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Weird Al’s Keen Eye

If you follow “Weird Al” Yankovic on Twitter (and really, why wouldn’t you?), you may have noticed this picture, which he posted earlier this week along with the tweet “Wow, waffles for just .25 cents? That means I can get 400 for a dollar!!”

Kudos to you, Mr. Yankovic, for spotting what I can only assume to be a mathematical error of the type we’ve seen before. If this music thing doesn’t pan out, maybe you can work for Verizon.

Then again, maybe it’s not an error, in which case I can only hope that Weird Al wastes no time in naming this establishment, so that I can patronize it before they catch wise.

(Thanks to Nate for sending this my way!)

The Futurama Theorem

In case you missed it, Futurama was recently resurrected from beyond the television grave, and this summer it began airing new half-hour episodes on Comedy Central. Although it’s never reached the height of popularity achieved by its older sibling, The Simpsons, Futurama nevertheless has its own share of dedicated fans. Many of those fans appreciate the differences between this show and The Simpsons, the most obvious of which is the former’s futuristic setting and sci-fi influences.

The setting of the show naturally lends itself to math and science jokes, and in this department Futurama does not disappoint. Last week, however, they seriously stepped their game up a notch, by featuring the proof of an original mathematical result as a central feature in the plot of the story.

The mathematics evolves quite organically. In the show, Amy and Professor Farnsworth have created a mind-switching device, which can swap . . . → Read More: The Futurama Theorem

Math of the Rubik’s Cube

It’s rare for mathematical research to break into the mainstream media. New papers are posted on the arXiv every day, and published in journals all over the world throughout the year, but unless a famous problem is purported to have been solved (in this case, a famous problem is usually one that has a cash prize associated with its solution), knowledge of such advances is only found by those specifically seeking it. Last week, however, there an exception to this general rule was made for a new result concerning the Rubik’s cube.The conclusion, reached by an international team of mathematicians, is that the Rubik’s cube can always be solved in 20 moves or less, and that, moreover, their result is in some sense the best possible. This result was featured on the front page of Yahoo News for a couple of days, which I found surprising.

What do I mean . . . → Read More: Math of the Rubik’s Cube

Protractors for Some, Miniature American Flags for Others!

Last weekend I went to the Pasadena Flea Market, self-described as “one of the most famous markets in the world.” I had not anticipated on finding anything math related, and although I did stumble across an old adding machine, the most surprising find was what greeted me at the door. R.G. Canning produces the flea market every month, but I have no idea why they were giving away protractors. There’s furniture for sale, but I would think rulers would be the preferred measuring device when browsing through such items. Perhaps instead they thought that August would be a good month to get rid of a surplus of protractors, with back to school around the corner? Whatever the case, kudos to R.G. Canning attractions for their protractor giveaway bonanza.

Of course, I’m not sure how many protractors were actually taken. Unfortunately, most people didn’t seem interested. Their loss, I suppose.

. . . → Read More: Protractors for Some, Miniature American Flags for Others!

Race to Where?

Late last month there was apparently a bit of a ruckus over whether or not California should adopt new national education standards as part of a competition among the states dubbed “Race to the Top.”

Although Race to the Top (the brain child of education secretary Arne Duncan) hasn’t received much media attention, it was one of the many byproducts of last year’s economic stimulus act. Recently, though, it’s been the subject of more discussion – a relatively detailed article on the program was published over the weekend, for example.

For Californians (and residents of other states, I’m sure), participation in Race to the Top has been met with some controversy. The latest debate, as I mentioned above, has been about education standards. Race to the Top comes with its own set of national education standards, and adopting those standards helps a state’s odds of winning some federal education funding. . . . → Read More: Race to Where?