Sunday, January 31, 2021

For Math Teachers...

 Are you a math teacher? Nalini Joshi pointed out today on Twitter that there’s an active math educators stack exchange site on the Web:

Looks interesting, useful, collaborative.

...also from today, for math teachers, this interview/podcast with well-established British educator Jo Morgan on teaching math(s) online:

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Reddit vs. the Hedge Funds (stocks gone wild, GameStop and the hive mind)

Almost 20 years ago I knew a couple of math-wizard brothers who got into day-trading and were hugely successful at it — rare because 95+% of those who attempt it lose their shirts. But rarer still because this dynamic duo had no real prior experience in business, Wall Street, or the stock market whatsoever. What they DID have experience in (and lots of it) was gaming — and what they saw when they took a gander at the stock market one day was just one big mathematical game with little necessary connection to business fundamentals. 

I’ve long since been out of contact with them (though I’m sure they’re still successful), but fast forward to today and if you follow Wall Street news at all you know the biggest story going now is GameStop -- the little guys/investors, gathering on Reddit (starting with some gamers) socking it to the big fellas (hedge funds) — and a fascinating David-and-Goliath story (or hive-mind vs. the elites) it is, sure to play out over several weeks if not months to come… I mean a billion dollars here, a billion dollars there, and pretty quickly you’re talking some real money changing hands… and real frazzled nerves (...seriously, won’t be surprised at all to see some suicides result from all of this).

If you already know the GameStop story you can skip this post, ‘cuz it’ll add nothing new to your knowledge, but if you don’t know what I’m talking about (or only vaguely so) well, go ahead and check out the links to bring yourself a little up-to-date (while the story is continuing):

…and here’s a video (one of MANY on the topic):

…or another, here:

Oh, but if you’re still confused and need a yet simpler version of what-the-heck is happening, well, check out this more basic explanation for clarification (…OK, NOT really):

Anyway, this whole storyline will no doubt be a great Michael Lewis volume one day in the future, or hey, maybe Cathy O’Neil will tackle it in one form or another.

...meanwhile, past performance is no guarantee of future results.  ;)


...and if you still want some more, Slates Money Podcast with Felix Salmon did their whole show on the Gamestop story this weekend:

Wednesday, January 20, 2021


As of 11:49 am. EST we have a new President, and the prior disgraced, FAILED demagogue/traitor and faux “wife” are exiled to Mar-A-Schlago (where the call-girls shall no doubt have quite a $$$ week ahead)... and I feel compelled to yet again post this bit of music:

....may those of us who honestly care about this country, its history and its Constitution, be up to the monumental task ahead.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Tuesday ASMR

 Maybe time for a head massage ASMR video as the week moves on:

...and a recent piece here on ASMR in the age of pandemic:

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Parler Dissected (metadata)

This is where we’re at as a country:

…and, in turn that piece links to this one:

If you’re on Twitter you can continue to follow the storyline here:

The next two weeks could well be unlike anything America has ever seen before.

Monday, January 11, 2021

Redux ("Springtime For...")

It's Monday, and time to watch for needed impeachment proceedings in Wash. DC. -- assuming of course that VP Pence is unable to get half the Cabinet members (who are incompetent at their own jobs), to declare, the obvious, that the President is incapable at his. And so, as we await the next upcoming coup attempt (pssst... anybody keeping tabs on Michael Flynn lately?), perhaps also a moment to revisit this old post from over 3 years ago:

Friday, January 8, 2021

Masks, Distancing, and Hand-washing Well into the Future….

Ummm, quit with all the #%@^&!! optimism… covid is with us to stay for quite awhile… at least that is the precautionary presumption we ought be taking at this point in time.

In America, the surge we’ve experienced since Thanksgiving was totally predictable (indeed, even without a holiday there would have been a surge at about that time (what we have, as some have said, is more of a surge upon a surge), and now we will soon face the far greater surge from Christmas and New Years, when people came together in far larger, more boisterous, and extended gatherings. And then there was that wonderful super-spreader event in Wash. DC on Jan. 6th, involving unhealthy doofuses from all over the country, now returned home (if not in jail) and spreading their newly-acquired infectivity elsewhere, especially perhaps, to other like-minded victims-to-be.

Yet I keep hearing optimism from those reading about, or even getting, vaccinated, that we have turned the corner. Don't hold your breath. The first effect of the vaccinations will almost certainly be to contribute to a further spike in covid infections… at the very time when many (most?) hospitals will be out of beds for treating such… and good luck if you suffer a heart attack, stroke, seizure, gunshot, major injury, etc. during this time period. You can thank Donald Trump for the lack of care you’ll receive while millions of taxpayer $$ are spent on his medical care, safety, and golf outings, to keep this criminal functioning… but, I digress.

People receiving their first (of 2) vaccine inoculations will, after months of restraint and constrictions, feel suddenly safer and freed up to do as they wish… even though they will have been told otherwise… I’ve seen this ‘liberating’ attitude even in very bright people I myself know. Yet, these folks are hardly yet protected against the virus, and even once receiving the 2nd dose it is likely at least 2 more weeks before full protection sets in. In short, many people getting vaccinated WILL still get infected (and spread the infection) well before anything close to full immunity sets in. And a good chance that vaccines in the live population will not match the claimed 90+% effective results of the reported short-term experimental outcomes. Figure, at a minimum,10% of the recipients receiving little if any protection from the vaccines, but nonetheless acting as if they are protected. Also, figure in some folks, getting the vaccine midway or later in the year (in the disreputably slow roll-out of this fiasco) facing a virus that has circled the globe several times with a multitude of mutations, some of which make it more resistant to current vaccines in use.

Then of course you have the 20+% of the American population who will probably resist ever getting the vaccine, and another 15% who will want to wait some months to watch the results in initial users. And by the time you’re done adding such figures up the likelihood of reaching herd immunity (if you can ever even find agreement on a %) in America in the next 18 months seems unrealistic.

There has been huge over-emphasis on, and false confidence in, epidemiology studies from which little can be firmly concluded. Comparison of various country results for firm conclusions is especially illogical given the 1000s of variables uncontrolled for. Uncertainty is the rule of the day. But crunching numbers is what we love to do, and so it shall continue… with the corrections to the crunched numbers coming months later… followed months on by the corrections to the corrections… and then, well, on and on. I've never seen an epidemiology study that tells me anything much say about coffee consumption and never expect to (pretty impossible), nor have I seen one on covid that is terribly enlightening or precise... but admittedly, such studies are better than nothing at all, at least as a starting point.

And then we have all the problems in reporting. Recently the very credible BBC News tweeted:

Covid: Nurse 'angry' over positive test despite vaccination

To which Jim Chalmers responded:

Journalists are going to have to learn that if (a) a vaccine is ~95% effective; (b) millions of people are getting the vaccine and (c) covid is widespread, someone getting vaccinated and later getting covid is not even *close* to being a story.

Yes, so many medical stories or headlines as written are not news at all, and yet will be taken as ‘proof’ of whatever point-of-view one wishes reinforced. And so it goes.

Another big unknown is the long-term variable effects of the virus on different organs both in those infected with quick recoveries or even asymptomatic, and those hospitalized for longer terms. Could take years to understand these health effects.

Maybe my cynicism is ill-founded (though for this year it's generally been on target), and all will go well… I’ll be getting my shots in a couple of months when available for my risk group, and will do so based on the science. Maybe, out of fear or peer-pressure, enough others will eventually also relent to receiving the vaccines to actually attain ‘herd immunity’ before the end of this year… but at this point it’s hard to see how that is likely to happen (70+ million voted for the anti-science dipwad in the White House; far easier to foresee many of them dying of covid, than proceeding to get a vaccine or follow PPE advice). Or, maybe the virus will peter out of its own accord before herd immunity is even attained. But if you’re planning for the future, i.e. the year ahead, it seems best to assume masking, social distancing, hand-washing, high unemployment, huge government deficits, increased mental illness, crime, divorces, and economic/political/social stresses and upheaval of all sorts are bound to stick around for quite awhile.

January 6, 2021, was of course a horrid day in the history of America, though I’m not sure it was really any worse than November 8, 2016, the day deranged Donald was absurdly elected, or January 20, 2017, when, conspiring with neo-fascist-sympathizing mentalities Bannon, Miller, and Gorka, he delivered the wretched Third Reichian inaugural speech, that made the next 4 years clear to anyone with their eyes and ears open, and some knowledge of history.

Luckily this unfit, half-wit regime will soon be out of power, but likely still best for us to remain strapped in for a wild ride through 2021… all the worse of course if civil war, in some form, comes to America, and makes covid among the least of our concerns. House-to-house fighting can ruin your day.

Ohhhh, Happy New Year folks.....

....Lastly (to end on a lighter note), this is how someone on the Web re-did an old Far Side cartoon:

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Fun Faves

 Recently saw a web-post of someone listing their 5 favorite just-for-fun math books to read and got me to wondering what I might choose for such a list from my own bookshelf. There have been so many entertaining, fun reads in popular math over the last few decades (including MANY I don’t have on my bookshelf) it’s a near-impossible choice, but in a quick-scan here’s what I came up with in no particular order (in large part these are volumes that can be picked up, turned to any page or section, and land upon some fun or interesting content for the lay-reader; and oddly, with the exception of Ben’s book, these are mostly older offerings):

1.  Curious and Interesting Mathematics  by David Wells

2.  Mathematical Fallacies and Paradoxes by Bryan Bunch

3.  Math Charmers by Alfred Posamentier

4.  The Colossal Book of Mathematics by Martin Gardner

…and, of course:

5.  Math With Bad Drawings by Ben Orlin

Friday, January 1, 2021

3 Greats Now Gone

 To begin the new year an appreciation, from Dan Rockmore, of 3 creative mathematicians no longer with us, Freeman Dyson, John Conway, and Ronald Graham: