## Friday, August 30, 2019

### May We All Have a Mr. Keating In Our Educational Lives (perhaps more than one)

No Friday music today and no mathy-ness either.  This month marked the 5-year anniversary of Robin Williams' death, and didn't want to let that pass without a little commemoration. Back at the time I wrote a tweet, simply quoting another person’s tweet that I found interesting, even though I wasn’t even sure I understood their exact point? To my astonishment it became the most retweeted tweet I've ever had (I posted briefly about it HERE). Their tweet included this quote posted by someone else (the original tweet having since been removed):

5 years later I still don’t know for sure precisely what they meant… but I know we miss Robin. Hey, the world could use a little more zaniness these days.
Anyway, still one of my favorite movie scenes ever, from “Dead Poets Society”:

Have a good weekend all....

## Tuesday, August 27, 2019

### What is Bob's number?....

ICYMI, I loved this logic riddle that Brilliant.org tweeted out last weekend — it’s a take-off of earlier similar puzzles in this genre (I've very slightly modified):

Alice and Bob are both logical and truthful, and each has complete knowledge that the other is logical and truthful. They are each given a distinct one-digit positive number in secret, and then they make these statements in the order given:

Alice: I don’t know who’s number is bigger.
Bob: I don’t know who’s number is bigger.
Alice: I still don’t know who’s number is bigger.
Bob: I still don’t know who’s number is bigger.
Alice: Now I know Bob’s number!

What is Bob’s number?

the answer is below; if you need further explanation go visit the comments to the original tweet here:

....And as a bonus here's a problem Presh Talwalkar posted about yesterday that apparently went viral in India (it's a take-off on some older similar math riddles you may well be familiar with):
https://mindyourdecisions.com/blog/2019/08/26/worlds-toughest-riddle-explained/
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answer:  Bob's number is 5

## Sunday, August 25, 2019

### 2 Book Blurbs

1)  Wasn’t familiar with this new book (“Calculus Reordered”) from David Bressoud, nor ever saw any 'buzz' about it, but yet ANOTHER in the stream of volumes in this seeming 'year of calculus' for math fans:

Looks interesting, and comes with some wonderful endorsements on the back cover (K. Devlin, Wm. Dunham, and John Stillwell, who says, "As far as I know, there is no other book that integrates the history, theory, and pedagogy of calculus as well as this one"...), AND it comes from Princeton University Press, which alone implies how good it must be!
So, if you haven't overdosed by now on the topic, probably another volume you should give a whirl.

2)  Meanwhile, the volume I’ve most recently finished is Graham Farmelo’s “The Universe Speaks in Numbers” which has received rave reviews and ought be of interest to any interested in the history and current state of affairs of theoretical physics. With that said, I can’t help but think that what one writes in this arena is very dependent upon both one's initial assumptions and who one talks to. Farmelo certainly speaks with many outstanding physicists for this volume, yet some significant names seem to be missing, and the disagreements/debates within theoretical physics these days are so deep and contrary it’s difficult for a layperson to know how to weigh the contrasting viewpoints. I would have liked to have seen just a little more of the cosmology mathematics involved described in the volume (although admittedly difficult to do in a general audience work), and a little more specificity of the clear disagreements among physicists themselves, but still a very worthwhile read for the physics-inclined.

## Friday, August 23, 2019

### Chi-i-i-i-i-i-ll Friday *

[ *  "Chill Friday" is Math-Frolic's meditative musical diversion, heading into each weekend]

## Monday, August 19, 2019

### Ben Orlin…. Mathtoonist!

Ben Orlin has a new book coming out soon (October). I’ve already interviewed him twice here, and mentioned him ~1729 other times as well, so didn't feel I could justify a third interview and let him pull that far ahead of others (I mean I didn't get to interview Grothendieck even once!), so instead I’ll offer up a brief “profile” of Dr. Ben… America’s math-Cartoonist-In-Chief.

First off, ya know how when you hear someone's voice on the radio for awhile you develop a picture in your mind of what they look like — and then when you finally see them, they are utterly different from what you expected!  Well, that was sort of me and Ben. From reading his blog regularly I formed a very clear picture early on of this Orlin guy in my head:
48 years old, about 5’11,” receding dark-grey/light-black hairline, 165 lbs, trim athletic build,    conservatively-dressed, golfer, married with 3 children and a collie or labrador retriever.
…And then I finally saw video of Dr. Orlin… or else some impostor making off with his speaking fees, and my image shattered:

Nobody who looks this young should have any right to be so brilliant… and funny… and perceptive. After-all, some of us take 65+ years to attain one troy ounce of such wisdom. And surely, his wife must disdain him… I mean when she is 60 years old and looking 39, he will probably be 63 and looking 29… such is life, unfair and illogical! …But, I digress.

Anyway, Ben’s new book is sure to be another boring, wordy, eye-rolling, gobbledy-gook volume of… er, no, wait, that’s Bill O’Reilly’s next piece of ghostwritten crapola… Ben’s book will be a delicious cornucopia of the current math topic du jour, calculus (which was allowed to leap ahead of Bayesian probability this year). Steve Strogatz has already given us a lush history and overview of calculus, and now I expect Dr. Orlin will flesh out some of the nuts-and-bolts in a way that only he and his li’l round-faced amigos can do. Calculus with laughs! Who’d a-thunkit… certainly no one in my generation.
But enough about Ben’s coming attractions; a little bit of his background:
I could not find his birthdate (but I think he was raised in Boston, and he has that Red-Sox-fan sort of naive look about him). So, maybe he's a Sagittarius and maybe he ain't. In fact I couldn’t find much at all about his personal life, siblings, or upbringing. It’s as if he just showed up one day, fully-formed, plopped on planet Earth from some galaxy far, far away. Hmmm… (I don’t wanna know what happens if he ambles into a room with kryptonite). He did graduate from Yale, but I suspect many extraterrestrials may have matriculated there.

Ben has taught middle/high school math in Oakland, California, and Birmingham, in the UK (where his wife did a math postdoc), and thus knows how to speak both English and British fluently. He also briefly taught biology, psychology, English, and earth science, and for some fully explicable reason has yet to be assigned to teach Drawing 101… a near-Renaissance Man in the age of emojis. He admits to being very 'liberal artsy,' while his wife is more the specialist or purer mathematician. I can imagine that while his wife is in the living room solving some equation in fluid dynamics, Ben is in his man-cave figuring out how to deftly capture just the right combination of surprise and smirk on one of his hand-scrawled faces.
He has said that his “academic interests run a mile wide and three feet deep” which is probably part of what makes his work so fun and fascinating, and somewhat unpredictable… I’m trying to arrange with the Dept. of Education to have Ben cloned (because no child should have to grow up, like me, without a Ben Orlin to teach them math), but thus far Betsy DeVos has not returned my phone calls... the fact that I sign my emails to her, "The Resistance" may not help.
For now Ben is taking up residence in Minnesota (and teaching), so please everyone, send him blankets, ear muffs, and hot cocoa; I’m not sure that he knows what he’s in for.

Ben has freelanced various venues along the way and started his now must-read blog “Math With Bad Drawings” in 2013 -- my original 2015 interview with him is here:

He says he always has “a folder of half-baked ideas-in-progress” from which he seems to draw a never-ending supply of fresh, fully-baked material — it’s almost like a magician who just keeps pulling rabbits out of a hat, one after another… except it’s not always a rabbit, but may be a raccoon, possum, chihuahua, or lemur.

Of course today Ben is rich and famous… or at least readily-employable and better known than he was a few years back. In fact, I bet he can barely walk the street (...immediately outside of the Museum of Mathematics in New York city) without being stopped by autograph hounds and fans wanting to take selfies. Being able to pass as Paul McCartney’s grandson probably doesn't hurt his math rock-star status either.

I could not find a single picture of Ben ever wearing a tie (further earning my immediate, deep, and abiding respect!)… I used to have a line on my resume, that stated my “Life’s Goal” was: “To make a decent living without ever wearing a tie” — indeed, just about the only life goal I actually accomplished.

Here was my overview of his fantastic first book, “Math With Bad Drawings,” which, against stiff competition, became my math book-of-the-year for 2018:
We're all anxiously awaiting the big-screen movie version, starring James Grime.

And gee, it’s possible his new book, “Change Is the Only Constant,” could end up as my 2019 book-of-the-year, an unheard of back-to-back two-fer, at which point I think Ben can retire to a life of doodling and let his wife support him henceforth.

A couple months ago Ben wrote about the new book… AND another small volume that he co-authored with his wife ;))

Yes, Ben had a new daughter (first child) just a couple of months back. By now no doubt in her spare moments she is exploring the Riemann zeta function while learning to say first words like “derivative” and "epsilon."
Jim Propp also has a daughter (whose name, by the way, is NOT Kurt) who will probably be getting her PhD. at MIT at just about the same time that Ben’s daughter is applying for admission either to there, or alternatively (if she’s reeeeally bright) to Pomona College (assuming no earthquake has sent California into the Pacific Ocean by then). But I digress… again.

You can find Ben on Twitter (where he often posts material additional to what ends up on his blog):  https://twitter.com/benorlin
He also has a Facebook page, but I refuse to link to FB pages until Mark Zuckerberg fires himself and apologizes to the world-at-large.
You must of course buy Ben's upcoming book (and all future books), subscribe to his blog, and if you ever have the opportunity to see him speak, take it. Other than that just ignore the guy. As funny as he is, he's not as funny as Ben Stiller:

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Prior math profiles have been of:

## Friday, August 16, 2019

### Chi-i-i-i-i-i-ll Friday *

[ *  "Chill Friday" is Math-Frolic's meditative musical diversion, heading into each weekend]

## Sunday, August 11, 2019

### Hello 911....

Here’s another fun liar/truthteller type logic problem, almost verbatim from Tanya Khovanova** who doesn’t know its origin:

“Folks living in Trueton always tell the truth. Those living in Lieberg always lie. People living in Alterborough alternate strictly between telling the truth and lying. One night 911 receives a call. The caller says, ’There’s a fire here, help!’ The operator cannot identify the phone number, so she asks, ‘Where are you calling from?’ The caller replies, ‘Lieberg.’ Assuming no one has overnight guests from another town, where should the firemen go?”

** -- in Volume 3 of “The Mathematics of Various Entertaining Subjects” due out shortly
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answer:  ONLY an alternator could say they're from Lieberg; a truthteller (who always tells the truth) would be lying to claim such, and a liar (who must live there but lie about it) would be telling the truth. The alternator's second statement (that they are in Lieberg) must be a lie, and so their first statement must be true, meaning there is a fire and it is in Alterborough.

## Friday, August 9, 2019

### Chi-i-i-i-i-i-ll Friday *

[ *  "Chill Friday" is Math-Frolic's meditative musical diversion, heading into each weekend]

## Sunday, August 4, 2019

### Marcus du Sautoy… in brief

Math-Frolic profile #11 is upon us... Marcus du Sautoy is one of the best known, most prolific math popularizers out there. I’m especially drawn to him because, he’s even more follicularly-challenged than I am, despite being young enough to be my baby brother. He’s so well-known in fact that there’s really no reason to profile him… but that hasn't stopped me before, so, in brief, here goes:

Marcus was born in 1965 the same year (as he may or may not wish divulged) as Piers Morgan, and also the same year I bought perhaps my favorite Beatles album, “Rubber Soul” (…which thank God didn’t have “Hey Jude” on it — the most over-rated pop song in galactic history, and if you think otherwise then we better never meet in a dark alley… but, I digress).

I don’t know what kind of name “Du Sautoy” is, by the way, but it sure is hard to rhyme anything with it. Even Ancestry.com doesn't seem to know a lot about it; perhaps it is of Martian origin.
Speaking of which, I’m pretty convinced that Marcus’s dad was Patrick Stewart of Star Trek fame (…don’t ask me how I figure these things out; but ya know I didn’t go to kindergarten for nuthin’):

I couldn’t find much on Du Sautoy’s childhood or teenage years or past lives nor his FICO score, but he did attend Wadham College, Oxford (probably because the daily commute to California's Pomona College from London would’ve been ghastly), where he received a PhD. in mathematics in 1991. He continues to teach at Oxford… when he’s not involved with one of his 1501 other activities/projects.

He famously took over Richard Dawkins’ position as the Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science:
Hmmmm... "Public Understanding of Science"... in America at least, that would be a bit of an oxymoron. Nonetheless, me thinkest Marcus is a very topnotch science communicator... and we urgently need more of those types in the U.S. to assist Ben Orlin in his ongoing, uphill endeavor. So Marcus, please Brexit Britain for the U.S., AND, as a bonus you'll get to learn how real football is played! If you'd bring John Cleese along with you I'd be especially grateful.
Like Dawkins, Marcus labels himself an atheist, though in the past he has quipped that his religion is Arsenal, which I worry may categorize him, by some, as an arsonist.

Du Sautoy notes that he is an admirer of the creative, romantic French mathematician Evariste Galois (whose name is also difficult to rhyme), though I suspect not so much an admirer of the lad's paltry dueling prowess.

Despite Sophie Carr recently being crowned The Internet’s Most Entertaining Mathematician for 2019, it’s possible that off the Web Du Sautoy holds that title with his many books, lectures, appearances, programs. In any event if Marcus ever challenges Sophie to a duel I’m not sure, without doing some Bayesian analysis, who I’d put my money on.

Marcus has written several popular books, the latest one being on AI:
“The Creativity Code: How AI Is Learning to Write, Paint and Think”

Others include:
“Finding Moonshine”
“Symmetry: A Journey into the Patterns of Nature”
“The Num8er My5teries: A Mathematical Odyssey Through Everyday Life”
“What We Cannot Know”
“The Great Unknown: Seven Journeys to the Frontiers of Science”

and perhaps his most popular volume, “The Music of the Primes,” one of a mini-flurry of fascinating general audience accounts of the Riemann Hypothesis to come out in recent times. I think that IF they turned this volume into a theatre-release movie entitled, “The Music of the Primes of Miss Jean Brodie” (starring Matt Parker and Hannah Fry) it would be a guaranteed smash success.... why does no one ever follow up on my brilliant ideas?

Marcus plays the trumpet (Aha! "Bugle Boy du Sautoy") and likes what they euphemistically call 'football' in Europe (ya know, kicking a ball around for 11 hours hoping perchance it may fly into a net at some random point).
In fact, one webpage reports that Marcus has a cat named ‘Freddie Ljungberg’ — being American I had to look that reference up since I didn’t have a clue; and then I was disappointed, especially upon learning that Freddie had been a model for Calvin Klein underwear… ewww.  Personally, I prefer engineer Saramoira Shields’ names for her cats, “Parsec” and “Ligo.” Or how about “Archimedes,” yeah that’s a fine mathematician's name for a feline… but, well, to each their own.
Du Sautoy says in one interview that he fell in love with mathematics about the same time as I started learning the trumpet. Since then, I've always been convinced that mathematics and music share much in common.” I totally agree with that (…so long as one doesn’t count “Hey Jude” as music).

Marcus has won many prizes, awards, honors over the years… too many to mention, so we’ll just say he seems to be a splendidly fine chap all-in-all and leave it at that. He writes for many different venues, has appeared on a slew of BBC series and specials about math and science, and collaborated on various artistic projects, as well. If you want to see him in action, and have a few months of free time, you’re welcome to binge-watch some of these videos:

In short, I don’t know how he does it all; at his age I was still trying to figure out how the metric system worked, which, like the rest of America, I gave up on. But he just keeps going and going, like the Energizer Bunny; writing, speaking, doing, mathematizing, with occasional loo breaks (see, I can speak British when I choose to).

And he even has a Facebook page, but by now I assume Mark Zuckerberg and all Facebook pages are under the stringent control of Vladimir Putin, so I'll refuse to link to it. (Take THAT Vlad!, you rascally Rooski) You may do so at your own peril though.

If you wish to know still more about Marcus du Sautoy simply Google or DuckGoGo his name and plenty additional will come up… just try not to get confused and link by accident, to Marquis de Sade; that could prove embarrassing (…don’t ask me how I know that).

(p.s.… the amazing thing is that I actually finally got completely through one of these math profiles without making even a single ill reference to our very own sh*t-for-brains President.)

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Prior math profiles have been of:

## Friday, August 2, 2019

### Chi-i-i-i-i-i-ll Friday *

[ *  "Chill Friday" is Math-Frolic's meditative musical diversion, heading into each weekend]

...and come Sunday a new Math-Frolic "profile" is on the way.