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The Twilight Saga: A Mathematical Perspective

Living in Los Angeles, it’s hard not to be aware of the fact that the new Twilight movie, Eclipse, arrives in theaters today. The series has developed an insatiable fan base of people willing to spend thousands of dollars to fly here in the hopes of scoring tickets to the premiere, which certainly indicates the film will be a success. But of course, the film’s success was never in question: with the first two movies having grossed over $1 billion worldwide, the success of this latest entry in the franchise is a foregone conclusion.

Of course, the success of this franchise should not be viewed in isolation, but as just a part of the larger vampire pop culture renaissance. HBO’s True Blood, also based on a book series involving a girl who knocks boots with the undead, is going strong into its . . . → Read More: The Twilight Saga: A Mathematical Perspective

Happy Tau Day?

In the past, I’ve used this blog as a platform to make clear my mixed feelings about Pi Day, a math themed holiday celebrated every year on March 14th (3/14, har har) in honor of the beloved mathematical constant . My thoughts on the subject can be found here.

It would seem that I am not alone in my frustration. Michael Hartl, an educator and entrepreneur (as well as a Ph.D. graduate from Caltech), has just today launched a website in favor of Tau Day as a replacement for Pi Day. However, his argument (based on a 2001 paper by Bob Palais) goes a step farther – he argues that day shouldn’t be celebrated because isn’t the fundamental constant we should be considering! Rather, he argues that the true fundamental constant is , which is approximately 6.283185… . Hartl argues that this should be the fundamental constant of interest, and . . . → Read More: Happy Tau Day?

Deep Sea Math Hunting

Every now and then an article pops up which highlights a link between mathematics and the animal kingdom, and I’ve been able to discuss several such links on this blog. The latest entry into this category concerns the movement of sharks (and other ocean creatures) as they hunt for food. A recent article in Nature has spawned a great deal of interest, and the topic has been discussed on the websites of Wired, Discovery, and Physics World.

What does the motion of sharks have to do with mathematics? Well, suppose you are a shark. Unfortunately, there are not yet any In-N-Out’s under water, so when it comes to food you are on your own. What would be the best way to forage for your food? With your heightened senses, you would undoubtedly be a formidable opponent in an area rich with prey, but what if you are in a more . . . → Read More: Deep Sea Math Hunting

Love and Marriage

I’ve previously discussed some mathematical approaches to dating. Specifically, we have seen how choosing a partner can be modeled as a type of secretary problem, and, if you like, you can estimate the number of candidates you should consider by using a modified Drake’s equation. However, as you know, building a lasting relationship is about more than choosing the right partner; maintaining a happy relationship takes work. And even though most people go into a relationship believing they will not end up as a statistic, the unfortunate reality is that nearly half of all marriages in this country will end in divorce.

How can it be that despite the best intentions of many couples, such a significant proportion will not endure? As one always should, we can turn to mathematics for possible answers. In fact, José-Manuel Rey of the Department of Economic Analysis at the Universidad Complutense in Madrid has . . . → Read More: Love and Marriage

RIP Martin Gardner

Not long ago, I wrote an article in commemoration of Martin Gardner’s 95th birthday. Sadly, it seems this will be my last article in celebration of his birth, as he passed away late last month.

Through his passing, though, his influence has become even more apparent. Perhaps because he published mathematical games in Scientific American for 25 years, the magazine has been the most visible in its veneration of him. There are no less than six articles on Gardner at the SciAm website; while some are reprints of earlier articles, there is also new material from writers and mathematicians who were influenced in some way by Gardner’s unique career. Since I can’t do justice to Gardner the way others already have, let me summarize what you can find if you’re interested in learning more about this stand-up fellow.

If you’d like to learn more about Gardner’s life, SciAm has reprinted . . . → Read More: RIP Martin Gardner