Good Math, Bad Math

Please make sure you read to the end. A couple of late submissions didn’t get worked into the main text, and a complete list of articles is included at the end.

Oy. So I find myself sitting in my disgustingly messy office. And I’ve got a problem. The Math Carnival is coming to town. All those geeks, and the chaos that they always cause. Oy.

But I’m stuck. After all, I have student loans that need to be payed off early, and the kind of work I do doesn’t exactly bring in as much cash as running an oil company. Besides, maybe I can talk someone who’s been confused by all the math geekery into accepting my compounding payment plan – then I’d be set!

Next thing I know, an ant comes strolling into my office. I knew I should have gotten rid of those dirty dishes. But when I tried to chase him out, he up and tells me that he’s not here for the food; his hive is trying to solve the traveling salesman problem, and he’s just traversing a graph. Great, just what I needed. Geeky ants. I tried to trick him and his pals into climbing onto a handy convenient hyperbolic Escher print, but they wouldn’t fall for it. So I had to pull out the heavy guns: the best way to get rid of geeky ants is to find a hungry geeky spider.

Ants taken care of, I sat down to ponder my next move. And in walks what looks like an actual client! Just what I needed. “So, what can I do for you?” I asked, putting on my best inquisitive helpful face. “I’m confused about this number stuff. There’s
Rational numbers, irrational numbers, and imaginary numbers. And then there’s triangular numbers, and then there’s tetrahedral numbers. I just don’t get them. Can’t you please help me find a nice, simple, uninteresting number? Something with nothing special about it?”. That’s when I lost my temper: “Take you stinking Gödel jokes and get out of my office!”.

After that, I decided I deserved a break, so I headed down to the pub for a
nice pint of Guinness. But with the math geeks in town, you can’t even escape in a pub.
Sitting on the bar in front of me is a href="http://heath.hrsoftworks.net/archives/000073.html">magic star puzzle. Just
what I needed – another math puzzle. I couldn’t face that; I needed something easier.
And I saw it at one of the tables. The good old 15 puzzle. Any 10 year old can do that!
So I wandered on over. But no, those math geeks couldn’t leave a good simple
puzzle alone – they
needed to go and play with it, and make it all complicated.

Now I started to get really frustrated. Geeky ants invading my office, messed up puzzles at my pub – what could I do? I had to do something about this. And then it struck me: math geeks love Rubiks cube, and I just happened to know how to solve it. I thought maybe if I dazzled ‘em, they’d leave me alone! So I found a table with a rubiks cube on it, and got to work.

I should have known better. They decided that I must be one of them, and starting chattering on about how the rubiks cube is really all about group theory. And once that got started, things went downhill fast. From group theory, they wandered into permutations and fixed points, and from there, it was just a short trip before there were a dozen conversations going on at once about numbers and number theory – one guy had an equation for generating prime numbers; another starting talking about how to do prime factorings of numbers… And then one pops up with stuff about Fibonacci sequences. Hey, finally something I understand! I remember those things. But just my luck, he was talking something about how Fibonacci-like series were sort-of the same thing as differential equations. Oh, great… Just what I neededed: nightmare flashbacks from college.

Next thing I knew, I was waking up on the floor. I’d fainted. Damn it, I’m not supposed to faint! And some guy is trying to wake me up, not with a good stiff drink, not with smelling salts, but with a be-damned fractal: he’s flashing different resolution images of the Koch curve in my face!

As I pushed the fractals out of my face, I saw that there were more people around me trying to help: fanning me, offering me a drink, and of course, talking. And not just chit-chatting – talking math. Even on the floor I couldn’t get away from it! One guy is explaining why I passed out – something about the conflict between analytical and intuitive thinking; while another gal is explaining how she’s seen this before: it’s all just math trauma.

At that point, I dragged my sorry behind off the floor, and headed out of the pub. No way I could stand any more of that! But where could I go? Where could I escape where no math geeks could find me? And then it hit me: the Natural History Museum’s anthropology exhibit! No math geek would be there! So I hopped a bus to head across town. We got to the museum, but the bus kept going? “Hey driver, you just missed my stop” I shouted. He replied, with an evil geekish grin: “Yeah, well, this bus has a halting problem buddy!”. God(el) help me, they’d even taken over the transit system!

I pried open the door and dived out onto the pavement. Fortunately, the bus wasn’t moving too fast, so I got away with nothing more that a ripped coat and a skinned elbow. Of course, some guy who saw that started up about how my elbow reminded him of some
interesting topological spaces – and would I like to see his introduction to algebraic topology. I ran towards the museum entrance, tripping over a guy hunched over a telescope, who started talking about how math is used for astronomy. Finally, I made it inside, and ran for the anthropology section. I had to be safe there!

Safe at last, I took a seat on a bench in front of an interesting exhibit on
the roman armies, and how they set up their camps in new territory. Interesting. Until someone comes up behind me, and starts explaining how to measure the statistical significance of the orientation of the camps!. Even in an exhibit on ancient Rome I can’t get away from them!

I had to get away. But where could I go? Even the museum wasn’t safe. I’d reached my limits. I headed home, locked my door, boarded up my windows, and hid under my bed until the Math Carvival was over.


Without the silliness, here’s the list of articles in this issue of the carnival.

Author Blog Article
John Armstrong The Unapologetic Mathematician Rubik’s Magic Cube
Mark Chu-Carroll Good Math/Bath Math Basics: Limits
Charles Daney Science and Reason Numbers – Rational and Irrational, Real and Imaginary
Tyler DiPietrantonio Growth Rate O(n lg n) The Ants Traverse Connected Graphs, Hoorah, Hoorah
Mark Dominus The Universe of Discourse Cycle Classes of Permutations
David Eppstein 1101110 Wikipedia and the Interesting Number Paradox
Foxy Foxmaths 6,4,2,4,2,4,6,2
jd2718 JD2718 Is the Spider Hungry?
Mikael Johansson Michi’s Blog Introduction to Algebraic Topology and related topics
Vikas Kedia Livejournal The Halting problem
Eric Kidd Random Hacks Bayes’ rule in Haskell, or why drug tests don’t work
Michael Koppelman Starhouse Blog Using math for astronomy
Stephen Lavelle Icecube’s Keep My favorite calculation: Combination tones
Alon Levy Abstract Nonsense Fibonacci-Type Sequences, Part 2
Maria Miller Homeschool Math Blog How the four operations became two
Arunn Narasimhan Arrun.net The Koch Curve and Visual Resolution
Matthew Paulson Getting Green Why you should pay off your student loans
Mr. Person Text Savvy Dual Process Theory
Praveen Math and Logic Play The Boy and the Storekeeper
Heath Raftery Killing Mind The Results are in!
Alun Salt i-Science The Orientation of Roman Camps
Scott Grey Matters 40 30s 4 15 – playing with the 15 puzzle
P. Sternberg Discreet Math Hyperbolic Frolic
Jon Swift Jon Swift Due Compensation at Exxon
Tim Tusing infinite domain of unconscious nondeterministic chaos There’s a phi in my checkers…
Jeremy Weissman & Apurva Mehta MathMeth Designing a proof of unique factorization (PDF)
Brent Yorgey The Math Less Travelled Tetrahedral Numbers, Exposed

Don’t forget: the next issue of the Carnival of Mathematics is on March 8th, hosted by Mikael Johansson at Michi’s blog. Send submission to him directly at (mikael at johanssons dot org), or the Alon Levy (alon_levy1 at yahoo dot com), or via the submission form.

Comments

  1. #1 Enigman
    February 23, 2007

    Fascinating.

  2. #2 Mr. Person
    February 23, 2007

    Great job, Mark!
    Lots of great stuff!

  3. #3 Foxy
    February 23, 2007

    Come on, Mark. Are we really so bad? At least we don’t have small hands or smell like cabbage…

    Great stuff, though :) All around. I’m going to be struggling to understand some of it for a long time. I love it!

  4. #4 Mikael Johansson
    February 23, 2007

    The inline Math trauma link is corrupted.

  5. #5 Arunn
    February 23, 2007

    Marc: That is a neat way of presenting the math carnival. Thanks for including my entry too.

    Kindly correct my blog name from “Arrun.net” to “Nonoscience” in the table at the end. Thanks.

  6. #6 Prup aka Jim Benton
    February 25, 2007

    Be careful with the linear progression starting with ants. An elderly woman of my acquaintance attempted to solve a similar one, but by the time the equine factor was reached, she sadly passed away.

  7. #7 Chris' Wills
    February 25, 2007

    There was no silliness, ’twas a very clever inroduction to all the articles. Intelligent, smart and erudite.

    If you are lucky they’ll want you to be the host for all future carnivals.

  8. #8 Jonathan Vos Post
    February 25, 2007

    Nicely and surreally done. Good weaving together of subthreads into a rich tapestry. Twisted braiding of subplots into a pseudoplot. Perhaps a reference to:

    The Hacker and the Ants,
    novel by Prof. Rudy Rucker

  9. #9 Jason Orendorff
    February 26, 2007

    I propose a new rule: all future Carnivals must link to the previous Carnival.

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