...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, 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):

Friday, April 28, 2017

Some Friday Math Picks

1)  James Tanton interviewed:

...and here, an experiment proposed with logarithms from by Dr. Tanton:

2)  Colm Mulcahy on the “Mathematics Genealogy Project”:

3)  Mark Chu-Carroll offers up an intro to “type theory”:

4)  Anna Haensch writes about “Gifted,” the movie and the trait:

5)  Series, as only Ben Orlin could explain them:

6)  Mike Lawler offered up a challenge to “everyone in and around math.” Care to take him up on it:

...Mike's been on fire this week with interesting posts/problems, so check 'em out if you get the chance.

7)  "What Is a Manifold?":

8)  Andrew Gelman (and a lot of commenters) on "evidence-based design":

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

1)  In case you've somehow missed it, Jimmy Wales of Wikipedia is launching a new project to fight fake news, called “Wikitribune”:

2)  John Horgan interviews Peter Woit (mostly on physics):

Friday, April 21, 2017


1)  I admit it; I rarely tire of essays on the beauty of math:

2)  Presh Talwalkar on the United Airline fiasco and "Vickrey auctions":

3)  Ben Orlin’s post this week highlight’s Cornell’s John Hopcroft… and China:

4) “Maths Anxiety”:

5)  New provocative essay on mathematics from irascible Doron Zeilberger (dedicated to Reuben Hersh):

6)  Andrew Gelman has found a statistics book he actually likes ;) :

7)  Long, nice tribute to Bill Thurston (h/t S. Strogatz):

8)  Those interested, no doubt already know all about it, but just a reminder that the “March For Science” takes place tomorrow in Wash. D.C. (and all across the nation):

AND, it coincides with the National Math Festival in Wash. D.C. as well:

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

1)  Philosopher David Chalmers interviewed by John Horgan:

2)  Love and sex researcher Helen Fisher on this week’s episode of Krista Tippett’s “On Being”:

Monday, April 17, 2017

"The Calculus of Happiness"

Oscar Fernandez’s slim “The Calculus of Happiness” is a somewhat quirky popular math entry focusing on using math (very little calculus involved) as an aid to one’s health, wealth, and love life. No doubt some will find the book entertaining and enlightening depending on your interest in these 3 topic areas. And it’s nice to see a book devoted to showing the public how basic math applies directly to common areas of the public’s interest.

Part 1 deals with diet/eating/nutrition. Of course entire (and large) tomes have been written on these topics that Fernandez is devoting less than 40 pages to. Still, Fernandez distills much helpful, practical info into a small space, touching on several different subjects. 
In a similar way, I think the last (3rd) part on dating and relationships is a succinct, entertaining treatment, reducing some human complexity to algorithms and modeling.
Part 2 of the book, on the mathematics of financial matters was the one of most interest to me. The interesting take-home argument of the second part is that, overall, a portfolio of investments split about 50/50 between stocks and bonds is best for the long haul. That’s a more conservative approach than most argue in favor of, but Fernandez makes a strong case that if you’re not interested in trading or following your investments closely, than such a buy-and-hold approach with 50% stocks/bonds makes sense (it’s essentially a sort of turtle versus hare approach; sacrificing some gains in the best years to guard against major losses in the bad years, and sleep better at night!).
Each chapter of the book (there are 2 chapters to each Part) ends with a helpful little summary of the main mathematical and non-mathematical take-home points from the chapter, as well as some 'bonus practical tips.'

Your interest in this book will be largely determined by your interest in the 3 subject areas… on the one hand these are three areas that are already well-covered elsewhere to the point of overkill… on the other hand, they are covered so much, specifically because they are areas of continuing interest to so many people.
At less than 150 pages the volume is a quick read, and the Parts need not be read in the order given if your inclination is otherwise.
There are also 6 Appendices which flesh out more of the math that is touched on in the body of the book.

MAA review of the volume is here:

...and the author is interviewed at the Publisher's page here:

Friday, April 14, 2017

This Friday's Mix

1)  Ramsey Theory progresses:

2)  Are you a math teacher who missed NCTM in San Antonio? Cathy Yenca will make you wish you’d been there:

…also for teachers, Jo Morgan regularly offers up “gems” for the classroom:

…and perhaps taking one more step Mike Lawler offered up a long post with 10 “complex, rich tasks” for students:

3) The “Linus Sequence” via Futility Closet:

4)  Alex Bellos explaining a slice of a Menger Sponge:

5) plus.maths.org has an ongoing “Women of Mathematics” series:

6)  Another amazing posting from Brian Hayes (factorials, patterns, number theory and more):

7)  Fawn Nguyen is incapable of writing an average post… she just opts to blow you away every time:

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

1)  This week’s This American Life re-ran a segment they’d run earlier on the Dunning-Kruger effect (which has received a lot of extra focus since Nov. 8, 2016):

[The entire show, 3 segments, is once again fascinating.]

Friday, April 7, 2017

For Your Weekend Browsing

1)  A new Carnival of Mathematics:

2)  “Yes, But Why?”… book for math teachers:

3)  “Aronson’s sequence” from Futility Closet:

4)  Erica Klarreich explains why state gerrymandering is more difficult for the courts to recognize than the rest of us:

5)  Nice intro to some basic probability paradoxes from “The Conversation”:

6)  Keith Devlin promoting a book and respectability for Fibonacci, while debunking legend:

7)  “The Improbability Principle”… an overview of a David Hand book:

8)  Andrew Gelman has Cornell on his mind (long post/rant):

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

1)  Teaching 5th graders to recognize fake news:

2)  Speaking of fakery, must-reading for fans of science and Seinfeld:

Friday, March 31, 2017

ICYM any of these...

1)  Natalie Wolchover with a math story most folks probably have not heard:

2)  Fawn Nguyen doing what she does best… being Fawn Nguyen:

3)  Re-visiting the “sofa problem” (h/t Cliff Pickover):

4)  Using finance to teach math in high school:

5)  Great interview & video with centenarian Richard Guy (who continues to work):

6)  I hesitate to even cite this (am so tired of the subject), but another general piece on the “hot-hand” notion in basketball. I’ve argued previously that the problem, which seems to vacillate between debunking and vindicating, is not whether it exists (YES, it does), but the ill-way it is often defined:

One might as well argue over whether or not (statistically-speaking) back pain actually exists or is just an illusion! 

7)  You’ve likely seen a lot on the Collatz conjecture, but you need to look at one more Numberphile treatment:

…meanwhile, Futility Closet posts about John Conway’s RATS sequence:

8)  P-values as “the tip of the iceberg”:

9)  If you’ve never heard of 'quasisymmetric Schur functions,' well, you have now (h/t Egan Chernoff):

10)  Since math buffs are often cryptographic buffs as well, I'll pass along this odd story of some code the FBI hasn't been able to crack in 15 years:

12)  Will end with one of my favorite quotes from the week; not mathematics, but from mathematician Jordan Ellenberg on Twitter ;) :

"Let's run government like a business" keeps rearing its head, like it's gonna be Google, when we all know it's actually gonna be Comcast.

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

1)  For the psycholinguistically-inclined, a fascinating, older David Mumford post 
I just ran across this week:

2)  At a time when enjoyable, uplifting stories on TV are scarce, CBS’s “60 Minutes” offered up one last weekend... the story of chess and young students in a small Mississippi town meeting success. The storyline is here; not sure how quickly the full video may be available:

Friday, March 24, 2017

A Few Bits From the Week

1)  Sudoku-lovers… Brian Hayes has another addiction to point you to:

2)  Evelyn Lamb talks about immigration… and mathematics:

3) Shortest known paper published” in a math journal:

4)  A Futility Closet problem very reminiscent of classic monk-climbing-mountain brainteaser:

5)  New interview with succinct, interesting Jordan Ellenberg here:

6)  The connection between physics and the Riemann Hypothesis the last couple years has been intriguing, perhaps offering a new approach to the century+-old problem. Recent news about possible progress:

7)  Yesterday, I wrote briefly about Eugenia Cheng's latest, "Beyond Infinity":

8)  And if you need some laughs to end the week (and you’re a mathematician), of course there's Ben Orlin:

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

1)  Scott Aaronson doubts the Universe is a simulation:

2)  I’ve spent a lot of hours with Umbrella Cockatoos over the years, but only discovered a couple months ago that they enjoy being brushed like a dog or a cat :):

Friday, March 17, 2017

Weekly Potpourri

It's Friday, and time to mention a few of the things I didn't cover over at Math-Frolic this week:

1)  A quick intro to trigonometry (h/t Robert Talbert):

2)  Evelyn Lamb finds serenity in places others might not think to look, including the ‘Kakeya needle problem’:

3)  9-minute audio intro to public key cryptography:

4)  Nice new Numberphile with Terence Tao:

5)  I liked this quick mid-week take on 'null-hypothesis-significance-testing from Andrew Gelman: 

6)  An essay from Noson Yanofsky, entered in the 2017 FQXi essay contest:

7)  A mathematician (and no, not Tim Chartier, but Ken Ono) talks March Madness… and predicts Villanova for the win (h/t Anthony Bonato):

8)  And for something completely different, brand new from always-engaging Jim Propp:

9)  I briefly looked at three current books last Sunday, and I'll reiterate another strong recommendation for Edward Scheinerman’s volume:

...in other book news will just note that Daniel Levitin's critical-thinking volume "A Field Guide to Lies," that I highly recommended a short while back, is now out in paperback but, given our current Trumpian/demagogic world, with a new title, "Weaponized Lies."

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

1)  ICYMI, this recent story (and court outcome) about the 'Oxford comma' is making the rounds:

2)  Thoughtful physicist/author Carl Rovelli on Krista Tippett's "On Being" radio show this week:

Sunday, March 12, 2017

3 Books In the Queue…


I’d actually enjoy a respite from reading… but popular math books keep showing up!  Currently in my reading queue are 3 new volumes, so 3 quick blurbs today on:

Finding Fibonacci” by Keith Devlin
Beyond Infinity”  by Eugenia Cheng
The Mathematics Lover’s Companion” by Edward Scheinerman

Regular readers here know I love Keith Devlin’s writing… BUT primarily when he’s explicating mathematics or logic. I’ve never had much interest in math history pre-19th-century, so didn't read Keith’s earlier book/biography ("A Man of Numbers") of the mathematician we know as Fibonacci. His new effort, "Finding Fibonacci," is, again more historical, biographical, and travelogue, than mathematical, so, early on (about 75 pgs. in.) it’s not particularly grabbing me. It’s even quirkier though because it’s a book about how he wrote the prior book (an odd self-referential stroke of authorship) — one can sense Keith’s own passion about the subject and the research/detective path it put him on, but you probably need more interest in math history than I have to fully appreciate it, or, if you read/enjoyed the earlier volume you'll want this follow-up (… ANYthing by Keith is worth reading, but I do find his greatest talents in translating mathematics to a general audience). Also, am happy to see Dr. Devlin is with Princeton University Press with this volume.

For whatever reason, infinity seems suddenly to be a hot topic… it’s plenty interesting of course, I just don’t know why there’s such a current spate of writing about it, but somewhere Cantor is smiling. ;)
Anyway, Eugenia Cheng’s 2nd book (after her success with “How To Bake Pi”) is “Beyond Infinity.” The early pages (I’m not far in) are pretty standard fare on the topic (i.e. chapter 2 is entirely on Hilbert’s Hotel), but Dr. Cheng is a fine writer and glancing ahead, where she gets deeper into the weeds of infinity, l anticipate the material getting more interesting, varied, and challenging along the way. There are a lot of good introductions to infinity out there (Ian Stewart has a new one out as well), and no doubt Cheng’s will take its place among that group.

The Devlin and Cheng books arrived as review copies, but a few days ago I stumbled upon a new volume, in a brick-and-mortar store, I’d NOT seen/heard any buzz about, by Johns Hopkins mathematician Edward Scheinerman, “The Mathematics Lover’s Companion.” Immediately loved the title and so far, am loving the content as well… it’s divided into 3 parts on “Number,” “Shape,” and “Uncertainty,” with bite-size writing on a wide swath of topics within each part (23 total chapters; I would almost say mini-lessons) — some topics fairly well-worn, but others less-so. The prose is excellent, terse and clear (and Scheinerman has won previous MAA awards for his writing). 
The book reminds me a bit of Strogatz’s “The Joy of X,” in its layout of successive essays, but a notch or two more advanced for the lay reader. So, especially if you enjoyed Strogatz’s work and are ready to step up for something a bit more challenging, grab this volume. I imagine even well-read math fans will find parts of the volume fresh and useful, and I also suspect it will be one of my 3 favorite books at year-end wrap-up! A very nice, exciting surprise find. As one reviewer synopsizes, An elegant sampler of many beautiful and interesting mathematical topics. This could become one of the best books available for a popular audience interested in what mathematics really is.”

Anyway, these are just quick takes, subject to change, and I’ll try to offer final opinions at some later date, but for now I especially recommend checking out the Scheinerman volume.