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A Variant of the Traditional Football Pool

Update: Part two of this three-part series on football betting pools can be found here. Part three is here. During this month’s Super Bowl, like many of my fellow Americans, I participated in the great tradition of the football pool. This method of betting on a football game is quite simple. For those of you who have never partaken in this activity, here’s how it works: You begin with a 10 x 10 grid of empty squares, which you auction off at a certain price ($1 per square, say). When someone buys a square, they put their initials in that square. Once all the squares have been purchased, each row and each column in the grid is randomly assigned a digit from 0 through 9. This means that each box will correspond to a unique pair of digits, from the 0-0 square through the 9-9 square. Since the assignment is . . . → Read More: A Variant of the Traditional Football Pool

Math Gets Around: The Entomology of Civil Engineering

In the continuing saga of animals that are better than you at math, it now appears that ants are much better than most of us at optimization. Granted, they may not be able to think abstractly, but in concrete terms, they far surpass us with a particular type of optimization: the efficiency of traffic flow.

As anyone who has gone to a picnic will tell you, ants do a very good job of creating traffic streams – their foot traffic moves steadily, and without the major pileups to which my fellow residents of Los Angeles have become so accustomed. One could argue that the wide expanse of park area is proportionately much larger for the humble ant than what most motorists have to live with, but even so, the march of the ant colony often appears quite regimented, even with space enough to make a wider path. How is it . . . → Read More: Math Gets Around: The Entomology of Civil Engineering