Math

Category archives for Math

Benford’s Law of Amazon Rankings

Late last year, Matthew Beckler was nice enough to make a sales rank tracker for How to Teach Physics to Your Dog. Changes in the Amazon page format made it stop working a while ago, though, and now Amazon reports roughly equivalent data via its AuthorCentral feature, with the added bonus of BookScan sales figures.…

Two Cultures Within Science

The great British physicist Ernest Rutherford once said “In science, there is only physics; all the rest is stamp collecting.” This is kind of the ultimate example of the arrogance of physicists, given a lovely ironic twist by the fact that when Rutherford won a Nobel Prize, it was in Chemistry. (He won for discovering…

Poll: Significant Figures

I’m grading a big backlog of homeworks today, so I don’t have time to do any really lengthy posts this morning. Thus, a poll question inspired by going through these homeworks: You are doing a physics homework problem. How many significant figures do you report?survey software While the class in question uses some quantum ideas,…

The Diagonal Parking Theorem

(With apologies to Georg Cantor) Theorem: There are an infinite number of stupid ways to park. Definition: We define as stupid any parking method that places any fender of a car outside the legal lines bounding the space. Proof:Consider a line L through the center of a legal parking space, parallel to the lines bounding…

Calculus Saves the Economy!

I’m taking a bit of flak in comments to my silly Bob Dylan post from Sunday, with various right-wingers spontaneously popping in to tell me that JFK cut taxes. My initial reaction to this is to think that supposing a perfect equivalence between JFK cutting the top rate from 90% to 70% during a time…

I finished Jennifer Ouellette’s new book a few weeks ago, shortly after my trip to Alabama, but it’s taken me a long time to get around to reviewing it due to a combination of too much work and being a Bad Person. There’s finally a tiny break in the storm of work, though, so here’s…

Know Your Prefixes, Baseball Edition

On the way to get SteelyKid from day care last night, I flipped on ESPN radio in the vain hope of getting a baseball score, but wound up listening to former Mets manager and freelance jackass Bobby Valentine talking about how difficult batting is, which included the statement: And the whole thing is over in…

Language Poll: The Most Threshold

Not prompted by anything specific, but something I’ve occasionally wondered about: what’s the threshold for “most”? Thus, a poll: The minimum percentage of X doing Y that you would need to feel justified saying “Most X do Y” is:survey software I know I tend to use “most” to mean something considerably more than just 51%,…

New York Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie is getting mocked for a clip where he takes some time to name all his children (the clip isn’t as bad as the description makes it sound– he’s slow, but he doesn’t struggle all that badly). Cromartie claims that HBO manipulated the footage to make him look bad. Of…

Algebra and Circuit Breakers

A couple of “kids these days are bad at math” stories crossed my feed reader last week, first a New York Times blog post about remedial math, then a Cocktail Party Physics post on confusion about equals signs. The first was brought to my attention via a locked LiveJournal post taking the obligatory “Who cares…