Monday, January 29, 2018


Over 30 years ago I was delighted to see bubblemeister Tom Noddy perform his bubble tricks/creations on TV, and so was re-delighted to see he’s still around, appearing yesterday on CBS’s “Sunday Morning” show:

In turn, looking him up on YouTube I discovered that a new generation of bubble (or "bubbleology") artists are now out there performing, carrying on the fun for children and adults alike:

Though these show-meisters don’t get into the math involved, I can’t help but think that if Richard Feynman was in attendance watching he’d be hurriedly getting out a pen and pad to scribble down equations. ;)

If you do want a little more mathematical discussion, check out this take:

…seems like “bubbles” might be a good subject for NumberphileTadashi Tokieda perhaps, or possibly Mike Lawler and the boys could do something with them (apologies if any of you have already done so and I missed it). Bubbles represent a simple (or, maybe not-so-simple) everyday intersection of math and physics. Here's ZomeTool put to use exploring bubbles:

ADDENDUM:  Mike L. sends me a link to several videos he has indeed done previously with soap bubbles :)

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Math Courses

Sunday reflection...

“What one learns about mathematics in primary school corresponds to the alphabet. What one learns in high school corresponds to the sentences of a primer. What one learns in elementary college courses corresponds to simple little stories. Scholars alone are aware of the mathematics that corresponds to literature.”
— Carl Stoermer

Thursday, January 25, 2018

A Tweet, A Post, and a Survey

Some miscellany from the current week for your entertainment:

1)  Just a funny Twitter thread that, if you read the comments all the way down, may offer some potential grist for classroom discussions:

2)  ICYMI, Ben Orlin tackled a thorny debate yesterday (school math requirements), with his usual aplomb (and round-faced colleagues):

3)  A New Zealand researcher is studying attitudes toward mathematics — you may wish to help out by filling out their survey questions:

Monday, January 22, 2018

A Re-run on Self-reference

Short on time for new posts right now but will re-run (slightly modified) this old one on self-reference from MathTango some years back:

"This sentence contains ten words, eighteen syllables, and sixty-four letters." (from J. vos Post)

While researching the above sentence I came across this entertaining list of 150+ recursive or self-referential sentences:

In a related note, earlier this week Futility Closet posted about a new pangram or autogram in Lee Sallows' tradition:

Meanwhile, there are plenty more self-referential sentences at these pages:

And over five yrs ago I ran this just-for-fun post (entitled: "There is no title for this post."):


This is the first sentence of the post titled, 'There is no title for this post.' This appears to be the sentence that follows sentence #1 of that post. This is the sentence following the previous sentence, but preceding the next sentence. This is the next sentence... or is it? Apparently this is sentence #5. This is the sentence you just finished reading. The last sentence of this post will come at the end. Thus, this is NOT the last sentence of this post. It is untrue that the prior sentence was false. This sentence begins with the word "this," followed by the word "sentence," followed by the word "begins," followed by the word "with," followed by the word "the," followed by the word "word," ...AND also ends with the word "word." And this is the sentence that informs you that the very next sentence is the final sentence of this post. This is the last sentence of the post, but why oh why does it end with a question-mark?


We'll end with more humor, starting with a well-known, geeky aphorism:

    "In order to understand recursion, one must first understand recursion."

...which reminds me in turn of one of mathematicians' favorite jokes:

Q:  What does the "B" in "Benoit B. Mandelbrot" stand for?
A:  Benoit B. Mandelbrot

Then, there is this thoughtful quote that I've used before:

"If my mental processes are determined wholly by the motion of atoms in my brain, I have no reason to believe that my beliefs are true... and hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms."
--- J.B.S. Haldane, "Possible Worlds" (1927)

In a slightly similar vein, this famous refrain out of AI:

"If the brain were so simple that we could understand it, then we would be so simple that we couldn't."

There is always xkcd's classic treatment of self-reference:

And then this bit of parody-absurdity:

Lastly, this is the final sentence of this particular post, which would appear to end with the word, hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Of Heavens and Math

From G.K. Chesterton:
“The difference between the poet and the mathematician is that the poet tries to get his head into the heavens while the mathematician tries to get the heavens into his head.” 

Friday, January 19, 2018

Fly Away

Is snow keepin’ ya inside, or are you otherwise bored, or down with a cold/flu, than a post just for you today, full of practical application ;)

… a few videos (making similar claims), for constructing long-flying paper airplanes.
 Do it!:

[...for a little more mathy content a short, new Friday potpourri is now up at MathTango ]

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Stayin' Alive...

May be busy with a project for awhile, possibly slowing down blogging... but will try to keep y'all entertained, somehow... oh yeah!:

Sunday, January 14, 2018

'I was in prison and might be shot'

An entranced Arthur Koestler, in "The Invisible Writing":
“I went on to recall Euclid’s proof that the number of primes is infinite… the scribbled symbols on the wall represented one of the rare cases where a meaningful and comprehensive statement about the infinite is arrived at by precise and finite means. I must have stood there for some minutes, entranced, with a wordless awareness that ‘this is perfect, perfect’, until I noticed some slight mental discomfort nagging at the back of my mind, some trivial circumstance that marred the perfection of the moment. Then I remembered the nature of that irrelevant annoyance: I was, of course, in prison and might be shot. But this was immediately answered by a feeling whose verbal translation would be: 'So what? Is that all? Have you got nothing more serious to worry about?' -- an answer so spontaneous, fresh and amused as if the intruding annoyance had been the loss of a collar-stud.”

Friday, January 12, 2018

A Suggestion for Nigerian Email Scammers

By coincidence, shortly before our Il Duce was referencing “shithole” countries I was re-reading an old Presh Talwalkar post from a few years back that I always enjoyed on ‘Nigerian’ email scammers. It explains, as many know by now, why ’Nigerian’ email scams got stupider and stupider over the years, full of misspellings, bad grammar, poor English, outrageous narratives, etc. — the scammers wanted to make their messages SO obviously fraudulent that only the most gullible, naive, unthinking people would even respond (why waste time on thinking-folks wary enough to not follow through with the scam):

Anyway, I have a suggestion for how the scammers can be even more efficient: Just buy a copy of the mailing lists used by the Republican National Committee -- boy, talk about a sucker-list…

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Richard Schwartz Does Not "Have a Mature Attitude Towards Math"

Hopefully by now you're all tuned into Quanta Magazine, but if somehow you missed it, wonderful interview this week with mathematician/author Richard Schwartz, connoisseur of 'simple problems':

I've said it before, mathematicans are eternal children with the Universe as their playground, and Richard evokes that sense.

Monday, January 8, 2018

He Said She Said

Yo, logic enthusiasts, when I saw a post entitled, “Smullyan and the President’s Sanity” listed on the feed this morning it caught my attention. Have fun:

Sunday, January 7, 2018


Sunday reflection: 

Bedraggled old man:  "....5, 1, 4, 1, 3 -- DONE! at last."

Passerby:  "You look exhausted; what did you just do?"

B.O.M.:  "Recited the complete decimal expression of pi backwards."

-- old Wittgenstein joke