Combs Spouts Off

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Posts Tagged ‘math’

Celebrate Pi and Einstein today

Posted by Richard on March 14, 2017

Today, March 14, is Albert Einstein’s birthday. It’s also Pi Day (3/14) for those who use the month/day/year date format. If you’re into greater precision, celebrate Pi Minute (3/14, 1:59) or even Pi Second (3/14, 1:59:26).

Europeans and others who use the more logical day/month/year date format prefer to celebrate Pi Approximation Day on July 22 (22/7).

Technically, of course, all of these, including Pi Second, are Pi Approximations.

In any case, enjoy some pi(e) today! Or convert some matter into energy!

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Happy Pi Day!

Posted by Richard on March 14, 2015

For those of us in the US, who use the month/day/year date format, today is Pi Day, a.k.a. 3.14. Celebrate by having a slice at 1:59! Oh, and it’s also Albert Einstein’s birthday, so exercise afterwards to turn the mass of that slice into energy.

Those who use the more logical day/month/year date format, like the Europeans, will have to wait until July, when they can celebrate Pi Day more precisely on 22/7.

UPDATE: Jeez, I forgot what year this is. I should have had that slice at 9:26:54. Although, as some folks on Twitter have pointed out, next year on 3/14/16 we get to celebrate Pi Day to the precision that our date format actually allows.

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Remembering Amalie Noether

Posted by Richard on March 27, 2012

The New York Times isn’t totally bereft of value (only in politics and economics). For instance, there’s Natalie Angier’s article about a largely forgotten math genius admired by Albert Einstein and largely forgotten today:

Noether (pronounced NER-ter) was born in Erlangen, Germany, 130 years ago this month. So it’s a fine time to counter the chronic neglect and celebrate the life and work of a brilliant theorist whose unshakable number love and irrationally robust sense of humor helped her overcome severe handicaps — first, being female in Germany at a time when most German universities didn’t accept female students or hire female professors, and then being a Jewish pacifist in the midst of the Nazis’ rise to power.

Through it all, Noether was a highly prolific mathematician, publishing groundbreaking papers, sometimes under a man’s name, in rarefied fields of abstract algebra and ring theory. And when she applied her equations to the universe around her, she discovered some of its basic rules, like how time and energy are related, and why it is, as the physicist Lee Smolin of the Perimeter Institute put it, “that riding a bicycle is safe.”

Ransom Stephens, a physicist and novelist who has lectured widely on Noether, said, “You can make a strong case that her theorem is the backbone on which all of modern physics is built.”

Interesting, even if you’re not a math nut. And it’s a shame she died too soon. RTWT.

(HT: Fred Lapides, whose blog, including its name, is definitely NSFW, but which often has fascinating links and info.)

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While you watched a tennis match, debt grew by $1.7 billion

Posted by Richard on June 25, 2010

Even non-tennis-fans like me are aware of and amazed by the Wimbledon match between John Isner and Nicolas Mahut, which took 11 hours and 5 minutes (Isner won; I got it wrong when I first posted). Shortly after it ended, Republican Rep. Vern Buchanan of Florida tweeted, "Think Wimbledon tickets are expensive? Our National Debt has gone up by $1,729,000,000 during the Isner v. Mahut match."

An interesting factoid. If true. The folks at the St. Petersburg Times' decided to fact-check his ass. They determined that not only was he right, he arrived at the number using the most conservative methodology (well, he is a conservative). initially assumed (quite reasonably, IMHO) that "during the Isner v. Mahut match" meant the time period from when it started until it ended — about two days. Depending on whether they used CBO numbers or OMB numbers, they came up with figures four to six times larger than Buchanan's: 

Why so different? We contacted Buchanan's office and an aide clarified that what they'd actually meant in the tweet was how much the debt had risen during the 11-hour, 5-minute match itself. (The match was suspended for darkness twice and there were delays on the third day to give extra rest time.)

So, using our first method, the 11-hour debt increase works out to $1.718 billion, while using the second, it's about $2.4 billion. Of these two, the first is spot-on.

Since the size of the federal debt is a moving target, and since economists periodically re-evaluate its size, we'll grant Buchanan leeway here. While we think the wording of his tweet suggests the full, 48-hour period, his 11-hour number strikes us as a reasonable estimate. So we rate his statement True. 

Not just true, but conservatively true. 🙂 

But what really gave me a laugh was the USA Today story about Buchanan's estimate. Although they quoted Buchanan's tweet, and thus had the correct number ($1,729,000,000), they described it in the headline as "$1.7T" — "T" as in trillion. That's off by a factor of 1000.

They've since corrected it, but a commenter, urbanrealtor, noted that they weren't exactly open and above-board in their handling of the gaffe: 

I like how when they fixed the error (originally this article said 1.7 Trillion) they deleted all the comments making fun of the mistake. 

They shouldn't have tried to cover their embarrassment by deleting comments (and wording their correction so vaguely). But I can understand their mistake. For one thing, in my experience, most journalists are extremely math-challenged. For another, in this Age of Obama, it's natural for all his MSM sycophants to assume that everything is in the trillions. [rimshot]

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Happy Pi Day!

Posted by Richard on March 15, 2010

Today is March 14, a.k.a. 3.14, a.k.a. Pi Day. Hope you had a happy one and celebrated with a slice. Oh, and it's Albert Einstein's birthday, too! I'm not sure how one celebrates that — converting mass into energy can get a bit messy.

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Going beyond search

Posted by Richard on May 15, 2009

Stephen Wolfram, the creator of Mathematica, is about to launch Wolfram Research's latest (and most ambitious) creation, Wolfram|Alpha. It will probably revolutionize how you find information on the Internet — and what kind of information you can find. Actually, "find" isn't the right term. It's far more than searching and finding, it's computing, categorizing, comparing, organizing …  

It's a bit hard to explain Wolfram|Alpha briefly. Wolfram calls it a "computational knowledge engine" and provided a pretty good description in a March blog post.

But seeing it demonstrated is the best way to understand what it does and how far beyond ordinary search tools it goes. If you have 13 minutes to spare (a high-speed connection helps), check out this introduction by Wolfram himself. I was blown away, and I can't wait to start using it.

UPDATE: Wolfram|Alpha is online! But it's pretty slow, and the "exceeded maximum test load" error messages are pretty frequent (and funny: "I'm sorry, Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that"). I guess their 10,000 processor cores are getting hammered.

So it's not at the "blow you away" stage yet, but you can still have fun with it. Did you know that the mass of the sun is 42,947 times the mass of the planets?

UPDATE 2: I've already submitted my first bit of feedback (they solicit feedback on every query result page). If you query "colorado," it reports lots of interesting information about the state, including the population as of 2006 (4.753 million) and the population density as of 2000 (41.5 people per mi2). But it also reports the state's area (104,000 mi2), which I don't believe has changed since Colorado became a state in 1876, and certainly didn't change from 2000 to 2006. So it's trivially simple for Wolfram|Alpha to calculate the 2006 population density (population/area = 45.7) instead of reporting the out-of-date 2000 number it found by searching. Oops.

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Pi Approximation Day

Posted by Richard on July 22, 2008

To all you Europeans and others who favor the date format dd/mm, Happy Pi Approximation Day! Or Casual Pi Day!

You see, July 22 can be expressed as 22/7 — which is a good approximation of pi (3.1415926…).

It's too late for this year, but bookmark this site so you can order your Casual Pi posters, mugs, and T-shirts for next year.

And next year, don't forget to celebrate Pi Day like a real American — on Einstein's birthday, 3/14, at 1:59:26.

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Happy Pi Day!

Posted by Richard on March 14, 2008

March 14 is not just Albert Einstein's birthday. It's celebrated by many math fans and mathematicians as Pi Day. March 14, 3.14 — get it?

The more precision-minded speak of Pi Minute — 3/14, 1:59 — or even Pi Second — 3/14, 1:59:26. And in Europe, where the standard date format is the more logical day/month/year instead of month/day/year, they celebrate Pi Approximation Day on July 22 — that is, 22/7.

Celebrate Pi Day tonight with a pizza for dinner. Or maybe a slice of Dutch Apple for dessert.

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