Sunday, November 27, 2011

A Few Books

Haven't mentioned any books for awhile, so will just briefly cite 3 that have been around for a little while now, though I've only read the last one:
"The Theory That Would Not Die: How Bayes' Rule Cracked the Enigma Code, Hunted Down Russian Submarines, and Emerged Triumphant from Two Centuries of Controversy," Sharon Bertsch McGrayne's volume on Thomas Bayes and the statistical theory he formulated has received mostly favorable reviews, including this one from no less than The Lancet:
A book I received a review copy of but never got around to reading, is "Magical Mathematics" by Persi Diaconis and Ron Graham, recounting the mathematics that underlies a lot of magic tricks. Even though it didn't engage me, I won't argue with success, as it has received almost unanimous thumbs-ups in reviews I've seen, including this one from CTK Insights:
(...As a sidenote, speaking of magic, a book I did love, but on neuroscience not mathematics is now out in paperback: "Sleights of Mind" by Macknick and Martinez-Conde.)
Finally, the one review volume I have had a chance to peruse, is this year's issue of "The Best Writing On Mathematics 2011," edited once again by Mircea Pitici. I almost feel I could duplicate the short review I gave of last year's initial edition for the current volume. It is again a fine compendium of great variety. If anything, I would say it has a bit more philosophical reading and other material that a layperson can readily follow (while still also including several quite technical entries). And again, whatever your own proclivities in math it will contain some contributions of interest and others probably not-so-much, but all-in-all a very worthwhile volume. I look forward to this series continuing well into the future.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


no math today….

"If the only prayer you ever say in your whole life is 'thank you,' that would suffice."
-- Meister Eckhart

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Of Numbers and Colors...

A recent medical study looks at synesthesia (the cognitive blending of sensory information) and numbers, and the differences in cortical activity between "synesthetes" and others:

Well-known autistic savant Daniel Tammet is famous for his synesthetic experience. He expounds upon what it all means in this TEDTalk from earlier this year:

Tammet is also famous for his depiction of how he visualizes the number pi in color (a number he has recited from memory to over 22,500 digits -- no, that's NOT a misprint):


see here:

Friday, November 18, 2011

Monday, November 14, 2011

Food For Thought? (math instruction)

This TEDtalk by John Bennett seems a tad overly pedantic, but I do find the endpoint (last couple minutes) regarding deductive and inductive reasoning interesting, as well as his general take that middle and high school math ought NOT be mandatory for students:

Sunday, November 13, 2011


YouTube is introducing a new channel for math buffs, called "Numberphile":

 (...not too much up on it yet, but worth keeping an eye on; I'm adding a link to right-hand column under "Misc. Resources")

Friday, November 11, 2011

Thursday, November 10, 2011

"The Unplanned Impact of Mathematics"

"Time and again, pure mathematics displays an astonishing quality. A piece of mathematics is developed (or discovered) by a mathematician who is, often, following his or her curiosity without a plan for meeting some identified need or application. Then, later, perhaps decades or centuries later, this mathematics fits perfectly into some need or application."
…and Peter Rowlett looked for (and talked about) more examples of such here:

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Of Love and Fourier Transforms...

Jennifer Ouellette's ode to mathematics... and love (...and some physics guy) here:

an excerpt:
"It turns out that the world is filled with hidden connections, recurring patterns, and intricate details that can only be seen through math-colored glasses. Those abstract symbols hold meaning.  How could I ever have thought it was irrelevant?
This is what I have learned from loving a physicist. Real math isn’t some cold, dead set of rules to be memorized and blindly followed. The act of devising a calculus problem from your observations of the world around you – and then solving it – is as much a creative endeavor as writing a novel or composing a symphony."

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Math Documentaries Available

In case you have a lot of free time to fill in, a nice listing of math documentaries that look very good (mostly from BBC) available on the Web here:

(and I've inserted a permament link to same in right-hand column under "Misc. Resources.")

Monday, November 7, 2011

More of What's-Math-Good-For

Here's a list of 15 diverse folks who have, or may have, used their geeky math skills to gain some lucrative money-making advantage:

(hat tip to Steven Colyer)

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Good Math, Not-So-Good Math

Mark Chu-Carroll over at 'Good Math Bad Math' has never suffered math cranks very well (...and he gets his share of them):

For more crankish entertainment you can visit here:

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Title of This Post is Recursive

Keith Devlin waxes not-quite-poetic on "The Recursion Principle" and its underlying importance to mathematics:

From the posting:
"Though recursion is ubiquitous in modern mathematics, even at the most basic level of the analysis of the arithmetic of natural numbers, it is a subtle concept, easily misunderstood…
"This may all seem like a great deal of fuss about nothing. But what is going on here is really very deep. Much of modern mathematics involves finding ways to handle the infinite - calculus exclusively and spectacularly so. Mathematicians learned over many years of painful lessons that the step from the finite to the infinite is a tricky one that requires considerable finesse. In particular, you have to exercise great care to set it up correctly and do it right. The Recursion Theorem is one of those crucial bridges that allow us to go beyond the finite to the infinite, to extend human intellect from its finite physical limitations to the infinite world beyond that our minds can construct.  By getting the mathematics right, we can make that step with total confidence. Confidence both in that abstract world itself and in the concrete conclusions it allows us to reach about our lives, our science, and our technologies. That is huge for Humankind."
 (...ohh, and by the way, multiplication is NOT just repeated addition. ;-)