comics posts, has hurt my readership and my engagement. If you know a good source for them, please, let me know.

The number of unique visitor has risen steadily, though. 2017 had the greatest number of distinct people stopping by, with 7,602 logged. In 2016 they were 7,168 in number, and in 2015 only 5,159. 2014 saw 3,382; 2013, 2,905 unique visitors. That’s a pretty dramatic growth in unique visitors per published post, a statistic that WordPress doesn’t keep and that’s of significance only because I can keep dividing things until I find some sort of trend line. Still, 2013 through 2015 it’s an almost constant 27 unique visitors per post, and then in 2016 that rose to 33 and then to 46.

The number of likes plummeted to 1,094. 2016 had seen 2,163, and 2015 — the first year I did an A to Z — some 3,273 things were liked. Comments similarly plummeted; there were 301 in 2017. 2016 saw 474, and 2015 some 822. I am not sure what I did right that first A to Z that I haven’t quite recaptured, or built upon.

For all that the 2015 through 2017 were the most-read years of my little blog here, the most popular pieces were from before that. The top five most-read posts were … well, three are ones I would have guessed. The other two surprised me:

This at least implies what to do: more polygons and game show riddles. The most popular piece from 2017 was What Would You Like In The Summer 2017 Mathematics A To Z?, my appealing for enough topics to write about for two months straight. (Blogging is never easier than when someone else gives you topics to write about.)

I got visitors from 113 nations of the world, says WordPress, and here they are:

Country Readers
United States 6973
United Kingdom 784
India 547
Canada 450
Philippines 442
Singapore 243
Australia 194
Austria 187
Germany 172
Turkey 135
Hong Kong SAR China 126
France 108
Spain 108
Brazil 107
Slovenia 104
Italy 93
Puerto Rico 78
Sweden 72
South Africa 63
Netherlands 47
Denmark 43
New Zealand 40
Switzerland 40
Thailand 37
Ireland 36
Argentina 33
Mexico 31
Israel 30
Romania 30
Russia 30
Belgium 29
Indonesia 29
Malaysia 28
Norway 26
South Korea 26
Poland 25
Japan 24
Bangladesh 21
Taiwan 20
Greece 18
Oman 17
US Virgin Islands 17
European Union 15
Finland 15
Portugal 15
Croatia 14
Pakistan 14
Ukraine 14
China 12
Colombia 12
Saudi Arabia 12
Slovakia 12
United Arab Emirates 12
Chile 11
Czech Republic 10
Nigeria 10
Uruguay 10
Bulgaria 9
Hungary 9
Vietnam 9
Kuwait 8
Egypt 7
Estonia 7
Belarus 6
Lebanon 6
Iceland 5
Jamaica 5
Nepal 5
Paraguay 5
Peru 5
Serbia 5
Venezuela 5
Cambodia 4
Costa Rica 4
Iraq 4
Saint Kitts & Nevis 4
Albania 3
Algeria 3
Armenia 3
Bosnia & Herzegovina 3
Cyprus 3
Kenya 3
Lithuania 3
Macedonia 3
Azerbaijan 2
Bahrain 2
Barbados 2
Ecuador 2
Georgia 2
Ghana 2
Jordan 2
Kazakhstan 2
Latvia 2
Luxembourg 2
Morocco 2
Northern Mariana Islands 2
Qatar 2
Sri Lanka 2
Trinidad & Tobago 2
Angola 1
Bahamas 1
Bermuda 1
Bhutan 1
Cape Verde 1
Ethiopia 1
Guam 1
Madagascar 1
Maldives 1
Malta 1
Palestinian Territories 1
Tunisia 1
Uganda 1
Zimbabwe 1

I understand being more read in countries where English is the primary language. Still seems like I had fewer readers from China than should’ve expected. I remember ages ago someone else (Elke Stangl?) mentioning a curious absence of readers from China and I’m curious whether others have observed this and, if so, what might be going on.

On the insights page WordPress tells me I had a total of 441 comments and 1,043 likes, which does not match what the traffic page was telling me. I wonder if the discrepancy in comments is about whether to count links from one posting to another, which are regarded as comments on the linked page. No idea how to explain the discrepancy in likes, though.

Insights says I got an average of three comments per post in 2017, and an average of six likes per post. At 153,483 words, in total, published that’s 936 words per post, on average. I’m curious what the statistics for earlier years were. I feel like I’m getting more longwinded, at least. (Also with 201,692 words on my humor blog this gives me a bit more than a third of a million words published last year. Not a bad heap of words.)

I am considering getting a proper, individual domain for my blog here. I confess I’ve never quite understood how being off on my own name would encourage more visitors than having a subdomain nestled under the wordpress.com label, but it seems to work for folks like Iva Sallay’s findthefactors.com. (Sallay also has two great hooks, between the puzzles and the lists of factors of whole numbers.) Maybe I just need to poke around it some more until the whole matter becomes irrelevant, and then I can act, wrongly.

How December 2017 Treated My Mathematics Journal


Before I even look at the statistics I can say: December 2017 treated my mathematics journal better than it treated me. A third of the way in, our pet rabbit died, suddenly and unexpectedly. And this was days short of a year from our previous pet rabbit’s death. So that’s the cryptic plan-scrambling stuff I had been talking about, and why my writing productivity dropped. We don’t know when we’ll take in a new rabbit (or rabbits). Possibly this month, although not until late in January at soonest.

And … well, thank you for the condolences that I honestly do not mean to troll for. I can’t say we’re used to the idea that we lost our rabbit so soon. It’s becoming a familiar thought is all.

Our pet rabbit on the beach, nibbling a flower and peering into the camera with one big, round eye.
Don’t let the endearing cast of his eye fool you. Given the chance, he’d steal your heart.

But to the blog contents. How did they, quantifiably, go?

I fell back below a thousand page views. Just under 900, too: 899 page views over the month, from 599 unique visitors, as if both numbers were trying to tease Price Is Right Item-Up-For-Bids offerings. That’s down from the 1,052 page views in November, but only technically down from the 604 unique visitors then. October had 1,069 page views from a basically-equal 614 unique visitors. And it turns out that while I thought I stopped writing stuff, especially after our rabbit’s death, I had 11 posts in the month. That’s low but in the normal range for a month that has no A-to-Z sequence going. Curious.

There were 71 pages liked around here in December. That’s technically up from November’s 70, but not really. It’s less technically up from October’s 64. Still makes me wonder what might have happened if I’d scraped together a 12th post for the month. And the other big measure of reader involvement? 24 comments posted in December, down from November’s 28 but above October’s 12. I may need to start offering bounties for interesting comments. Or, less ridiculously, start some open threads for people who want to recommend good blogs or books or Twitter threads they’ve found.

2018 starts with a total 56,318 page views from 26,491 tracked unique visitors. The numbers don’t look bad, although I keep running across those WordPress blogs that’s, like, someone who started posting an inspirational message once a week two months ago and has just broken a million page views and gets 242 likes on every post and wonder if it’s just me. It’s not.

How about the roster of nations? For that I figure there were 53 countries sending me readers in December, technically down from November’s 56 and technically up from October’s 51. There were 15 single-reader countries, down from November’s 22 but slightly above October’s 13. And who were they? These places:

Country Readers
United States 553
Canada 47
United Kingdom 41
India 35
Ireland 19
Philippines 16
Austria 13
Germany 12
Turkey 12
Australia 11
Sweden 9
Singapore 8
France 7
Italy 7
Slovenia 7
New Zealand 6
Spain 6
Indonesia 5
Norway 5
South Korea 5
Brazil 4
Hong Kong SAR China 4
Malaysia 4
Poland 4
Belgium 3
Denmark 3
Finland 3
Japan 3
Netherlands 3
Portugal 3
Taiwan 3
Thailand 3
Argentina 2
Colombia 2
Ecuador 2
Serbia 2
Slovakia 2
United Arab Emirates 2
Albania 1
Bangladesh 1
Croatia 1
Egypt 1
Israel 1
Jamaica 1
Lebanon 1 (*)
Mexico 1 (*)
Peru 1 (*)
Romania 1 (*)
Russia 1
South Africa 1
Switzerland 1
Uruguay 1
Venezuela 1

Lebanon, Mexico, Peru, and Romania were also single-reader countries on November, and there’s no nation that’s on a three-month single-reader streak.

So what was the roster of popular posts for the month? My perennials, plus Reading the Comics, and some of that Wronski π stuff just squeaks in, tied for fifth place. What people wanted to read here was:

Have I got plans for January 2018? Yes, I have. Besides keeping on Reading the Comics, I hope to get through Wronski’s formula for π. I know there’s readers eager to find out what the punch line is. I know at least one has already worked it out and been surprised. And I’m hoping to work out a question about pinball tournaments that my love set me on. I’ve done a little thinking about the issue, and don’t believe the results, so I’m hoping to think some more and then make my computer do a bunch of simulations. Could be fun.

And I’ll be spending it hoping that you, the reader, are around. If you’re here now there’s a good chance you’re reading this. If you’d like to follow on your WordPress reader, there’s a ‘Follow on WordPress’ button in the upper right corner of the page. If you’d rather get it by e-mail, before I’ve made corrections to things that are only obviously wrong two minutes after publication, there’s the ‘Follow by e-mail’ button near that. And if you’d like to follow me on Twitter, try @Nebusj. I’m currently running only like four weeks behind on responding to follow-up tweets or direct messages, which is practically living a year in the future compared to my e-mail. Thanks for being here.

The Summer 2017 Mathematics A To Z: What I Learned


I’ve in the past done essays about what I’ve taken away from an A to Z project. Please indulge me with this.

Summer 2017 Mathematics A to Z, featuring a coati (it's kind of the Latin American raccoon) looking over alphabet blocks, with a lot of equations in the background.
Art courtesy of Thomas K Dye, creator of the web comic Newshounds. He has a Patreon for those able to support his work. He’s also open for commissions, starting from US$10.

The big thing I learned from the Summer 2017 A To Z, besides that it would have been a little better started two weeks earlier? (I couldn’t have started it two weeks earlier. July was a frightfully busy month. As it was I was writing much too close to deadline. Starting sooner would have been impossible.)

Category theory, mostly. Many of the topics requested had some category theory component. Next would be tensors and tensor-related subjects. This is exciting and dangerous. Neither’s a field I know well. Both are fields I want to know better. It’s a truism that to really learn an advanced subject you have to teach a course in it. That’s how I picked up what I know about signal processing and about numerical quantum mechanics. Still, it’s perilous, especially when I would realize the subject asked-for wasn’t what I faintly remembered had been asked for, and that I’d been composing an essay for in my head for a week already.

Also, scheduling. The past A To Z sequences were relatively low-stress things for me. I could get as many as six essays ahead of what I needed to post. That’s so comfortable a place to be. This time around, I was working much closer to deadline, with some pieces needing major rewriting as few as fifteen hours before my posting hour. More needed minor editing the day of posting. There’s several causes for this. But the biggest is that I wrote much longer this time. Past A To Z sequences could have at least a couple essays that were a few paragraphs. This time around I don’t think any piece came in at under a thousand words, and the default was getting to be around 1500 words. I don’t think I broke 2,000 words, but I came close.

That’s fine, because the essays came out great. This has been the A To Z sequence I’m proudest of, so far. They’re the ones that make me think my father’s ever-supportive assurance that I could put these into a book that people would give me actual money for can be right. Still, the combination of writing about stuff I had to research more first and writing longer pieces made the workload more than I’d figured on. When I get to doing this again — and I will, when the exhaustion’s faded enough from memory — I will need more lead time between asking for topics and starting to write. And will need to freeze topics farther in advance than I did this time. I still suspect my father’s too supportive to say I could get money for this. But it’s a less unrealistic thought than I had figured before.

Also learned: hire an artist! I got a better-banner-than-I-paid-for from Thomas K Dye for this series. His work added a snappy bit of visual appeal to my sentence heaps. I’d also gotten from him a banner for the Why Stuff Can Orbit sequence, which I mean to resume now that I have some more writing time. But the banners give a needed bit of unity to my writing, and the automatically-generated Twitter announcements of these posts, and that’s helped the look of the place. Something like nine-tenths of the people I know online are visual artists of one kind or another. (The rest are writers, my siblings, and my mother.) I should be making reasons to commission them. For example, if I want to describe something too complicated to do in words alone I should turn it over to them. Remember, I don’t do the few-pictures thing because I’m a good writer. It’s because I’m too lazy to make an illustration myself. A bit of money can be as good as effort.

Speaking of effort, between the A To Z essays and Reading the Comics posts, and a couple miscellaneous other pieces, I wrote five to six thousand words per week for two months. That’s probably not sustainable indefinitely, but a slightly lower pace? And for a specific big project? It’s good to know that’s something I can do, albeit possibly by putting this blog on hold.

Learned to my personal everlasting humiliation: I spelled “Klein Bottle” wrong. Fortunately, I only spelled it “Klien” in the title of the essay, so it sits there in my tweet publicizing the post and in the full-length URL to the post, forever. I’ll recover, I hope.

How June 2017 Treated My Mathematics Blog


I’m a little behind my usual review of the month’s readership and what’s popular around here, but I have good reason for it: I was busy earlier this week. Expect to be busy next week, too. Really, it’s going to be a bit of a mad month so do please watch this spot next week when I unleash some extra madness on myself. Thank you.

So. Readers in June 2017: how many did I have? Disappointingly few of them, it turns out. Only 878, down from the 1029 in May and 994 in April. Heck, that’s not even close to what I had been running in previous months. Not sure what happened there. Maybe it’s everybody getting out of (US) schools and not needing comic strips read to them anymore. The number of unique visitors fell too, to 542 down from May’s 662 and April’s 696. It’s not a phenomenon related to the number of things posted, either; I had 13 posts in June versus 12 in May, and 13 in April, and 12 in March, which suggests that July I can take relatively easy, come to think of it. I finally had an uptick in the number of likes, at least, with that rising to 99 from the 78 of May and the 90 of April. I don’t think that’s statistically significant a difference, though. The number of comments also rose, but to only 13; that beats May’s 8, but April only had 16. Well, I have a scheme in mind to increase the number of comments too. You’ll know it when you see it. But, wow, a statistics page like that and I worry that I’ve passed my prime here.

The popular stuff around here was about what I’d expected: the count of grooves in a record, and a bunch of Reading the Comics posts. And then one of the supplemental pieces in my Why Stuff Can Orbit series, which was helped by Elke Stangl’s most gracious words about it. The top articles, since there was a three-way tie for fourth place:

Now the roster of the 52 countries that sent me readers in June, and how many each of them did. Spoiler: the United States tops the list.

Country Views
United States 472
Turkey 74
India 52
United Kingdom 40
Canada 38
Austria 23
Puerto Rico 17
Australia 16
Germany 15
Singapore 12
Brazil 11
China 9
France 7
Italy 7
Slovenia 7
Philippines 5
Norway 4
Spain 4
Switzerland 4
Argentina 3
Hong Kong SAR China 3
Israel 3
Netherlands 3
New Zealand 3
Russia 3
Sweden 3
Cambodia 2
Chile 2
Indonesia 2
Kenya 2
Malaysia 2
Poland 2
Saudi Arabia 2
South Africa 2
South Korea 2
Thailand 2
Azerbaijan 1
Bahrain 1
Bangladesh 1
Belgium 1 (*)
Colombia 1 (*)
Estonia 1
Ghana 1
Hungary 1
Ireland 1
Japan 1 (*)
Jordan 1
Macedonia 1
Mexico 1
Palestinian Territories 1
Portugal 1 (***)
Ukraine 1 (*)

I make that out as readers coming from 52 countries, same as in May and slightly more than there were in April. There were 16 single-reader countries in June, down from May’s 21 and up from April’s 10. Belgium, Colombia, Japan, and Ukraine have been single-reader countries for two months running now. Portugal is on a four-month single-reader streak. Hi, person from Portugal. I’m glad you like me a little bit. That’s better than not at all. I have no idea why I’m suddenly popular in Turkey.

The most popular day for posts was Sunday, with 18 percent of page views. That’s marginally up from 16 percent in May, but the same as April’s count. The most popular hour was 4 pm, when 14 percent of my page views came. I rather suspected that would happen; I tried moving the default posting time two hours earlier this past month and sure enough, the readers followed. People stop in here right after something’s posted or not much at all. Hm.

The mathematics blog started the month with 50,125 page views, so hey, finally broke 50,000! Nice. These came from something like 22,754 distinct viewers that WordPress is aware of existing.

WordPress’s report of what search terms people are looking for has collapsed into uselessness. About all it admits to people wanting in June, besides “unknown search terms”, were Jumble — I want it too, but can’t find a good source that just gives me the day’s puzzle in a static picture — and “concept of pythagorean theorem” and “short conversation to explain algebra”. The Pythagorean theorem I can do, but a short conversation to explain algebra? … Well, which kind of algebra? I suppose they don’t want the fun kinds. They never do.

The Insights panel thinks there are 666 WordPress.com followers to start the month. I can accept that. Not all of them seem to visit, but that might just be that they’re following me in their Readers rather than clicking individual links. I’ve given up on leaving a teaser of text out front and hiding the rest behind a click. That stuff might record, but nobody likes it, me included. If you’d like to follow this blog in your WordPress reader, there’s a little blue strip labelled “Follow nebusresearch” in the upper-right corner of the page. If you’d rather follow by e-mail, it’s under “Follow Blog Via Email” and don’t think I want a – in there. And I am on Twitter as well, as @Nebusj. That account sometimes gets into talking about non-mathematical stuff, including my humor blog which is a slightly more popular hangout, since I regularly explain what’s going on in the story strips. So if you looked at Mary Worth the last couple months and couldn’t figure out what the heck was going on, I can tell you: it’s CRUISE SHIPS. Only in more detail.

How May 2017 Treated My Mathematics Blog


The big news is that in May my mathematics blog crept back above a thousand page views. It had been a whole month since it had reached this threshold of purely imaginary significance. For what was a slow writing month — only twelve posts — marred by my computer dying and a nasty cold the final week, the numbers aren’t bad.

In May there were 1,029 pages viewed here. That’s up from April’s 994 and March’s 1,026. The number of unique visitors is down for the third month running, though, down to 662 from April’s 696 and March’s 699. The happy implication: people reading more posts as they visit. You know, liking my writing more.

Views and Visitors for my mathematics blog, January 2015 through May 2017 with as much June as there's been so far. It's all been kind of stable, rocking back and forth around 1,000 views and like 650 visitors per month, for the past year or so.
I still feel like trying to rig up some compensation for that bizarre event back in … September 2015, wasn’t it? … when suddenly everybody’s statistics everywhere dropped and we blamed it on them no longer counting mobile devices. But if that were so, surely they’ve put them back? There’s no way the non-mobile-device readership is growing fast enough that these numbers should be about stable.

I’d think, anyway. There were 78 posts liked in May, down from April’s 90 and March’s 85. Not to pout or anything but WordPress does tell me that in June 2015 there were 518 likes around here and I can’t think, gosh, what was different then? … Well, it was one of my A To Z months, with posts 28 days of the month, and that usually encourages cross-reading. The number of comments just cratered, though: there were only 8 all month, down from 16 in April and 15 in May. Clearly I’m failing to encourage conversation and I don’t know how to turn that around.

The low comments count does confirm something for me, though. I switched the way I cross-link to posts here so that I use the full URLs for articles instead of the wp.me tinyURLs. The full URLs create trackback links and are regarded as comments that need approval from me, but they clearly don’t count as comments in the monthly totals. Since I like the trackback links — I fool myself into thinking people use them to learn about related subjects — I’ll stick with that. I had shifted so as not to confound my comment counts on these statistics pages.

According to Insights the most popular day for reading stuff was Thursday, with 16 percent of page views then. In April Sunday was the busiest day again with 16 percent of page views; in March it was 18 percent, on Tuesdays. I may give up on tracking this; obviously, each day is about equally likely to be the most popular. The most popular reading time was the hour of 6 pm, with 11 percent of page views coming before 7 pm. In April the same hour got 11 percent of page views again. In March it got 12 percent. I might experiment with the designated posting hour to find a more popular time, but obviously most people are going to read right after the thing is published.

So what was popular writing around here in April? I don’t want to say I knew this would happen, but one of the top five posts was one for which I wrote eleven words, and which I predicted to myself would be among the motnh’s top posts.

  1. How Many Grooves Are On A Record’s Side? People want simple answers to their questions.
  2. Reading the Comics, May 27, 2017: Panels Edition and I’m surprised this took the lead in the month’s Reading the Comics races, given how little time it had to do it.
  3. How Many Trapezoids I Can Draw as see above comment about people wanting answers
  4. Theorem Thursday: The Jordan Curve Theorem which I was thinking about at the mall on Thursday. Something or other made me think of it and how much I liked my description of how you prove the theorem.
  5. Dabbing and the Pythagorean Theorem which, really, I should do more like given how popular this kind of post is.

Now the roster of the 52 countries that sent me readers in May, and how many each of them did. Spoiler: the United States tops the list.

Country Views
United States 658
Canada 40
United Kingdom 38
Australia 28
Italy 23
India 19
Singapore 15
Slovenia 13
Turkey 13
Spain 12
South Africa 11
Austria 10
Switzerland 10
Denmark 7
Mexico 7
New Zealand 7
Puerto Rico 7
Philippines 6
Brazil 5
Oman 5
Russia 5
Sweden 5
Germany 4
Chile 3
France 3
Netherlands 3
Bangladesh 2
European Union 2
Indonesia 2
Pakistan 2
Peru 2
Argentina 1 (*)
Bahamas 1
Belgium 1
Colombia 1
Czech Republic 1
Finland 1 (**)
Iceland 1
Israel 1
Japan 1
Nigeria 1
Poland 1
Portugal 1 (**)
Saudi Arabia 1
Slovakia 1
Sri Lanka 1
St. Kitts & Nevis 1
Taiwan 1
US Virgin Islands 1
Ukraine 1
Uruguay 1
Venezuela 1

There had been 45 countries sending readers in April and 56 in March. European Union makes its big return.

There were 21 single-reader countries in May, way up from April’s 10 but still down from March’s 26. Argentina was a single-reader country in April also. Finland and Portugal have been single-reader countries for three months.

The month starts with 49,247 page views from some 22,212 logged distinct visitors since WordPress started telling us about those. WordPress tells me also there are 662 followers on WordPress, people who’ve gone and clicked the ‘Follow On WordPress’ button at the top right of the page in the hopes that I’ll follow back and increase their readership count. We all know how the game works.

And then what are popular search terms bringing folks here? What you’d expect given the most popular posts.

  • comics conversation
  • how many grooves are on typical record or cd ? how they are arranged?
  • origin is the gateway to your entire gaming universe.
  • peacetips football prediction
  • only yestetday dividing fractions
  • animated rolling dice 7

Plus some 146 unknown search terms. I’d be interested to know what those are too.

Well, thanks all of you for being around for this. I hope it’s a good month ahead.

You know, the arrangement of CDs is probably an interesting subject. I love that sort of technical-detail stuff too. It’s probably only slightly mathematics but I bet I can find a pretext to include it here. If someone’s interested.

What I Learned Doing The End 2016 Mathematics A To Z


The slightest thing I learned in the most recent set of essays is that I somehow slid from the descriptive “End Of 2016” title to the prescriptive “End 2016” identifier for the series. My unscientific survey suggests that most people would agree that we had too much 2016 and would have been better off doing without it altogether. So it goes.

The most important thing I learned about this is I have to pace things better. The A To Z essays have been creeping up in length. I didn’t keep close track of their lengths but I don’t think any of them came in under a thousand words. 1500 words was more common. And that’s fine enough, but at three per week, plus the Reading the Comics posts, that’s 5500 or 6000 words of mathematics alone. And that before getting to my humor blog, which even on a brief week will be a couple thousand words. I understand in retrospect why November and December felt like I didn’t have any time outside the word mines.

I’m not bothered by writing longer essays, mind. I can apparently go on at any length on any subject. And I like the words I’ve been using. My suspicion is between these A To Zs and the Theorem Thursdays over the summer I’ve found a mode for writing pop mathematics that works for me. It’s just a matter of how to balance workloads. The humor blog has gotten consistently better readership, for the obvious reasons (lately I’ve been trying to explain what the story comics are doing), but the mathematics more satisfying. If I should have to cut back on either it’d be the humor blog that gets the cut first.

Another little discovery is that I can swap out equations and formulas and the like for historical discussion. That’s probably a useful tradeoff for most of my readers. And it plays to my natural tendencies. It is very easy to imagine me having gone into history than into mathematics or science. It makes me aware how mediocre my knowledge of mathematics history is, though. For example, several times in the End 2016 A To Z the Crisis of Foundations came up, directly or in passing. But I’ve never read a proper history, not even a basic essay, about the Crisis. I don’t even know of a good description of this important-to-the-field event. Most mathematics history focuses around biographies of a few figures, often cribbed from Eric Temple Bell’s great but unreliable book, or a couple of famous specific incidents. (Newton versus Leibniz, the bridges of Köningsburg, Cantor’s insanity, Gödel’s citizenship exam.) Plus Bourbaki.

That’s not enough for someone taking the subject seriously, and I do mean to. So if someone has a suggestion for good histories of, for example, how Fourier series affected mathematicians’ understanding of what functions are, I’d love to know it. Maybe I should set that as a standing open request.

In looking over the subjects I wrote about I find a pretty strong mix of group theory and real analysis. Maybe that shouldn’t surprise. Those are two of the maybe three legs that form a mathematics major’s education. So anyone wanting to understand mathematicians would see this stuff and have questions about it. (There are more things mathematics majors learn, but there are a handful of things almost any mathematics major is sure to spend a year being baffled by.)

The third leg, I’d say, is differential equations. That’s a fantastic field, but it’s hard to describe without equations. Also pictures of what the equations imply. I’ve tended towards essays with few equations and pictures. That’s my laziness. Equations are best written in LaTeX, a typesetting tool that might as well be the standard for mathematicians writing papers and books. While WordPress supports a bit of LaTeX it isn’t quite effortless. That comes back around to balancing my workload. I do that a little better and I can explain solving first-order differential equations by integrating factors. (This is a prank. Nobody has ever needed to solve a first-order differential equation by integrating factors except for mathematics majors being taught the method.) But maybe I could make a go of that.

I’m not setting any particular date for the next A-To-Z, or similar, project. I need some time to recuperate. And maybe some time to think of other running projects that would be fun or educational for me. There’ll be something, though.

Reading the Comics, September 3, 2016: Summer Vacation Edition


I quite like doing Reading The Comics posts. I do feel sometimes like I’m repeating myself; how much is there to say about a comic where the student gives a snarky response to a story problem? Or where someone bakes a pie to talk about circles? And sometimes I worry that I’m slacking, since there’s not much to explain in what a spray of algebraic symbols mean, or would mean if they were perfectly rendered.

But I do like the feel of playing to an audience. Cartoonists call out topics and I do my best to say something interesting about them. It means I do not know whether I’ll be saying something about game theory or infinitely large sets or the history of numerals or the ability of birds to count in any given week. I have to be on top of a wide range of topics, or figure a way to get on top quickly. Some weeks it’ll be very busy; some weeks it’ll be quiet. It makes for fun, varied challenges.

This week Comic Strip Master Command sent me nothing. None of the comics I read, from Comics Kingdom, from Gocomics.com, and a couple of other miscellaneous things I read from long habit (like Joe Martin’s comics, or the Jumble puzzle), addressed any mathematics topics. I do not know the last time I had a subject drought like this. Certainly it’s been a while.

Mathematics has gotten a few cameos. Rick Stromoski’s Soup To Nutz almost got on point with a useful mnemonic for remembering which are odd and which are even numbers. Tony Rubino and Gary Markstein’s Daddy’s Home and Mark Tatulli’s Heart of the City both have “mathematics is so hard” as excuses for jokes. But that isn’t really about mathematics. Any subject people hated would do.

Comic strips work under an astounding set of constraints. They have to be incredibly compact, they have to carry their point in text and illustration, and the ones that appear in newspapers have to appeal to a broad audience in a way even television shows barely need to anymore. Given this, some stock jokes might well be essential. I couldn’t fault comic strip artists for using them. Similarly I don’t mind when a cartoonist uses a pile of scribbles for a mathematical concept, or even if they get an idea simplified to the point of being wrong. They’re amazing pieces of art to have at all. If I can make something educational of them that’s great, but that’s my adding to what they do.

So I’m just assuming Comic Strip Master Command wanted me to have a week off and that this doesn’t reflect any hard feelings between me and any cartoonists. We’ll know this time next week if there’s real trouble.

Finally, What I Learned Doing Theorem Thursdays


Here’s the index to the stuff I posted on them.

The biggest thing I learned from my Theorem Thursdays project was: don’t do this for Thursdays. The appeal is obvious. If things were a little different I’d have no problem with Thursdays. But besides being a slightly-read pop-mathematics blogger I’m also a slightly-read humor blogger. And I try to have a major piece, about seven hundred words that are more than simply commentary on how a comic strip’s gone wrong, ready for Thursday evenings my time.

That’s all my doing. It’s a relic of my thinking that the humor blog should run at least a bit like a professional syndicated columnist’s, with a fixed deadline for bigger pieces. While I should be writing more ahead of deadline than this, what I would do is get to Wednesday realizing I have two major things to write in a day. I’d have an idea for one of them, the mathematics thing, since I would pick a topic the previous Thursday. And once I’ve picked an idea the rest is easy. (Part of the process of picking is realizing whether there’s any way to make seven hundred words about something.) But that’s a lot of work for something that’s supposed to be recreational. Plus Wednesdays are, two weeks a month, a pinball league night.

So Thursday is right out, unless I get better about having first drafts of stuff done Monday night. So Thursday is right out. This has problems for future appearances of the gimmick. The alliterative pull is strong. The only remotely compelling alternative is Theorems on the Threes, maybe one the 3rd, 13th, and 23rd of the month. That leaves the 30th and 31st unaccounted for, and room for a good squabble about whether they count in an “on the threes” scheme.

There’s a lot of good stuff to say about the project otherwise. The biggest is that I had fun with it. The Theorem Thursday pieces sprawled into for-me extreme lengths, two to three thousand words. I had space to be chatty and silly and autobiographic in ways that even the A To Z projects don’t allow. Somehow those essays didn’t get nearly as long, possibly because I was writing three of them a week. I didn’t actually write fewer things in July than I did in, say, May. But it was fewer kinds of things; postings were mostly Theorem Thursdays and Reading the Comics posts. Still, overall readership didn’t drop and people seemed to quite like what I did write. It may be fewer but longer-form essays are the way I should go.

Also I found that people like stranger stuff. There’s an understandable temptation in doing pop-mathematics to look for topics that are automatically more accessible. People are afraid enough of mathematics. They have good reason to be terrified of some topic even mathematics majors don’t encounter until their fourth year. So there’s a drive to simpler topics, or topics that have fewer prerequisites, and that’s why every mathematics blogger has an essay about how the square root of two is irrational and how there’s different sizes to infinitely large sets. And that’s produced some excellent writing about topics like those, which are great topics. They have got the power to inspire awe without requiring any warming up. That’s special.

But it also means they’re hard to write anything new or compelling about if you’re like me, and in somewhere like the second hundred billion of mathematics bloggers. I can’t write anything better than what’s already gone about that. Liouville’s Theorem? That’s something I can be a good writer about. With that, I can have a blog personality. It’s like having a real personality but less work.

As I did with the Leap Day 2016 A To Z project, I threw the topics open to requests. I didn’t get many. Possibly the form gave too much freedom. Picking something to match a letter, as in the A to Z, gives a useful structure for choosing something specific. Pick a theorem from anywhere in mathematics? Something from algebra class? Something mentioned in a news report about a major breakthrough the reporter doesn’t understand but had an interesting picture? Something that you overheard the name of once without any context? How should people know what the scope of it is, before they’ve even seen a sample? And possibly people don’t actually remember the names of theorems unless they stay in mathematics or mathematics-related fields. Those folks hardly need explained theorems with names they remember. This is a hard problem to imagine people having, but it’s something I must consider.

So this is what I take away from the two-month project. There’s a lot of fun digging into the higher-level mathematics stuff. There’s an interest in it, even if it means I write longer and therefore fewer pieces. Take requests, but have a structure for taking them that makes it easy to tell what requests should look like. Definitely don’t commit to doing big things for Thursday, not without a better scheme for getting the humor blog pieces done. Free up some time Wednesday and don’t put up an awful score on Demolition Man like I did last time again. Seriously, I had a better score on The Simpsons Pinball Party than I did on Demolition Man and while you personally might not find this amusing there’s at least two people really into pinball who know how hilarious that is. (The games have wildly different point scorings. This like having a basketball score be lower than a hockey score.) That isn’t so important to mathematics blogging but it’s a good lesson to remember anyway.

How July 2016 Treated My Mathematics Blog


I’m not unhappy. Of course not; I can find something cheery to say about whatever my readership in a given month was like. But for a month in which I spent nearly two weeks away from my normal Internet routines of visiting blog friends and belatedly answering comments and the like it wasn’t bad at all.

Readership Numbers:

So there were 1,057 page views in July. That’s down from June’s 1,099, but only a touch, and it’s up from May’s 981. And it’s above a thousand which makes me feel secure about being at least tolerated in these parts. The number of unique visitors was down to 585 from June’s 598 and May’s 627. But the June-to-July drop I can’t imagine is significant.

The number of likes rose to 177, from June’s 155 and May’s 133. I can’t hide it: I’m hoping for 199 in August and I don’t know where it’ll go from there. Comments were down a touch to 33, from June’s 39. But some of that is my failing to respond to other people because I was away. My own comments should count, shouldn’t they?

I am considering making one of those big changes and switching away from the theme — “P2 Classic” — that I have. I like its look, especially that it lets comments appear on the front page around here. But I’ve realized that the theme is a disaster on mobile devices. I don’t want to be needlessly difficult.

At the top of my WordPress theme is a box saying, 'Hi, Joseph. Whatcha up to?' encouraging me to make quick little informal posts which I never ever do.
I don’t know, worrying about what I should post? I’m sorry, I can’t use a slangy informal posting mechanism like this. I’m far too pompous. Also you have no idea how disorienting it is to have this image on my page.

Also while it’s got a nice friendly “Whatcha up to?” panel up top for me, to quickly add a post, I have never used it except when I wanted to search for something and the cursor was in the wrong field. If someone knows of an updated P2 Classic that you can read on a hand phone please let me know. I’d be glad for it.

Popular Posts:

To posts! The most popular stuff around here in July was a fair split between Reading the Comics posts and Theorem Thursday posts, plus a note that something I started back in May would too be returning. I hope to get to that soon again, maybe this week. That’s also comforting. They’re the things I put the most effort into and I’m glad people like them and don’t find much terribly wrong about them. The top five articles in July according to WordPress were:

Listing Countries:

What countries like me? … You know what? Bullet lists are so reportedly popular I’ll just try listing everybody and we’ll see what that does for drumming up interest. Readership by country, per WordPress’s data, were:

Country Readers
United States 616
Canada 57
India 52
United Kingdom 36
Philippines 30
Australia 27
Germany 26
Slovenia 22
Singapore 20
Austria 15
Brazil 15
Spain 13
Thailand 11
Pakistan 10
Puerto Rico 7
Indonesia 6
Ireland 6
Italy 6
Croatia 5
France 5
Hong Kong SAR China 5
New Zealand 5
Sweden 5
China 4
Mexico 4
South Korea 4
Finland 3
Greece 3
Portugal 3
Russia 3
Venezuela 3
Argentina 2
Czech Republic 2
European Union 2
Jordan 2
Netherlands 2
Norway 2
South Africa 2
United Arab Emirates 2
Belgium 1
Chile 1
Denmark 1
Dominican Republic 1
Ecuador 1
Latvia 1
Lithuania 1
Malaysia 1
Oman 1
Saudi Arabia 1
Serbia 1
Tunisia 1
Turkey 1
Ukraine 1 (*)

Ukraine is the only country to have been a single-reader country in June too. This is the nearest clean sweep I’ve noticed. The European Union reader, after seven months being alone, found a friend too. I hope they get along.

Search Term Non-Poetry:

Whew. It’s back.

  • origin is the gateway to your entire gaming universe.
  • what is the average number of grooves on one side of an lp record (if “1” doesn’t satisfy you)
  • arithmetic sequences and series joke 48 (the punch line I’d heard was “why did they laugh so much at 15,268?” “Well, you see, we’d never heard that one before!”)
  • example of convergent boundaries komiks stris (honestly now tempted to commission a comic strip artist just to do something about convergent boundaries.)
  • comics about arithmetic sequence / arithmetic sequence comics (probably I should also commission one about sequences)

Counting Readers:

If I have this right August started with the blog having had 39,394 page views — curse that leap second! — and 16,083 unique viewers. (Because the leap second would give time for one more page view, keeping me from 39,393. If there were a leap second, and if it were at the end of July instead of the end of June. Trust me, if you share a long sequence of assumptions with me then it’s funny.)

WordPress reports me as starting with 610 WordPress.com followers, which feels way up from the start of July’s 597. If you want to join me as a WordPress.com follower there ought to be a button in the upper-right corner, a bit below and to the right of my blog name and above the “Or Follow By Way Of RSS” tag. There’s also a Follow Blog Via Email option and don’t think it doesn’t bother me there’s no dash in E-mail there. More reasons to change the theme I suppose.

I’d wondered last month about WordPress reporting the most popular dates and times around here. So that’s why I moved my default posting time from 11 am Eastern to 2 pm Eastern. But just as in July the most popular day is Sunday (22 percent of page views). Comics posts I suppose. The most popular hour remains 3:00 pm (9 percent of page views). It kind of suggests the time of posting doesn’t matter to people. We’ll see, as I start trying 6 am or if I try something really wild like eleventy-q pm.

See you, I expect, tomorrow with comic strips.

What Did I Post On Theorem Thursdays?


Hi again folks. I don’t want you to think I forgot about my little blog here. I’ve just been off for a pretty major competitive-pinball event the past week and that and a visit to the Kennywood amusement park slurped up all my writing time. Should be recovered soon enough.

I’ll be back to posting original stuff soon enough, and to posting links to other people’s stuff. But for now I wanted to gather links to all the Theorem Thursday now that the project’s safely at its pre-announced conclusion. I’ve have thoughts about what it all meant soon, too.

Over June and July I put up rather extended posts about:

I do figure on returning to these long-form explanations of theorems, so that Mean Value Theorem and Fixed Point Theorem stuff shouldn’t be left dangling forever. I don’t know just when I will, though. I’ll discuss why that is in my “what-did-I-learn” post, when I have the chance.

Bourbaki and How To Write Numbers, A Trifle


So my attempt at keeping the Reading the Comics posts to Sunday has crashed and burned again. This time for a good reason. As you might have read between the lines on my humor blog, I spent the past week on holiday and just didn’t have time to write stuff. I barely had time to read my comics. I’ll get around to it this week.

In the meanwhile then I’d like to point people to the MathsByAGirl blog. The blog recently had an essay on Nicolas Bourbaki, who’s among the most famous mathematicians of the 20th century. Bourbaki is also someone with a tremendous and controversial legacy, one that I expect to touch on as I catch up on last week’s comics. If you don’t know the secret of Bourbaki then do go over and learn it. If you do, well, go over and read anyway. The author’s wondering whether to write more about Bourbaki’s mathematics and while I’m all in favor of that more people should say.

And as I promised a trifle, let me point to something from my own humor blog. How To Write Out Numbers is an older trifle based on everyone’s love for copy-editing standards. I had forgotten I wrote it before digging it up for a week of self-glorifying posts last week. I hope folks around here like it too.

Oh, one more thing: it’s the anniversary of the publishing of an admirable but incorrect proof of the four-color map theorem. It would take another century to get right. As I said Thursday, the five-color map theorem is easy. it’s that last color that’s hard.

Vacations are grand but there is always that comfortable day or two once you’re back home.

What I Learned Doing The Leap Day 2016 Mathematics A To Z


The biggest thing I learned in the recently concluded mathematics glossary is that continued fractions have enthusiasts. I hadn’t intended to cause controversy when I claimed they weren’t much used anymore. The most I have grounds to say is that the United States educational process as I experienced it doesn’t use them for more than a few special purposes. There is a general lesson there. While my experience may be typical, that doesn’t mean everyone’s is like it. There is a mystery to learn from in that.

The next big thing I learned was the Kullbach-Leibler Divergence. I’m glad to know it now. And I would not have known it, I imagine, if it weren’t for my trying something novel and getting a fine result from it. That was throwing open the A To Z glossary to requests from readers. At least half the terms were ones that someone reading my original call had asked for.

And that was thrilling. It gave me a greater feeling that I was communicating with specific people than most of the things that I’ve written, is the biggest point. I understand that I have readers, and occasionally chat with some. This was a rare chance to feel engaged, though.

And getting asked things I hadn’t thought of, or in some cases hadn’t heard of, was great. It foiled the idea of two months’ worth of easy postings, but it made me look up and learn and think about a variety of things. And also to re-think them. My first drafts of the Dedekind Domain and the Kullbach-Leibler divergence essays were completely scrapped, and the Jacobian made it through only with a lot of rewriting. I’ve been inclined to write with few equations and even fewer drawings around here. Part of that’s to be less intimidating. Part of that’s because of laziness. Some stuff is wonderfully easy to express in a sketch, but transferring that to a digital form is the heavy work of getting out the scanner and plugging it in. Or drawing from scratch on my iPad. Cleaning it up is even more work. So better to spend a thousand extra words on the setup.

But that seemed to work! I’m especially surprised that the Jacobian and the Lagrangian essays seemed to make sense without pictures or equations. Homomorphisms and isomorphisms were only a bit less surprising. I feel like I’ve been writing better thanks to this.

I do figure on another A To Z for sometime this summer. Perhaps I should open nominations already, and with a better-organized scheme for knocking out letters. Some people were disappointed (I suppose) by picking letters that had already got assigned. And I could certainly use time and help finding more x- and y-words. Q isn’t an easy one either.

Some More Mathematics Stuff To Read


And some more reasy reading, because, why not? First up is a new Twitter account from Chris Lusto (Lustomatical), a high school teacher with interest in Mathematical Twitter. He’s constructed the Math-Twitter-Blog-o-Sphere Bot, which retweets postings of mathematics blogs. They’re drawn from his blogroll, and a set of posts comes up a couple of times per day. (I believe he’s running the bot manually, in case it starts malfunctioning, for now.) It could be a useful way to find something interesting to read, or if you’ve got your own mathematics blog, a way to let other folks know you want to be found interesting.

Also possibly of interest is Gregory Taylor’s Any ~Qs comic strip blog. Taylor is a high school teacher and an amateur cartoonist. He’s chosen the difficult task of drawing a comic about “math equations as people”. It’s always hard to do a narrowly focused web comic. You can see Taylor working out the challenges of writing and drawing so that both story and teaching purposes are clear. I would imagine, for example, people to giggle at least at “tangent pants” even if they’re not sure what a domain restriction would have to do with anything, or even necessarily mean. But it is neat to see someone trying to go beyond anthropomorphized numerals in a web comic. And, after all, Math With Bad Drawings has got the hang of it.

Finally, an article published in Notices of the American Mathematical Society, and which I found by some reference now lost to me. The essay, “Knots in the Nursery:(Cats) Cradle Song of James Clerk Maxwell”, is by Professor Daniel S Silver. It’s about the origins of knot theory, and particularly of a poem composed by James Clerk Maxwell. Knot theory was pioneered in the late 19th century by Peter Guthrie Tait. Maxwell is the fellow behind Maxwell’s Equations, the description of how electricity and magnetism propagate and affect one another. Maxwell’s also renowned in statistical mechanics circles for explaining, among other things, how the rings of Saturn could work. And it turns out he could write nice bits of doggerel, with references Silver usefully decodes. It’s worth reading for the mathematical-history content.

How 2015 Treated My Mathematics Blog


Oh yeah, I also got one of these. WordPress put together a review of what all went on around here last year. The most startling thing to me is that I had 188 posts over the course of the year. A lot of that is thanks to the A To Z project, which gave me something to post each day for 31 days in a row. If I’d been thinking just a tiny bit harder I’d have come up with two more posts and made a clean sweep of June.

The unit of comparison for my readership this year was the Sydney Opera House. That’s a great comparison because everybody thinks they know how big an opera house is. It reminds me of a bit in Carl Sagan and and Ann Druyan’s Comet in which they compare the speed of an Oort cloud comet puttering around the sun to the speed of a biplane. We may have only a foggy idea how fast that is (I guess maybe a hundred miles per hour?) but it sounds nice and homey.

How December 2015 Treated My Mathematics Blog


I had expected December 2015 would see a decline in my readership. I didn’t have the spillover effect of my humor blog getting so much Apartment 3-G curiosity. The readership did drop, although not quite alarmingly. So let’s review that.

According to WordPress’s statistics page there were 954 views of these parts in December. That’s well down from November’s 3-G boosted 1,215. But it’s up from the 733 in October and 708 in September, and it’s the fifth highest of the past year. The number of unique visitors dropped, from 519 down to 449. That’s also up from October’s 405 and September’s 381. And it’s the fourth-highest of the past twelve months. There were fifteen posts in the month again, although I admit not all of them were really deep pieces. Some were just nagging people to read other things I’d written.

The reader-engagement data was up a tiny bit. The mathematics blog got back up to 245 likes in December, up from November’s 220 and October’s 244. It’s nowhere near the peaks of June (518), but June was the midst of the Summer A To Z glossary and that drew a lot of steady readers in. I should do another one. The number of comments rose to 56, up from November’s 37 and October’s 47. Again, that’s nowhere near June and July’s highs (114 and 100). But again, I didn’t have anything themed nearly so tightly going on.

I think that I could have had slightly better readership, and engagement, if I hadn’t gotten overwhelmed the last third of the month. I just stopped being able to go pay calls on other blogs, and leave comments and likes and whatnot to other writers. So I couldn’t reasonably expect folks to stop in here either. The weekly count of views and visitors certainly drops around then. But then most of the rest of western civilization also had a busy time in late December. But the holidays have mostly wrapped up, and I should be back to normal social-Internet stuff soon. I’d like to think I’ll be, anyway.

The most popular stuff around here — well, most of the popular articles were Reading the Comics series articles. I’ll just lump those together into one category if that’s all right by you. But the most popular stuff would be:

The countries sending me the most readers were nearly the usual set: the United States with 641 pages views, the United Kingdom with 50, the Canada with 45, the Germany with 27, and the India with 21. That’s my best India showing on record, I believe. Singapore sent me five page views.

Single-reader countries this time were Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belgium, Czech Republic, the European Union, Indonesia, Ireland, Lithuania, Nigeria, and Taiwan. I still don’t understand what the European Union is doing listed there. But Belgium and Nigeria are on three-month streaks there. Nobody’s on a four-month streak.

And among the interesting search terms to come up:

  • peppermint patty couldn’t solve the following math problems (most of them, really)
  • snoring jokes (my love would tell you my snoring is not a joke; it’s enough to rattle this house apart)
  • why are wizard of id classics being reprinted (well, they’re pretty solidly funny)
  • comic strip math problem solving algebra rae (I don’t know what the ‘rae’ is and assume it’s a cry of delight)
  • origin is the gateway to your entire gaming universe. (I think they’re just trying to creep my out now)
  • 22 decmber mathematics day topics (I believe that’s India’s national mathematics day. I don’t think I have any particularly interesting content for it, but I should maybe work on that)

I start the month of January with 553 total WordPress followers. And I start with 31,253 total page views and 11,721 total unique visitors as WordPress figures these things.

Reading the Comics, November 21, 2015: Communication Edition


And then three days pass and I have enough comic strips for another essay. That’s fine by me, really. I picked this edition’s name because there’s a comic strip that actually touches on information theory, and another that’s about a much-needed mathematical symbol, and another about the ways we represent numbers. That’s enough grounds for me to use the title.

Samson’s Dark Side Of The Horse for the 19th of November looks like this week’s bid for an anthropomorphic numerals joke. I suppose it’s actually numeral cosplay instead. I’m amused, anyway.

Zach Weinersmith’s Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal for the 19th of November makes a patent-law joke out of the invention of zero. It’s also an amusing joke. It may be misplaced, though. The origins of zero as a concept is hard enough to trace. We can at least trace the symbol zero. In Finding Zero: A Mathematician’s Odyssey to Uncover the Origins of Numbers, Amir D Aczel traces out not just the (currently understood) history of Arabic numerals, but some of how the history of that history has evolved, and finally traces down the oldest known example of a written (well, carved) zero.

Tony Cochrane’s Agnes for the 20th of November is at heart just a joke about a student’s apocalyptically bad grades. It contains an interesting punch line, though, in Agnes’s statement that “math people are dreadful spellers”. I haven’t heard that before. It might be a joke about algebra introducing letters into numbers. But it does seem to me there’s a supposition that mathematics people aren’t very good writers or speakers. I do remember back as an undergraduate other people on the student newspaper being surprised I could write despite majoring in physics and mathematics. That may reflect people remembering bad experiences of sitting in class with no idea what the instructor was going on about. It’s easy to go from “I don’t understand this mathematics class” to “I don’t understand mathematics people”.

Steve Sicula’s Home and Away for the 20th of November is about using gambling as a way to teach mathematics. So it would be a late entry for the recent Gambling Edition of the Reading The Comics posts. Although this strip is a rerun from the 15th of August, 2008, so it’s actually an extremely early entry.

Ruben Bolling’s Tom The Dancing Bug for the 20th of November is a Super-Fun-Pak Comix installment. And for a wonder it hasn’t got a Chaos Butterfly sequence. Under the Guy Walks Into A Bar label is a joke about a horse doing arithmetic that itself swings into a base-ten joke. In this case it’s suggested the horse would count in base four, and I suppose that’s plausible enough. The joke depends on the horse pronouncing a base four “10” as “ten”, when the number is actually “four”. But the lure of the digits is very hard to resist, and saying “four” suggests the numeral “4” whatever the base is supposed to be.

Mark Leiknes’s Cow and Boy for the 21st of November is a rerun from the 9th of August, 2008. It mentions the holographic principle, which is a neat concept. The principle’s explained all right in the comic. The idea was first developed in the late 1970s, following the study of black hole thermodynamics. Black holes are fascinating because the mathematics of them suggest they have a temperature, and an entropy, and even information which can pass into and out of them. This study implied that information about the three-dimensional volume of the black hole was contained entirely in the two-dimensional surface, though. From here things get complicated, though, and I’m going to shy away from describing the whole thing because I’m not sure I can do it competently. It is an amazing thing that information about a volume can be encoded in the surface, though, and vice-versa. And it is astounding that we can imagine a logically consistent organization of the universe that has a structure completely unlike the one our senses suggest. It’s a lasting and hard-to-dismiss philosophical question. How much of the way the world appears to be structured is the result of our minds, our senses, imposing that structure on it? How much of it is because the world is ‘really’ like that? (And does ‘really’ mean anything that isn’t trivial, then?)

I should make clear that while we can imagine it, we haven’t been able to prove that this holographic universe is a valid organization. Explaining gravity in quantum mechanics terms is a difficult point, as it often is.

Dave Blazek’s Loose Parts for the 21st of November is a two- versus three-dimensions joke. The three-dimension figure on the right is a standard way of drawing x-, y-, and z-axes, organized in an ‘isometric’ view. That’s one of the common ways of drawing three-dimensional figures on a two-dimensional surface. The two-dimension figure on the left is a quirky representation, but it’s probably unavoidable as a way to make the whole panel read cleanly. Usually when the axes are drawn isometrically, the x- and y-axes are the lower ones, with the z-axis the one pointing vertically upward. That is, they’re the ones in the floor of the room. So the typical two-dimensional figure would be the lower axes.