...a companion blog to "Math-Frolic," specifically for interviews, book reviews, weekly-linkfests, and longer posts or commentary than usually found at the Math-Frolic site.

"Mathematics, rightly viewed, possesses not only truth, but supreme beauty – a beauty cold and austere, like that of sculpture, without appeal to any part of our weaker nature, without the gorgeous trappings of painting or music, yet sublimely pure, and capable of a stern perfection such as only the greatest art can show." ---Bertrand Russell (1907) Rob Gluck

"I have come to believe, though very reluctantly, that it [mathematics] consists of tautologies. I fear that, to a mind of sufficient intellectual power, the whole of mathematics would appear trivial, as trivial as the statement that a four-legged animal is an animal." ---Bertrand Russell (1957)

******************************************************************** Rob Gluck

Friday, October 31, 2014

End-of-week Potpourri

Links from the week:
1)  Some puzzles from Presh Talwalkar started the week:
And some more puzzles here:

2)  If you can't get enough of James Grime, Reddit did an AMA ('ask-me-anything') thread with him this week:

3)  Evelyn Lamb told us about Euclid, geometry, and a possibly grumpy Omar Khayyam here:

and for Halloween, Evelyn takes on a hot (but scary?) topic in math -- homotopy groups:

4)  Some instances of "bad math" from the popular press:

5)  Rubik's Cube fans, have at it (...if you dare):

6)  Back to Presh Talwalkar, who offers up an auditory example of the Bell curve:

7)  Do you like your set theory made simple... see n-Category Cafe:

8)  Lastly, in time for the Holidays... "The Mathematics Devotional" from Clifford Pickover is available:

Friday, October 24, 2014

Some Weekly Picks

Another jumble of links from the week gone by:

1)  Okay, he may not be Martin Gardner, but Mike Lawler has been compiling quite a body of digital work week after week after week (both written and video). I'm astounded by his output, and don't even have time to catch it all, but here's one contribution from last week (...and seriously, if you're a math teacher or a parent you ought be FOLLOWING Mike's stuff regularly) :

His general blog here: http://mikesmathpage.wordpress.com/
and his video channel here:  http://tinyurl.com/kftdekb
[and if you missed it, I interviewed him earlier this year here:
http://mathtango.blogspot.com/2014/04/mike-lawler-of-mikesmathpage.html ]

2)  Several folks have pointed out this Terry Tao story problem from the beginning of week:

3)  Agree or disagree with him, Gregory Chaitin has been putting out provocative, intriguing ideas for a long time now. "Mathematics Rising" briefly discusses some of them in this post touching on information theory, biology, consciousness, and the brain (includes some great quotes from Chaitin):

4)  h/t to Cathy O'Neil for calling attention to this interesting (and longish) interview with computer scientist Michael Jordan about big data, computing, and artificial intelligence (he sees a "big data winter" ahead):
Jordan wasn't entirely happy though with the interview presentation, and wrote a followup here, for clarification:

5)  Paul Lockhart's "mathematical lament" continues (deservedly) to make the rounds:

6)  Plenty of variety at the 79th "Math Teachers At Play" Carnival here:

7)  A few recent problems from Futility Closet if you missed them:

a) http://www.futilitycloset.com/2014/10/23/a-dice-puzzle/
b) http://www.futilitycloset.com/2014/10/22/presto-5/
c) http://www.futilitycloset.com/2014/10/13/stretch-goals/ 

8)  Jo Boaler on 'number sense' here:

9)  A general article on mathematical modelling and epidemiology (in the day of Ebola):

10)  Another interesting piece in the popular press (Forbes) on Common Core, focusing on the cognitive or developmental arguments:

11) Will just note, in closing, that one of my favorite fun mathematical reads, Simon Singh's "The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets" is newly-out in paperback. Another great possible stocking stuffer for any math fans on your Xmas list (...if there's even anyone left who hasn't already read it).

Friday, October 17, 2014


Mathy stuff from the past week:

1)  Andrew Gelman on liberal and conservative statistics:

and here, Gelman discusses the "statistical crisis in science" in latest edition of American Scientist:

2)  A short piece on randomness (h/t Jennifer Ouellette), with some links and a video:

3)  A series from io9 on logic puzzles:

4)  A new Carnival of Math up here:

5)  An epidemiological math model attempts to predict the curve of the Ebola outbreak here:

6)  Ben Orlin recounts the symbiotic relationship between math and science:

7)  Newly-posted 1994 interview with Martin Gardner from MAA this week on YouTube (wonderful!):

I don't usually hint ahead of time what the Sunday Reflection at Math-Frolic will be, but I will say that this coming Sunday's will be in tribute to Gardner, including the above video, in honor of the Centennial of his birth which arrives on Tues.

8)  For those interested in some more technical reads, Nuit Blanche blog offered up this list of links yesterday, worth checking out:

9)  Another biographical piece on Alexander Grothendieck:

10)  Finally, this week, will leave you with this British piece for those math students who ask, "when will I ever use this stuff?," because you just never know when math might come in handy:

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Three For Your Consideration

Recently treated myself to a few older books from Amazon, three of which I just want to pass along:

1)  Have mentioned Steven Strogatz's 2009 "The Calculus of Friendship" multiple times in the past (at Math-Frolic). I read a library copy quite some time ago, and always wanted my own hard copy... delighted to now have it. Recommended to teachers, students of all stripes. And if any of you think it's just a simple, sentimental story, NO, it actually includes real math along the way, as only Dr. Strogatz can tell it (but, yes, buy it for the beautiful story, the math is a bonus!). Really, no math-lover should miss it.

2)  Richard Elwes consistently amazes me with his knack for math explication. The book I ordered is his 2013 "Chaotic Fishponds and Mirror Universes" (subtitled, "The math that governs our world"), and so far, it is way surpassing my expectations (the title doesn't do it justice!). A splendid diversity of engaging topics made timely. Richard is British, and for reasons I don't fathom, his books often don't get very wide US distribution -- absolutely ashame! One of the best popularizers out there! Come on American distributors.
As we get close to the end of the year, Jordan Ellenberg's "How Not To Be Wrong," thus far remains my top popular math pick for 2014... BUT IF Elwes' book were from this year instead of 2013, it would be in the race for that designation! Another great choice for any young math-lovers on your Christmas list.

3)  Finally, one of my old stand-byes: Renaissance-man and logician-supreme, Raymond Smullyan -- I have enough of his puzzle books, but ever since reading his Taoist-inclined, "The Tao Is Silent" (1977) I've wanted to read more of his output on spirituality. The book I got, "A Spiritual Journey" (2009), is essentially three small books in one: the first part focuses in a general way, on the philosophy of religion, the second part is on Ralph Waldo Emerson and Transcendentalism, and the last part is on Richard Bucke's notion of "Cosmic Consciousness" -- it won't suit everyone's taste, spirituality being such a personal matter, but if you liked Martin Gardner's "The Whys of a Philosophical Scrivener," you will likely enjoy this offering from Raymond, which so closely mirrors my own views and Gardner's (though the writing is a bit stodgier, less smooth and concise than Gardner). No math here either, but Smullyan on ANYthing is worth savoring.

There are of course plenty more recent top-notch 2014 popular math books on the shelves to choose from... but always fun to catch up on things one has missed from the past. Smullyan is now in his mid-90's with the quick, lucid mind of someone half-his-age, Strogatz is 55, and Elwes is the kid on-the-block at 36 -- each very different in style and interests, but each leaving us an outstanding body of work for our enjoyment and elucidation. Thanks guys, you've given me Christmas in October!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Friday Wrap-Up

ICYM any of these:

1)  Wonderful Atlantic piece on Steven Strogatz's introductory course for those who think they hate math:

2)  For your statistics entree this week I need only offer up this smorgasbord from William Briggs that gives links to pieces he does, or does NOT, find enlightening:

3) Also, statistically-speaking, this rant about Washington Post coverage of a certain journal study, once again indicating why correlation is so much more fun than causation ;-):

4)  Finally, before leaving statistics aside, this blog post, "Randomness: the Ghost in the Machine?" makes for some good reading:

5)  Part of Mike Lawler's week revolved around the Koch snowflake, area, and infinity, ohh my!:

and in another (l-l-longish) posting, with LOTS of links, Mike spells out some of the real-world topics that ought make math interesting for the average person (plenty to chew on here):

6)  This week's entry (…well, one of them) in the Common Core debate:

7)  I've never had the least bit of interest in the Zombie craze, but if you do, Alexander Bogomolny reviews a volume that might suit your taste -- "Zombies and Calculus":

  Keith Devlin's latest post defending Common Core:

From my perhaps-objective(?) perch outside the whole education system it seems that the opponents of Common Core are more organized, more unified, and more vocal than the supporters, and that will be a difficult combination to overcome in the current political climate (education being highly politicized) -- so, while I think supporters of Common Core will win this war (such as it is) in the long-run, in the shorter run, I suspect they'll be losing many battles.

9)  And moving from primary/secondary education on to adult learning, NPR reports on the Pathways Project from the Carnegie Foundation and its new approach for adult math learners:

10)  Jordan Ellenberg reviews Christian Rudder's new book, "Dataclysm" here:

11)  New version of Euclid's Elements in scrumptious color:

And one last piece of book news... Ian Stewart has yet another compendium of math puzzles out: "Professor Stewart's Casebook of Mathematical Mysteries"... looks like a good collection, some classic and some fresher, or at least newly-rendered. If you've enjoyed his other volumes, or like math puzzlers more generally, give a look; or, if you're thinking ahead to Christmas, might be a good choice for some math lovers on your list!

...these should keep you busy for awhile. 

Friday, October 3, 2014

Weekly Potpourri

This week's grabs:

1)  Someone knows the whereabouts of reclusive mathematician Alexander Grothendieck, and obtained a photo of him for use in a Heidelberg Laureate collection:

2)  Interesting interview with Terry Tao from early September:

Also, Terry Tao noted this week that the "final paper" summarizing the results of the Polymath8 project on the "bounded gaps between primes" problem has been uploaded to arXiv here:

3)  The nature of evidence and proof via the Simons Foundation:

4)  Science graduates have difficulty with math:

5)  MatthewMaddux linked to a World Science Festival clip discussing what CAN'T be predicted with mathematics:

6) Interesting Nautilus piece on math, learning, memorization, and practice:

7)  Another education piece from Keith Devlin in Huffington Post:

8) Finally, I got to interview one of my favorite writers last week: Paula Poundstone's cousin (William Poundstone):