...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

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Mathematician, Gambler, Hedge Fund Chief…

“A fascinating insight into the thought processes of someone with little interest in fame, who has mostly stayed under the radar, but who has followed his inquisitive mind wherever it has led him, and reaped the resulting rewards. There is nothing more important than knowing how to think clearly. Read this book and learn from a master.” — Paul Wilmott

A further look today at a volume I mentioned a short while back, “A Man For All Markets” by (and about) Edward O. Thorp.  It may not be thought of as a popular math read, but I think there is just enough math in it to qualify.

For any who don’t know, Ed Thorp is a trained mathematician, who taught for awhile, before following his heart and delving into games/gambling/Las Vegas and later the stock market and Wall Street… with, one should quickly add, remarkable success! This book tells the autobiographical story of his incredible life. 
Thorp started by figuring out (mathematically) winning strategies for gambling endeavors like blackjack, roulette, and baccarat before moving on to run very successful mutual/hedge funds on Wall St. If you have no interest in the financial markets than this bio may not grab you, but as most people do have some interest, it contains pages that will draw in most readers. His many life accomplishments make it seem easy to just apply basic logic to various situations, including the stock market, and succeed, yet most people consistently fail at such efforts.

The book reminds me slightly of Siobhan Roberts’ account of John Conway, "Genius At Play," from 2015 (my favorite volume of that year), but it is not nearly as fun a read. The similarity comes from two iconoclastic and brilliant figures telling the anecdotes of their lives. But Roberts’ lively, engaging writing and Conway’s antics lifts her excellent portrayal to  another level. In comparison, much of Thorp’s volume is duller, the writing often more stilted or bland, but still his anecdotes are fascinating enough to pull you in. Stories around his gambling pursuits, the rise and fall of his own hedge fund (Princeton Newport Partners), the Black-Scholes options-pricing formula, his take on the Bernie Madoff affair, his contrarian analysis of the traditional “Efficient Market Hypothesis,” and take on the 2008-9 market crash, are among many interesting passages sometimes couched within more stodgy, matter-of-fact material. I especially enjoyed the last few chapters and "thoughts."

One thing I also liked about the volume is the way it portrays an individual who relied heavily on “intuition” to launch most of his successful ventures, before his technical brilliance fleshed out all the details required. The central importance of intuition, passion, and curiosity sometimes gets lost in the focus on logical deduction among mathematicians, and Thorp implies that he succeeded where others failed because of his greater intuitive grasp of situations more so than keener logic.

A longer, more detailed review of the volume available here:

I do recommend the book, especially to anyone with an interest in the many machinations of Wall Street, but it’s not the most riveting read around, despite many entertaining parts.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Another Friday, Another Math-mix

Week #17 of Trump’s looting-and-dismantling of America….

1)  From Quora last week, “What’s the most important thing happening in mathematics right now?”:

2)  Futility Closet presented the Thue-Morse sequence:

3) Pi Hiding In Prime Regularities”… another phenomenal presentation from Grant Sanderson:

4)  Eugene Stern, guest-posting at Mathbabe blog, has some thoughts on value-added models for teachers:

5)  R. Talbert once again on flipped learning and his new book:

6)  A big “Math Teachers At Play” blog carnival for May:

7)  “One of the real old chestnuts of mathematics,” the Goldbach Conjecture, newly presented by Numberphile:

8)  Getting to the point that a potpourri without something from Evelyn Lamb is a rare event… and it won’t happen this week:

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

1)  ICYMI, Jerry Coyne on the latest ‘Sokalized’ effort to make the rounds:

2)  Terry Gross had a fascinating interview with Pulitzer writer Tom Ricks this week:

…lastly, I’ll just leave this here for any who’ve missed it along the way:

Friday, May 19, 2017

The Week Gone By

Some mathiness during week #16 of the Trumpian Debacle…

1)  Grant Sanderson has completed his “Essence of Calculus” series on YouTube:

...help Grant continue such wonderful work by contributing to his Patreon account here:

2)  For those deeply into set theory here’s a recent paper by philosopher Penelope Maddy on foundations of set theory:

I interviewed Dr. Maddy here about 2 years ago:

3)  The simplicity of social psychology research:

4)  Fawn Nguyen teaching mathematical thinking:

5)  Don’t know if this will take off or not, but a math book swap via internet is being tried out:

6)  Re-thinking geometry to re-think time (via Quanta Magazine):

7)  Robert Talbert interviewed about ‘flipped learning’:

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

1)  In case you’ve somehow missed it, some discussion of the Dunning-Kruger effect (competency/overconfidence):

Friday, May 12, 2017

Potpourri (...such as it is)

A short potpourri from week #15 of the Trump Apocalypse:

1)  Yet another review of my favorite popular math book from last year, Cathy O’Neil’s “Weapons of Math Destruction”:

2)  Pat Ballew has amassed a lot of great historical material with his “On This Day In Math” blog and Twitter feed. I suggested earlier this week that with some organizing effort the material could probably make a great calendar or book for math fans. 
Any publishers interested ought to check with Pat:

3)  Presh Talwalkar on Viviani’s Theorem, Sperner’s Lemma, and more:

4)  An ‘intrepid’ interview with Barry Mazur:

5)  Brian Hayes points out this mathematical approach to the question “What is life?”:

6)  Today I blurbed briefly about 3 recent books:

...and just a couple of decades-old quotes to close out the week (...you know, for those too young to remember history, and thus subject to repeating it):
“Just remember that once the toothpaste is out of the tube, it is going to be very tough to get it back in.”  -- John Haldeman (1973)
"We have a cancer within, close to the presidency, that is growing. It is growing daily.”   -- John Dean (1973)

Friday, May 5, 2017

More Mathy Stuff

Math-Frolic was distracted by other things this week, so here's some of the mathy things it didn't report on:

1)  Intransitive dice provide the basis for a possible Polymath Project:

2)  And from Evelyn Lamb this week.…
Here, she’s smiling over tiling:

…and here playing with the Douady Rabbit fractal:

…and finally her newest monthly “tinyletter” with a lot more than just math in it:

3)  A new “Math Teachers At Play” blog carnival posted last weekend:

4)  And the 145th Carnival of Mathematics is here:

5)  I liked the 2 puzzles served up by The Riddler this week… but could only solve one of them :(

6)  The ‘Chaos game” from Numberphile:

7)  I’ve enjoyed Marcus du Sautoy’s encyclopedic new book (especially the last few chapters), “The Great Unknown,” which is more physics than math but still worth mentioning here. He was on NPR this week discussing it:

8)  Art Benjamin and Siobhan Roberts win math communication awards (h/t S. Strogatz):

9)  Nicely-written essay on prime numbers from a relatively new blog:

10)  Latest edition of the Saskatchewan Mathematics Teachers’ Society newsletter (The Variable) including a new column from Egan Chernoff:

11)  Andrew Gelman offers up his view of what hypothesis testing is all about:

12)  I will RE-mention Grant Sanderson’s incredible new “Essence of Calculus” series (YouTube) as he keeps adding new videos:

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

1)  A VERY powerful “On Being” episode (especially for parents, or those with family tragedies) last weekend with Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant:
(…there are so many “On Being” episodes I love, and this one quickly becomes one of them!)

2)  Just an interesting, curious bit of news from the week (in the event you're preparing to be buried):