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Optimal Base Running

Now that the World Series is upon is, I thought I might take a moment to discuss the latest results in the field of optimal base running. On the face of it, this may seem like a non-issue; after all, as any decent student of geometry will tell you, the shortest distance between any two plates is a straight line.

In a game of baseball, however, it’s more important to minimize time, not distance. Given this, running a path that consists of four straight lines connecting each base is not optimal, because the runner must slow down to make the sharp turns at each base. Of course, baseball players already know this, which is why they often swing out in their path before crossing first when they are confident that they can reach second or more. But still, the question remains: are these trajectories optimal?

According to a trio of . . . → Read More: Optimal Base Running

RIP Benoît Mandelbrot

It has already made the internet rounds, but it seems appropriate, given his popular appeal, to remark on the passing of mathematician Benoît Mandelbrot. Mandelbrot, perhaps best well known for coining the term fractal (and for his related popular work on the subject), died last week at the age of 85.

Mandelbrot’s popularization of fractal geometry garnered him quite a bit of attention beginning in the 1980′s. There is even a fractal named after him, the so-called “Mandelbrot set,” which, like many fractals, is simple to generate, but looks complicated.

It’s no coincidence that popularity in fractals rose in step with advancing computer technology. Without computers to perform the tedious calculations necessary for fractal generation (and by extension, to output all the pretty pictures), the field received much less attention. Contrary to popular belief, though, Mandelbrot was not the first to consider these ideas – indeed, many properties of fractal . . . → Read More: RIP Benoît Mandelbrot

Math Goes Trick Or Treating Yet Again

Another year, another night of dressing in costumes on a quest for candy and/or debauchery. In previous years, I’ve tried to encourage mathematically influenced Halloween costumes (see here and here), and so if for no other reason than the sake of consistency, this year will be no different. Here are some new ideas for 2010:

1. The Count

This costume idea was suggested to me in the comments section of last year’s list. Known and loved by children and adults alike, this costume would give the wearer ample opportunity to teach children about the wonders of math. If you’re one of those people who give out pennies or toothbrushes, though, I would caution you against this costume decision, since the combination of a lack of candy and an insistence on discussing mathematics may dramatically increase the likelihood of you being at the receiving end of a “trick.”

. . . → Read More: Math Goes Trick Or Treating Yet Again