...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, April 29, 2016

Math From the Week Gone By

Read on....

  Need a mini-brain-workout... try Futility Closet's "Pagan Island" problem:

2)  Also via Futility Closet, in 1897, the Indiana legislature tried to do some math:
(am afraid this may give ideas to today's Republicans)

3)  Who knew?... I'd never heard of Lyndon LaRouche's connections back to famous mathematicians (Cantor and Riemann) before Michael Harris brought it up:

4)  An essay on the lives and ages of mathematicians from Manil Suri in the NY Times:

5)  Plenty of variety in the latest "Math Teachers At Play" blog carnival:

6)  Numberphile with another grr-r-r-reat Tadashi Tokieda piece:

7)  Siobhan Roberts on (120-sided) "disdyakis triacontahedron" dice!:

8) The Princeton Companion to Applied Mathematics reviewed:

9)  Fabulous piece from Dan Engber on 'debunking the debunkers':

10)  FiveThirtyEight blog offers a "Riddler" puzzle every Friday. The latest here:

Potpourri BONUS! (extra NON-mathematical links of interest):

1)  Physicist/Nobelist Frank Wilczek interviewed this week on Krista Tippett's "On Being":


2)  It occurs to me that perhaps two new upcoming books might well be read in tandem:

"The Big Picture" by Sean Carroll
"What We Cannot Know" by Marcus du Sautoy


Friday, April 22, 2016

The Friday Mix

Ten from this week:

1) John Horgan has a long interview with Scott Aaronson (...who, I'll AGAIN subliminally remind the MacArthur Foundation, ought receive a Mac Fellowship) over at Scientific American:

2)   Last week's TED Radio Hour was all about math (though I believe it's a re-run):

3)  Peter Woit gives a positive review of the new Ramanujan film:

4)  Jim Propp celebrates math... at a birthday party:

5)  The Wallis Sieve via Evelyn Lamb:

6)  Enter this contest. You might win:

7)  Math, the brain, and language:

8)  12-min. YouTube interview with Australia's Nalini Joshi:

9)  A blogger writing posts introducing Bayesian analysis:

10) Jo Boaler offers a simple-sounding problem for Numberplay this week:

Potpourri BONUS! (extra NON-mathematical links of interest):

1)  90-min. podcast of Sam Harris in discussion with physicist Max Tegmark:

2)  Tom Siegfried ponders the possibility of extraterrestrials:

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Some Math Book Blurbs

Dang, there are so many popular mathy books already out or forthcoming, feel I better acknowledge some of them before losing track of any.

First, a few books on the horizon, readers ought be aware of:

Ken Ono (and Amir Aczel, now deceased) will shortly be out with My Search For Ramanujan: How I Learned to Count.  Gots-to-be-good!

Cathy O'Neil's Weapons of Math Destruction is due out in the fall. (Big data may have met it's match in Cathy ;-)

Also due in fall, Alfred Posamentier with The Circle: A Mathematical Exploration Beyond the Line

Some books out now that I've glanced at and seem recommendable...
...starting with 3 books all touching on statistics, a really hot topic in popular math-writing these days:

Fluke by Joseph Mazur  (I'm getting a bit jaded by these sorts of books by now, but still a somewhat fun read focusing on coincidences, especially if you haven't read too many volumes in this genre)
The Perfect Bet  by Adam Kucharski (a focus on the probabilities involved in gambling)
The Seven Pillars of Statistical Wisdom by Stephen Stigler (perhaps the driest read of these 3, but also the shortest, and by a renowned statistician)

The Call of the Primes by Owen O'Shea  ...another of the many volumes that cover an array of popular math topics (not just prime numbers); looks fine, but may be redundant if your shelf already has several of these overview-type volumes.

Leonhard Euler: Mathematical Genius in the Enlightenment by Ronald S. Calinger

The Mathematics of Various Entertaining Subjects by Jennifer Beineke and Jason Rosenhouse  ...looks to be an excellent treatment of recreational math, but pricey.

Prime Numbers and the Riemann Hypothesis by
Barry Mazur and William Stein 
(likely to be in running for my favorite book of the year)

Finally, the volume I'm currently most intrigued by, but am only about a third of the way through: Burn Math Class by Jason Wilkes

I love seeing popular math books take risks and go outside-the-box (which few do) -- this book is very different, though it is giving the common call for change in the way math is taught.  Many books claim to present math in some new-ish way that will make it palatable, if not enjoyable, to all those folks fearing/hating it... I rarely see books succeed because math always reduces to symbols, and symbols are what some segment of the population have inherent difficulty with.
So I'm not sure that Wilkes succeeds in his goals here (he too ultimately relies on symbols, but does attempt introducing them in novel ways) -- I'll be interested to see what average folks without much math background say about his effort -- do they "get it," or, simply get lost in the jargon he substitutes for the more customary jargon? I haven't yet seen an extensive review of the book, especially one from a layperson.
Anyway, I give Wilkes a definite "A" (maybe even an "A+") for effort, but withholding judgment for now on the ultimate success of his approach, until I've reached the end.

Anyway, it's only April and we have an amazing selection of math books already available -- I've only mentioned a few of the ones most interesting to my eyes/tastes, but there are many others as well (if you have a favorite I haven't mentioned, feel free to give it a plug).

2016 -- Gonna be another good year for math!

Friday, April 15, 2016

Come an' Get It: Big Delicious Weekly Roundup

A HUGE and varied math mix this week!....

  "Lincos," a math-based artificial language for communicating with extraterrestrials:

2)  Since you shouldn't ever miss an entry from Ben Orlin (especially if you're thinking of getting an MBA):

3)  Economics as astrology:

4)  Interesting post on Singapore mental math:

5)  Review of forthcoming Ken Ono biography of Ramanujan (h/t Steven Strogatz):
...and an excerpt from the book here:

6)  In the distant past I've touched on the controversy over the Daniel Tammet savant story; this week Simon Singh addressed it here:

  "Zip-apart Mobius Bands"... well, of course!:

8)  Evelyn Lamb with a little poetic... and cubic, history:

9)  New math paper from Jo Boaler on 'visual mathematics':

10)  A primer on p-values from Plus (magazine):

11)  Michael Harris on Perelman, honesty, and crossing the 'finish line':

12)  For the advanced, the latest intro to category theory from nLab:

13)  h/t to Egan Chernoff for passing along this piece on risk-benefit perception (and mostly just risk-perception)... no math involved, but still an important math-related read:

14)  Michael Pershan on Sweller's "cognitive load theory":

15)  "The Sleeping Beauty Paradox" is one of the most hotly-debated paradoxes of all time; Pradeep Mutalik tried to offer some resolution for it at Quanta; go read the comments to see what he's stepped into:

16)  At Scientific American, Steve Mirsky interviews (~35 mins.) Adam Kucharski about his new book, "The Perfect Bet: How Science and Math Are Taking the Luck Out of Gambling":

17)  So much for this Friday carnival of mathy things; if you need still more don't miss the latest monthly blog "Carnival of Mathematics" up here:

  And, personal aside, just a couple questions I have for Mac users (surprised how few responses I got when I previously asked this, but will try once more):

a)  is anyone using free downloadable anti-virus/malware software that they're happy with and recommend? (Avast, Sophos, ClamXav, are the ones I see most frequently referenced, but there are others as well -- and I recently used Onyx to "clean up" an old Mac and was pleased with the results)

b)  if you are now using the El Capitan OS on your Mac are you happy with it? (earlier on, it seemed to have a lot of naysayers)

Potpourri BONUS! (extra NON-mathematical links of interest):

1)  Great article (and longread) on the controversy over diets (even if you're tired of reading about such debates, I'd recommend this one):

2)  This re-run from NPR's RadioLab last week, on "Space," was wonderful:

Friday, April 8, 2016

Another Round of Math Potpourri

This week's extra servings of mathiness:

  Evelyn Lamb... space-filling curves... enough said:

2)  For the statistics-inclined out there, Deborah Mayo follows up on p-values, Bayesian analysis, and best practices:

3)  Math tool recommendations from a high-schooler:

4)  Guardian review of new film "The Man Who Knew Infinity":

5)  Steven Strogatz pointed out this "mathematical etudes" site; beautiful Russian animations (no voiceover) of many mathematical ideas:

Online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy has a new entry on "supertasks":

7)   This week Ben Orlin (and his little round friends) regaled us with fractions and their relationships:

8)  John Allen Paulos recently interviewed via YouTube mostly on one of his older books:

9)  If you're not already aware of "The Global Math Project" you may wish to check it out here:

10)  Finally, weird little article on "trypophobia" (fear of holes; yup you read that right); just squeaks onto my list here because of a purported connection to mathematics:

Potpourri BONUS! (extra NON-mathematical links of interest):

1)  Buzzfeed story (from Peter Aldous & Charles Seife) on Government aerial surveillance of cities and citizens:

2)  Are we real or are we virtual... a recent conference of physicists debated:


Sunday, April 3, 2016

The First Annual (maybe, only) MathTango Awards!!

There are certain math/science sites, writers etc. that I especially look forward to visiting. They deserve special recognition! And we all love awards ceremonies, right, so without further adieu... the awarding of Sheckies!: ;-))

1)  For popular science writing in a magazine format.... the Sheckie goes to:  Quanta Magazine


Of the dozen or more online sites I follow offering regular science writing (with a strong math/physics bent) in a magazine-like format, Quanta is almost in a league of their own, for clarity, consistency, visual appeal, and a stable of superb writers.  So Quanta Magazine, and all those associated with it, CONGRATULATIONS, and keep up the fab work!

2)  For popular mathematics publishing.... a Sheckie for:  Princeton University Press


The more I read, the more I appreciate the behind-the-scenes work of good editors, who really make the books we enjoy so enjoyable! They too-often go unsung. Several major presses regularly publish popular math works, but for consistency, presentation quality, and engaging the reader, Princeton readily tops my list here, and I often wonder, when reading math volumes from other publishers, what could Princeton have done with this!

3)  For science and thought-provoking writing in a blog.... this 2016 Sheckie to:  Shtetl-Optimized (Scott Aaronson)


I get feeds for ~200 math and science-related blogs that I regularly enjoy (a small sampling of what's out there)... still, there are only a few blogs that stand out consistently for their overall quality, range, depth, sincerity, insight, novelty, stimulating discussions and comments (and I say that even though there is plenty Scott writes about that I can't even comprehend). There is no blog I look forward to more than Aaronson's Shtetl-Optimized.
As an honorable mention here though I'll also note Brian Hayes' quirky, unpredictable, fun and always-interesting "Bit Player" blog: http://bit-player.org/

4)  For establishing a niche blog serving a long-needed function (reporting on fraudulent, plagiarized, erroneous, and otherwise retracted research; i.e. trying to keep science honest!), and doing it so well.... a Sheckie to Ivan Oransky and his Retraction Watch team:


This one will be no surprise to long-time readers:
5)  Specifically for popular mathematics-writing.... a Sheckie to:  Keith Devlin
For wonderful shorter pieces, two of Dr. Devlin's main blogs are here:


And a list of his prolific books over the years at Amazon here:

(he's also the math-guy on NPR radio as well)

Sometimes I feel I become an even bigger fan of Keith's with each new piece of his that I read. Maybe when Steven Strogatz or Jordan Ellenberg have a dozen+ books under their belt my choice will shift, but for now, once again for clear, incisive, instructive, thoughtful, logical math communication a big appreciative nod to Dr. Devlin.

6)  Finally, an easy one to give out, for popular presentation of mathematics in a video format.... this Sheckie to those wonderful folks at Numberphile:


They just keep churning out good, varied, high-quality, entertaining, educational math videos... really an outstanding body-of-work!

Anyway, applause for everyone! (next year I'll try to get Billy Crystal to host)
... and what prizes will all these fine winners receive:


uhhhh, bragging rights to recognition from this teeny corner of the blogosphere....
(and, a Sheckie may be in the mail... or, NOT)

But seriously, so much great stuff out there; had to take a moment to recognize some of it!

[pics via WikimediaCommons]

Friday, April 1, 2016

Some of What Math-Frolic Didn't Cover This Week

  In case you missed any of these from the week:

  "Gödel's Last Letter..." blog weighs in on the recently-reported prime last-digit anomaly:

2)  Craig Knecht's work with 'magic squares' via Futility Closet:

3)  An explanation of quantum computing:

4)  New AMS tribute to Grothendieck (pdf):

5)  Evelyn Lamb reviews Andrew Hacker's latest and concludes, "It Doesn't Add Up":
...and has a further followup here:

6)  Ben Orlin employs a mathematical magnifying glass to solve a problem:

7)   More beautiful math explication from Erica Klarreich in Quanta (this time on high-dimensional sphere-packing):

8)  Nalini Joshi talks about life as a female academic (mathematician) in Australia (...but probably applies most places):

9)  Andrew Gelman offers a modicum of advice to young researchers amidst the current quandary of journal publication and statistical methods:

10)  Pradeep Mutalik attempts to clarify the controversial 'Sleeping Beauty Paradox':

11)  And lastly, for something completely different, mathematics meets slam poetry:

Potpourri BONUS! (extra NON-mathematical links of interest):

Animals keeping the beat:

2)  Recently, TEDRadioHour re-ran this fascinating account of amazing information-gathering: