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Math in the Movies: Up

As many of you are no doubt aware, Pixar’s latest film opens this weekend. I have yet to see the film, so I’m sure I am spoiling nothing by telling you that part of the film involves an old man flying through the sky by means of balloons that are attached to his house.

Do not try this at with your home.

Given that I have yet to see the film, you may wonder how I could possibly hope to connect it to mathematics. Thankfully, I don’t have to – the work has been done for me by Alexis Madrigal over at, who wrote an article discussing the feasibility of using balloons to take to the skies in one’s own home.

His assumptions are that the house weighs roughly 100,000 pounds, and that the balloons are spherically shaped with a diameter of three feet, which may seem large at . . . → Read More: Math in the Movies: Up

Baby Animals Just Want to Do Math

Over the past few months there have been several studies aimed at understanding the mathematical sophistication of some of our friends in the animal kingdom. This is a topic I have discussed before, but these new findings are interesting and worth mentioning. The most recent experiment involves the cutest animal discussed so far: baby chicks. Don’t let their looks fool you, my friend, for under that puff of yellow down sits a mind capable of mathematical wizardry. Surprisingly, researchers found that chicks were not only able to perform simple mental calculations, but could do so from a very young age.

How do you tell if a baby chick can do math? Well, apparently the little ones try to stay close to familiar objects (for example, their mother). Moreover, given the choice between a small group of familiar objects and a larger group of familiar objects, researchers noted that chicks tended . . . → Read More: Baby Animals Just Want to Do Math

Math Gets Around, and So Does Disease (Both Real and Virtual)

Most of us are familiar with the story of Chicken Little, the young chicken turn Disney sellout who one day has a major panic attack because she (or he, depending on the version you’re told) believes that the sky is falling.

No doubt this fable has conditioned many of us to be wary of chickens that try to warn us of impending crises. But given the recent media frenzy surrounding swine flu, perhaps we should turn our attention away from the chicken, concerns over avian flu notwithstanding, and focus a bit more on the humble pig.

There is some debate on this issue: while everyone seems to be in agreement that the swine flu outbreak is, so far, milder than many had anticipated, health officials have cautioned that we may not yet be out of the proverbial woods (or pigpen, as the case may be). At the same time, however, . . . → Read More: Math Gets Around, and So Does Disease (Both Real and Virtual)

When will this stop?

Ok, now it’s just getting annoying. Odd day? Give me a break.

My thoughts on this irritating trend can be found here, here, and here.