Sunday, January 6, 2013

Odds 'n Ends of Note... Enjoy!

An odd variety of sundry things catching my attention lately...:

1) Impressed?... plenty of folks might be. Math often bedazzles the easily impressionable! That's the basic conclusion of a study cited recently by both Mother Jones and the Wall Street Journal, demonstrating that just adding mathematics (even nonsense math!) to a journal article can increase its perceived quality among some reviewers:

2) Mr. Honner recently highlighted a simple example (Google search), most of us can relate to, of how "conditional probability" operates in our everyday world:

3) Is Henry Pogorzelski following in the steps of Shinichi Mochizuki…? A 90-year-old emeritus mathematics professor named Henry Pogorzelski believes he has proven the Goldbach Conjecture, but his effort may be too long and involved for anyone else to follow (similar to the problem mathematicians are having checking the complex work of Mochizuki on the ABC Conjecture); interesting Boston Globe piece: 

4) Futility Closet highlights a sort of self-referential geometric construction set from, as they say, "the ever-inventive" Lee Sallows:

Lee Sallows homepage is here:

He is especially famous for his linguistic "self-enumerating pangrams" like the following:
"Only the fool would take trouble to verify that his sentence was composed of ten a's, three b's, four c's, four d's, forty-six e's, sixteen f's, four g's, thirteen h's, fifteen i's, two k's, nine l's, four m's, twenty-five n's, twenty-four o's, five p's, sixteen r's, forty-one s's, thirty-seven t's, ten u's, eight v's, eight w's, four x's, eleven y's, twenty-seven commas, twenty-three apostrophes, seven hyphens and, last but not least, a single !"
You can see more examples here:

5) Just learned of this online journal, "The Mathematics Enthusiast," that's been around for awhile and should be of interest to educators: 

6) A recent Twitter feed asked for suggestions of inspiring books to recommend to HS math students. What surprised me was how often Douglas Hofstadter's "Godel, Escher, Bach" (or GEB as it is often called) came up. Dr. Watkins also mentioned it very positively in the interview I did with him a few days back. GEB, is one of my favorite books as well (and it has certainly won many awards); still, I've never thought of it particularly as a math book… a book for those interested in psychology or philosophy perhaps, or even computer science, but not necessarily math buffs. In fact, Wikipedia states:
"Hofstadter has emphasized that GEB is not about mathematics, art, and music but rather about how cognition and thinking emerge from well-hidden neurological mechanisms."
...and here's an older Slashdot review of it:

Great book; I'm just not sure I'd be recommending it to HS math students, unless they're also very interested in cognitive science. (On-the-other-hand, possibly one could argue that what GEB does touch upon is not math itself, but the kind of "mathematical thinking" that Keith Devlin so emphasizes... I'm not sure???)

7) Finally, for a bit of entertainment, a clever, fun bit of magic (...and cognitive science of a sort) from Richard Wiseman. Not really math, but one thing I've learned since doing this blog is that for a lot of folks "magic" is actually a gateway into an interest in math.
If you're familiar with Wiseman's "tricks" you may see through this one fairly quickly... or... you may not (if YOU'RE not fooled by it, try it on a friend):

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