Tag Archives: mathematics

Love and rockets (things I find interesting in math and science, Dec. 2022)

In the last few months my math and science reading has mostly been about space, with some smattering of other things. NASA in particular has been the focus. First up is a piece on the DART Mission which smashed into an asteroid and altered it’s path. No small feat, that. In other big feats, they are still in the planning stages of a a balloon mission to Venus . Given that landing on Venus results in a spacecraft being destroyed, a visit that stays in that planet’s atmosphere may be the only way for it to succeed.

One such mission that should definitely succeed is Artemis, NASA’s project to visit (revisit?) the moon, Here is the NYTimes on it. Relatedly, here’s the Atlantic with a piece on the the 50th anniversary of Apollo. We are clearly due for a return trip. I wonder if it will affect the new astronauts as much as it did William Shatner after his quick trip into space with Jeff Bezos? I suspect they will be more prepared than the TV astronaut was.

Speaking of space, here’s cosmologist Katie Mack talking about scenarios for the end of the universe. I got her book last Christmas and loved it. Another book on physics I want to read is by Sabine Hossenfelder . She’s a no nonsense type of scientist, which I think is good. For while I agree that when it comes to science and especially physics, there is no escaping metaphysics, I also agree with those who say that physicists sometimes get carried away with some of their loftier or wild ideas.

Then again, some of those ideas resulted in this year’s The Nobel Prize . And it had led to physicists creating “the Smallest Crummiest Wormhole You Can Imagine”. These wild ideas really makes you think. If you think too hard, though, you will likely get tired. The Guardian has a good explanation on why thinking tires your brain .

Finally, if you are interested in learning more about physics, I recommend you check out the web site DrPhysicsA. It’s good stuff. And you want to learn more about math, you can visit the blog of one of the best mathematicians in the world. Here is is writing on odds. Also good!

On sleeping spiders, Marie Curie’s scandalous affairs, and other things I find interesting in math and science, Oct. 2022


I haven’t been doing as much reading in math and science these days, but what I have found and listed here I thought interesting or worthwhile:

How math can help you flip burgers (or what I find interesting in math and sciences, July 2022)

Last week  was a big one for math, with the Fields Medals being announced. As The New York Times explained:

Four mathematicians whose research covers areas like prime numbers and the packing of eight-dimensional spheres are the latest recipients of the Fields Medals, which are given out once every four years to some of the most accomplished mathematicians under the age of 40.

That piece in the Times goes in depth on each of the winners and is worthwhile.

On a lighter side, here’s a story on how Mathematics can help solve this conundrum:

Should you flip a burger once or lots of times? A mathematician has calculated an answer.

. If you love math and burgers, it’s a must read. 🙂

Other good things I’ve been reading / checking out:

Can math prevent gerrymandering? (or what I find interesting in math, Dec 2021)

Here are seven good links to pieces on math I thought were good:

  1. These are cool:  cool alternative numbers.
  2. This is a worthwhile project:  About Project Euler.
  3. For fan of   Godel’s Theorems 
  4. This was somewhat amazing:  Fermat’s Library : Magic : The Gathering is Turing Complete annotated/explained version.
  5. This was a good intro into a form of math I wasn’t aware of:  Maths in a Minute: Category theory
  6. This is fascinating:  The 26 000-Year Astronomical Monument Hidden in Plain Sight.
  7. Some practical math:  Virginia wants to prevent gerrymandering. Can a mathematician help?.

What I find interesting in math, summer 2021

I read many ofpieces on mathematics: here are some pieces I have found worthwhile. Most of them are readable by folks who are not mathematicians.

Here’s a number of good pieces

Finally, This 3 700-Year-Old Tablet is the Oldest Example of Applied Geometry. Cool.

(Photo by Saad Ahmad on Unsplash )

Is math political? Does it need to be? A few thoughts

You would think so, if you read this: Sneering at Ontario’s anti-racist math curriculum reveals a straight line to what people value in The Star

What has the columnist angry was the removal of several passages of progressive political text that went with the update to the recent changes of the math curriculum. I can see why that removal would anger some people with progressive political values.

I can also imagine how many conservatives would have been angry if there was text like this removed from a new curriculum: “recognize the ways in which mathematics can be used as a tool to uncover, explore, analyse, and promote actions to address greater productivity and growth within our economy and to lead Canada to a strong future of wealth and opportunity”, or if the government removed anything to do with teachers creating “pro-capitalist and pro-business teaching and learning opportunities.” Any group that tries to explicitly frame a curriculum and then have that framing removed will be upset.

Mathematics itself is not political, but it is always taught within a political and historical context. For example, I have math texts that make it seem that the only worthwhile math came from European men, while I have others that show mathematics has roots all over the world. I have math textbooks that mention 0 women, while other texts show the role women have played in mathematics and delve into why women had a hard time making more of a contribution.

Whatever context you want to frame a curriculum, I think that emphasizing politics and history with regards to teaching mathematics will not achieve some of the goals that progressive thinkers hope it will achieve. I think the new changes in the curriculum with regards to things such as streaming will help achieve those goals, as I wrote here.

Additionally, I think there are other things that can be done outside the curriculum that could help students that are disadvantaged when it comes to education in math. I am thinking of the work done by organizations like BlackGirlsCode. We could use more organizations like that who can provide specialized programs not just to help kids who are struggling with math, but to uplift kids that excel in math. Organizations that can support the next Maryam Mirzakhani, wherever she is. The kids who are struggling with math need more help than what the schools can provide: the same is true for kids that excel in math.

(Photo by ThisisEngineering RAEng on Unsplash)

In praise of amateurs, young and old

Are you an amateur? Do you sometimes feel you can never accomplish anything doing something you love? Then here’s three good stories on amateurs doing great things you want to read:

  1. High school students discover exoplanets during mentoring program 
  2. Decades-Old Graph Problem Yields to Amateur Mathematician
  3. How older amateur athletes are staying fit through the pandemic

Not all amateurs can accomplish great things, but never let anyone tell you that amateurs are incapable of great things. Because surely they are. Go on, pursue the thing you love. Great things may result.

(Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash)

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Is it time for Frank Ramsey to get his due?

In some ways, that question is ridiculous. Ramsey and his ideas are embedded in so many fields of thought, from mathematics to economics to philosophy. However, I had never heard of him before. Or I should say, I had heard of him, but I never thought of him the way I thought of Russell or Wittgenstein or other contemporaries he had.

That might change now. There are two good pieces I recently found, here on CBC Radio and here in The New Yorker. I really enjoyed both. If you do too, you can get a recent book on him called, Frank Ramsey: A Sheer Excess of Powers
by Cheryl Misak
.

Recommended.

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9 Numbers That Are Cooler Than Pi


Fun! For all you number theory fans out there: 9 Numbers That Are Cooler Than Pi

I still think Pi is pretty cool. But so are these other numbers.

On Nash equilibrium and game theory

John Nash
I’ve been interested in Game Theory and in particular how to apply the concept of the Nash Equilibrium to work. These were four links I found useful

  1. Examples and exercises on Nash equilibrium in games in which each player has finitely many actions
  2. The Triumph (and Failure) of John Nash’s Game Theory | The New Yorker
  3. Nash equilibrium – Wikipedia
  4. Game theory text (PDF) from UCLA math department.

(Image of the great man himself from Wikipedia)

A Mathematician’s Apology by G. H. Hardy is free and online

The great mathematician G.H. Hardy wrote a slim book that is great for mathematicians and non-mathematicians alike. Best of all

As fifty or more years have passed since the death of the author, this book is now in the public domain in the Dominion of
Canada..

So yes, you can get it for free, here.

I highly recommend it. (Did I mention it is a great read for non-mathematicians, too. It really is.)

Thanks to @anitleirfall on twitter for pointing this out.