...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, February 16, 2018

Another Weekly Mathy-mix

In the event li'l Donald wanted to read some math this weekend, I compiled a few things:

1)  Banach-Tarski patiently explained (…by someone needing a job):

2)  "Linguistics Using Category Theory" via John Baez (a bit heavy reading requiring some understanding of category theory, but potentially interesting):

3)  Patterns?… “Mystery and Music of the Kaprekar Constant”:

4)  “Orthogons” via Brent Yorgey (h/t Patrick Honner):

5)  Probabilistic judgements via Quanta Magazine:

6)  Dave Richeson learning some math from his son’s Algebra 2 class:

7)  Tanya Khovanova offers a puzzle for our times:

8)  The latest issue of online journal Inference has some math-related content:

9)  Tangential to math, Scott Aaronson took a Wash. Post writer to task (on quantum computing) leading to a slew of comments:

10)  For those of you with mathematician spouses, Ben Orlin offered Valentine poems this week that could melt their hearts (… or… maybe NOT):

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

1)  The disappearance of airline flight MH370 is surely one of the greatest mysteries of my lifetime… and, we’re told, it could happen again (h/t Mike Lawler):

2)  Sabine Hossenfelder tweeted out this helpful, graphic link to rhetorical and logical fallacies this week:

Friday, February 9, 2018


While the Colluder-In-Chief tries to consolidate his fiefdom and schedule parades, I consolidated some math offerings:

1)  Yet another profile of mathematician/hedge fund manager Jim Simons:

2)  Do Google searches predict Bitcoin prices?:

3)  Patrick Honner back in Quanta Magazine (on vaccines):

4)  Did you miss e Day?… Ben Orlin celebrated!:
(if you missed it, it will come around again in Europe later this year)

…and of course Evelyn Lamb will never miss any mathy-excuse to celebrate either:

5)  Statistics crash course:

6)  Tanya Khovanova asks… and answers “Why?”:

7)  More of Keith Devlin on math education and math application:

8)  Videos from the San Diego Joint Math Meetings in January have now been posted:

9)  hmmm... flipped classrooms... how about flipped conferences (goes beyond just math conferences):

10)  And a little bit of math weirdness from Futility Closet:

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

1)  The latest, and last, ‘annual question’ from John Brockman’s “Edge”:

2)  will end with yet another guitar rendition of Pachelbel Canon (…before an Executive Order gets issued commanding that we all listen to Wagner):

Friday, February 2, 2018

Friday Math Miscellany

While Donald & Melania are busy sorting out their marital bliss, here's plenty of math bliss for the rest of us to attend to:

1)  Excellent TED Radio Hour last week on algorithms:

2)  Canning efficiency (mathematically speaking); h/t @MathematicsProf:

3)  More teaching tips from someone named Fawn:

4)  Why Colleges Must Change How They Teach Calculus”:

5)  3Blue1Brown looks at Fourier Transforms:

6)  Who knew prime numbers could be THIS popular:

7)  Good or bad approach to ‘thinking outside the box’?:

8)  A blogger picks out 5 must-see math TED talk videos:

9)  Mathematics Rising on math, information, and consciousness:

10)  Moravec’s Paradox via DataGenetics:

11)  Evelyn Lamb recounts her math doings & more for the month of January in her latest TinyLetter:

12)  And if all that isn't enough reading material for you, plenty more in the latest (free) edition of the Journal of Humanistic Mathematics here:

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

1)  There are plenty of good pieces on Thomas Kuhn out there, and now another:

2)  Biotech continues advancing in leaps-and-bounds… $1000 hand-held gene sequencer now available:

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Blowing Out Candles

Today is MathTango’s 5-year anniversary (...will wonders never cease!); in commemoration, before blowing out the candles, I'll just link to a few of my favorite miscellaneous posts over that time (no particular order):

Tribute to David Foster Wallace:

Review of Siobhan Roberts’ “Genius At Play,” my favorite volume of 2015:

Interviewing Fawn Nguyen:

Anniversary of Alan Sokal’s hoax:
On Platonism:

Friday, January 26, 2018

I Was Too Busy Collecting Math Stuff To Make It To Davos This Year

While Demagogue Donald dances in Davos (and Melania stays home sticking pins into her Stormy Daniels doll) I put together a deservedly delicious Friday math potpourri:

1)  Infinite Series this week on “Brouwer’s Fixed Point Theorem”:

2)  Chris Maslanka on BBC radio about “two thousand years of puzzling”:

3)  Several wonderful links from Ben Orlin:

4)  ‘Making mathematics up as we go along’:

5)  Interesting plus Magazine post on the math of disease transmission/infection (via work by Steven Strogatz, et.al.):

6)The Joy of Mathematical Discovery” via AMS Blogs:

7)  New from Keith Devlin on math education:

8)  ...and more on education, and computation, from Robert Talbert:

9)  Still on education, Robert Kaplinsky asks, ‘what do kids understand?’:

10)  For a conversation that “can’t and won’t end anytime soon” (with several links):

11)  Eugenia Cheng was on latest edition of BBC’s “The Life Scientific”:

12)  The signal and the noise (via John Cook):

13)  As if Rubik’s Cube isn’t already devilish enough, Mike Lawler shows how to make it even more Satanic:

14)  Brian Hayes reviews a little of the recent JMM gathering in San Diego:

15)  Brand new from "Infinite Series" the "Silver Ratio":

Meanwhile, I just discovered this week that there is a specific MTBoS Twitter group for North Carolina, hashtag #MTBoSNC. I’m not a teacher myself so not of great practical relevance to me, but still interesting and makes me wonder how many other states have such state-focused groups? If you are a teacher may be worth looking into.
p.s… there’s also this worldwide MTBoS Directory available:

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

1)  Massimo Pigliucci on the string and multiverse wars in physics, and ‘Popperazism’:
…coincidentally, Sabine Hossenfelder discussing similar issues on NPR this week:

2)  Caveat emptor on consumer genetic-testing:

Friday, January 19, 2018

A Short Week-ending Math-Mix

A short potpourri this Friday… been a depressing week, learning that our Emperor may actually be healthy enough to continue tweeting and groping women for another decade or more…

1)  Margaret Wertheim on dimensions and reality:

2)  Latest from Jim Propp:

3)  And new from PBS’s Infinite Series:

4)  also new from Numberphile:

4)  A physicist looks at a math puzzle:

5)  Luckily, I wasn’t drinking coffee when I read Ben Orlin’s latest offering… or it would’ve ended up all over my keyboard:

6)  Michael Harris pens a bit of a tease at his long quiet blog (new book, or something else?… I DON’T think they’re making a big-screen movie out of his 1st book):

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

1)  On Twitter this week:

2)  ICYMI, the latest cover from Der SPIEGEL that says it all:

Friday, January 12, 2018

The Friday Weekly Grab-bag

While Trumpie was kept busy all week laundering money, I put together another Friday potpourri, in-between washing tie-dye T-shirts:

1)  Last week’s TED Radio Hour (on NPR) re-ran a popular entertaining excursion into numbers and math (and includes Randall Munroe):

2)  Interesting take on leaving the Langlands program:

3)  Nice introduction to some very basic statistics concepts and uncertainty:

4)  Peter Cameron on bees, Bayer, and publication:

5)  Andrew Gelman on ‘randomized controlled trials’ (…as if there is such a thing):

6)  20+ introductory videos on statistics from the “Statistics Learning Centre”:

7)  A listing of (mostly British) math podcasts you may enjoy:

8)  A tribute to John Cook upon a decade of blogging:

9)  A new episode of the “My Favorite Theorem” podcast is up:

11)  Finally (because there is most certainly math involved), science journalist learns poker from scratch and wins national championship:

…perhaps worth noting, some may want to follow along the ongoing Joint Math Meetings in San Diego through tomorrow, on Twitter or Facebook with hashtag #JMM2018

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

1)  Interesting piece, a bit ago, with philosopher Peter Unger:

2)  You either are or are not a Jerry Seinfeld fan… if you’re the former you’ll enjoy this audio interview with the New Yorker:

Friday, January 5, 2018

Potpourri getting 2018 underway

While Steve Bannon & Donny Trump were debating over just where to have a duel at 20 paces, while reverting America back to the 18th century, I was composing this week’s math potpourri:

1)  A “Journey From Frequentist to Bayesian Statistics” via Frank Harrell:

2)  Another observation from John Baez (and commenters):

3)  The latest from “Mathematics Rising” on probabilities, the brain, and perception:

4)  Evelyn Lamb’s January “TinyLetter” is out with a lot of varied material:
I’ll probably keep citing Dr. Lamb’s monthly newsletter in the “potpourris” BUT don’t rely on me; subscribe to it for your own email, if you haven’t already:

5)  “The Intrepid Mathematician” briefly tackles the Continuum Hypothesis:

6)  A new “Carnival of Mathematics” is up here:

7)  I s'pose if you wanted to impress some folks with your cognitive skills you could commit the latest-discovered prime number to memory:

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

1)  2017 ended with this viral tweet & comments… that was worth the wait (I never even managed to get to the end of the comments):

2)  ...and, just a lovely way to begin a new year ...though I suspect the year may rapidly go downhill from here :(((

Friday, December 29, 2017

Final Math Potpourri of 2017

While tax, draft, and responsibility-evader Donald played President for another week I pieced together the last potpourri of the year:

1)  3blue1brown was joined by some of your favorite videographers last week for this topological puzzle:

2)  As always, Brian Hayes continues to cover the most pressing issues of the day ;) :

3)  News for KenKen fans:

4)  3 geometry puzzlers via Alex Bellos/Guardian:

5)  Russell’s Paradox... and centuries earlier “Panza’s” paradox (from Don Quixote):

6)  Fantastic and timely piece from Evelyn Lamb this week on the ABC conjecture:

7)  Luckily, since by now you all already follow Ben Orlin, there’s no need for me to link to this latest post of his looking ahead to 2018:

8)  One overview of the year gone by in math:

9)  The final 2017 'My Favorite Theorem' podcast highlights a professor from my own alma mater:

10)  And a lovely post about math entrancement (it's a couple of months old, but just tweeted out by Nalini Joshi & Peter Price this morning):

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

1)  Too late for me and my mouthful of mercury-amalgam fillings, but thought this was interesting:

2)  Finally, since I often tout books here, I’ll add another, just not a math book — haven’t read it myself, but a well-read friend of mine tells me that Robert Sapolsky’s  (evolutionary biologist) “Behave” is THE best book, bar none, he has ever read. That’s good enough for me to give it a look. Just passing it along.

…also, currently reading/enjoying “The Jazz of Physics,” by Stephon Alexander, newly out in paperback.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Pre-Festivus Potpourri ;)

While Congressional Republicans were busy mugging America, and the Trumpster occupied himself sticking pins into his Bob Mueller doll, I found these math stories to pass along:

1)  Some of what John Baez is thinking about lately:

2)  More analysis of the success of Google’s AlphaGo from K.W. Regan:

3)  Jim Propp’s latest monthly offering (on “the roots of unity”) is up:

4)  Risk-reward and innovation (…and monkeys) from Bill Gasarch:

5)  Why parameters are problematic in statistics:

6)  H/T to Egan Chernoff for noting this story/controversy I’d not seen reported on much:

7)  Two from Quanta Magazine this week:

8)  And new video from "Infinite Series" (on topology):

9)  I’ve been reading a little more foundational and analytical philosophy lately, so this end-of-year book, "Exact Thinking In Demented Times" on such, looks interesting (and Douglas Hofstadter writing the Preface is a pretty good endorsement):
(Anyone already read it and care to comment on it?)

10)  I re-posted a fun logic problem/riddle yesterday at Math-Frolic.

11)  Shinichi Mochizuki’s controversial/difficult proof of the ABC conjecture continues its wild ride, having been submitted to a prestigious math journal… which Mochizuki himself edits!... what one writer calls “poor optics.” So even if refereed properly this could taint its wider acceptance. Stay tuned.

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

1)  perhaps my favorite tweet-with-comments this week:

2)  I enjoy videos of “Canon Rock” performances (the rock version of Pachelbel’s Canon) and recently someone sent me this YouTube of a young female Japanese drummer joyously going-to-town with it. So will sign off with this:

…Have a joyous long weekend ahead everyone!

Friday, December 15, 2017

Potpourri is back (...after a couple weeks off)

While you were sleeping, and Aryan Anti-Christ Donald was busily colluding, obstructing, and weeping over fellow-harasser Roy Moore’s loss, I was once again hard at work pulling together another Friday math potpourri:

1)  Great New Yorker profile of Jim Simons, mathematician and billionaire hedge fund manager, and his Flatiron Institute:

2)  The latest blog “Carnival of Mathematics”:

3)  A very basic post on “the importance of statistics”:

4)  Even if you’ve already read about AlphaZero’s “staggering” chess success, still worth reading John Baez’s post:

5)  Wonderful Patrick Honner post for Quanta Magazine explaining the marvels of pentagon tiling:

6)  A couple of new books on the way:
 “Closing the Gap” (about prime numbers), by Vicky Neale:
...and “The Calculus Story” by David Acheson

7)  New “Infinite Series” episode this week on encryption:

8)  An odd geometric conjecture proved (h/t Mike Lawler):

9)  This year's Christmas lecture (recommended by The Aperiodical) from Donald Knuth at Stanford:

11)  For some levity, this is old, but I only ran across it this week… an Andrew Gelman lexicon:

…which in turn leads to these “definitions” from Stephen Senn:

12)  Finally, not a pleasant read, but a needed reminder that this in-the-news problem is long-standing and cuts across all fields:

...and there is followup to Kristian's post at Gelman's blog:

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

Just a couple of Twitter threads from the week I found entertaining:

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Tidings of....?

      And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon gods they made...
             -- Paul Simon

Before we begin today, this...

Off on a curmudgeonly rant today… inspired by a recent Jim Propp piece, but stripped of any math.

I told Jim that his latest post is one of my very favorites, because it is such an “everyman” posting — we have all experienced it, and the math involved is simple but aggravating (I’m happy to finally have a name for it, “fence-post error”). Jim specifically pinpoints an experience with Verizon to make his case, taking them to task, but I’ll cast the net wider when it comes to the behavior of (predatory?) corporate America (I had my own run-in with Verizon many years ago and dropped them forever… but as I told Jim that only means I had to shop around for a different slimy, deceptive carrier). Deceit and fraud are such an ingrained part of modern corporate fabric we largely accept it unblinkingly. Cable and phone companies, Internet giants, food companies, car dealers, airlines, insurance companies, credit agencies, drug-makers, banks (seriously, how does Wells Fargo even remain in business — oh yeah, I forgot, “too big to fail”), the list goes on-and-on of companies that actively con the public as a routine part of doing business — indeed, they probably couldn’t compete successfully in America if they didn’t do so. Lawyers are paid a boatload to keep corporate words and behavior just this legal side of fraud, but let’s be honest, when you do things to deliberately hoodwink or confuse people, thereby boosting your own profits, you’ve committed fraud, by the spirit of the law if not the letter.

There’s a lot of talk these days on starting early to teach young people critical thinking skills (you know, so we don't end up with a certain kind of President). I’m all for it -- I find it egregious that we still force young people to read Shakespeare, but not study basic modes of reasoning/evaluating. It doesn’t have to be scientific or mathematical thinking, just critical/skeptical analysis. In high school I had to take a semester that included a popularized version of General Semantics (also here) which I've oddly regarded as the most important academic time I ever spent, even as simple as it was. It lends one an awareness of how language manipulates and short-circuits our thought processes and behavior; of how advertisers, propagandists, demagogues/politicians, sales people, promoters, plutocrats, etc. operate… but it even applies to ALL of us in our daily interactions to some extent. And since a lot of it will never change, it is important to be aware of it and self-inoculated.

“Advertising” and “marketing,” unfortunately, essentially become nice, innocuous words for deceit and manipulation. I’ve wished at times that present-day advertising was outlawed and reduced to just putting out technical specification sheets on individual products. Wanna buy a car, here are all the specs imaginable, no glossy pics, sexy models, vroom-vroom video. Wanna buy toothpaste, just the specs please, no guys and gals with blinding smiles and radiant testimonials or clever animations. As Joe Friday used to say, “Just the facts, Ma’am.” But of course that will never happen — I accept that truth-in-advertising is a pipedream; images and emotions are what it's all about. And I’ll even admit a lot of advertising is hugely fun and entertaining; just questioning how truly informative and honest it is... heaven-forbid that honesty and full-disclosure should creep into capitalism. The buyer must beware… always.

You can probably sense I’m not much of a consumer… at least not on bigger ticket items (I do sometimes nickel-and-dime myself to death foolishly on small stuff -- OK, I have more pairs of Crocs than I'll ever admit to). And in this country, where conspicuous consumption is the national religion, that pretty much makes me a baaaad American. Worse yet, I pay my Visa bill off on time, every month — as you may know, that literally makes me, in the eyes (and labels) of the credit card industry, a “deadbeat” for never paying my share of the ongoing interest charges they depend upon. Yeah, I’m one of their most despised customers… ‘cuz I actually pay my bill. Such is the world we live in where frugality and timely payments are venial if not mortal sins.

Any rational human knows that the widespread advertising of drugs, in 60-second spots, to unsuspecting Americans is a dreadful idea (and at one time illegal). And don’t you just love the way those ads spend 55 seconds describing the wonder of their product with pictures of a meadow full of butterflies and ducks on a pond... before spending the last five seconds in rapid-fire, barely-intelligible English deigning to mention that the drug just might also cause dizziness, depression, baldness, suicidal thoughts, heart attacks, liver failure, incontinence, and the heartbreak of psoriasis, or whatever other afflictions some poor tortured experimental rats experienced in their brief, beleaguered lives.

Or how about the contracts we all read and sign in order to receive some service… contracts that we don’t actually read (but falsely sign, saying we’ve read and understood). The companies know that we don’t read them, we know the companies know we don’t read them, and they know we know they know we don’t read them… if you get my drift.

Or take one of my pet peeves: fruit juice products. There have been many outright fruit juice scandals over the years which I won’t even cite (except to say that often you’re not getting what you think you’re getting when you buy a bottle of say orange juice). But, as bad as the contents may be, my big beef is with the labelling.
The label may say Grape (or some other variety) Juice beverage, drink, blend, or cocktail, but of course “GRAPE JUICE” is scrawled in BIG catchy letters across the label, while the ‘drink,’ ‘beverage,’‘blend,' or 'cocktail" notation is added in smaller and different lettering below — disguising the fact that the contents may actually contain surprisingly little grape juice, but a whole lot of additives. There are other tricks they employ, as you likely know, yet still sometimes fall for. Why this is legal I don’t have a clue; except well, lobbyists and money don’t ya know. And of course the grocery shelves are chockfull of other examples of packaging chicanery and labeling hype.

I grew up admiring/trusting corporate America, before joining the swelling ranks of those distrustful of big companies in particular. I’m constantly amazed by folks who are peeved with big government for all its ills and incompetencies, but who give the corporations who really run our lives and treat us like guinea pigs a free ride. Meanwhile the income gap between CEOs, and their employees and customers, increases obscenely, while the shrinking middle class stands by helplessly. Besides, at least I have a chance to vote in or out the scoundrels of government; the heads and management of corporations are unelected and I have little sway with. 
People roil over all the regulations that government imposes, but many of those regulations are merely the result of trying to prevent in the future the very ways companies have shafted people in the past  — all have to be regulated in order to insure a few bad actors stop doing what they’re doing (same reason we have laws against murder — in order to have a mechanism for dealing with the small percentage of people who actually commit murder). Anyone who walks into Verizon, Comcast, Wells Fargo or Time Warner or Best Buy or, or, or…  and doesn’t realize you’re about to get played needs to wake up and smell the cash register.
Reminds me a bit of the current focus on sexual harassment — a situation that has been around for millennia, but held under-the-radar until at long-last being taken seriously and critically. We need such a spotlight on the treatment (abuse?) of customers by corporations, as well. On Twitter, the sex harassment headlines led to a #MeToo hashtag for women to add their relevant experiences. I feel like James Propp's storyline could be given a #MeToo followup for all who feel they've been screwed by businesses at one time or another.

Jim cleverly calls these corporate foes “errorists” in his post (because of mathematical mistakes they make), but actually or more broadly I don’t think they are errorists at all, rather primarily knaves who know exactly what they’re up to -- indeed, they pay people good money to derive the marketing, algorithms, wording, and sales techniques aimed specifically at exploiting people.

Earlier this year, polymath Eric Weinstein was so concerned about the way language is being used to sway people he actually made the little-referenced “Russell conjugation” (or “emotive conjugation”) his selection in response to the 2017 annual Edge question, “What scientific term or concept ought to be more widely known?
These “conjugations,” made famous by Bertrand Russell (and studied by myself back in General Semantics) are rhetorical devices for expressing similar ideas but with very different connotations. Some famous ones below:

I am firm. You are obstinate. He is a pig-headed fool.
I am righteously indignant. You are annoyed. He is making a fuss about nothing.
I am a creative writer. You have a journalistic flair. He is a prosperous hack.
You can easily invent many more, often very creative ones, at will. It’s a bit reminiscent of how many people in polls tended to support “the Affordable Care Act” but oppose “ObamaCare,” not realizing they were the same thing (or "illegal aliens" versus "undocumented immigrants" is a similar example from Weinstein's piece). Anyway, his brief essay is worth a gander.
I could go on and on about shameful practices in big business, but I don’t even entirely fault them for manipulating us so regularly, given the cut-throat competitive world they inhabit (and perhaps I should be clear that many of their worst foibles don't apply as readily to small business and entrepreneurs). I do wish though, through enlightened education, the citizenry could be placed on guard against the very techniques being used to connive them, yielding a more even playing field. Worse yet, the managed demagoguery/skulduggery of corporate America is being transferred to the highest levels of government (and a President who worships at the altar of the dollar sign). But hey, don’t get me started…

p.s.... Merry Christmas (...or, Festivus, as the case may be)