Latest tweets

  • Loading tweets...

Pi(e) Mathematics

Gentle reader, I apologize for the dearth of updates recently. But with a new month comes new opportunity for mathematical investigation, so let’s dive right in!

In keeping with my summertime theme of mathematics and food (see e.g. here and here), I’d like to share with you a story about a recent dinner I shared with my better half. After a day spent apartment hunting, we decided to treat ourselves to a dinner out.

Everything we learned about treating ourselves we learned from Parks and Recreation.

In keeping with the theme of treating ourselves, we ordered two desserts at the end of the night, and both looked quite delicious. We agreed to each eat half of one dessert and then trade for the second half. One was in the general pie family of desserts.

Given a slice of pie, the most . . . → Read More: Pi(e) Mathematics

Hot Dog Mathematics (a.k.a. Hot Dog! Mathematics!) Part 2

Last week we talked about hot dogs. Though I spent most of my time discussing how the dog’s surface area changes if it is cut lengthwise (also known as a butterfly cut), my original inspiration came from much more sophisticated wiener slicing. Around the fourth of July, the following video went viral. Take a look; it’s hard not to see the merits of this suggested technique for cooking hot dogs.

As the curly fry is to the regular fry, so too is the spiral cut dog to the regular dog. Indeed, it’s hard to find a reason why one should not choose a spiral cut dog over a regular dog, if given the choice. But from a mathematical standpoint, as with the butterfly cut discussed last time, arguably the most interesting feature of the spiral cut hot dog is the increased surface area. Unlike the butterfly cut . . . → Read More: Hot Dog Mathematics (a.k.a. Hot Dog! Mathematics!) Part 2

Hot Dog Mathematics (a.k.a. Hot Dog! Mathematics!) Part 1

For many people, summer wouldn’t be summer without a good old fashioned cookout. And though the Fourth of July has passed, there are many warm days and late evening sunsets still ahead.

With the season of grilling comes the season of grilling advice. Not all of it is consistent – some places tell you to only flip your burgers only once, while others tell you to flip them as often as you like. Trying to sort through so many conflicting words of wisdom can certainly be confusing, especially for an inexperienced grill operator. But no matter what philosophy you subscribe to, one piece of advice seems fairly consistent: the greater the surface area of the object you’re cooking, the better off you’ll be. Increased surface area gives the meat more room to react to the heat, and increases the area that undergoes the Maillard reaction; in other words, more surface . . . → Read More: Hot Dog Mathematics (a.k.a. Hot Dog! Mathematics!) Part 1

Two Cups of Mathematics

With the holidays in full force, many of you are no doubt spending time in the kitchen; those of you who aren’t are nevertheless reaping the benefits provided by those who are. ‘Tis the season of baked goods, and if you are lucky enough to have a family member who knows how to bake, then for the month of December you will eat like a king.

This dude knows a thing or two about baked goods.

For my money, the best part of the baking process (aside from the delicious final act) is the careful and precise initial measurement of the ingredients. Keeping an accurate account of the relative proportions of each piece of the recipe is a hallmark of baking, and reflects the nature of baking itself: one part art, one part science. Unlike some other culinary arts, the measurements really do matter. Screw up these proportions and . . . → Read More: Two Cups of Mathematics

Math of Macarons

A few weeks ago, I was downtown with the missus when we stumbled upon the Bottega Louie Restaurant and Gourmet Market. The window display was enticing, so we went inside and discovered, among other things, a bakery. This one’s focus was the macaron, one of many sweets aiming to topple the cupcake as the trendiest dessert, and so for a town obsessed with the current trends, it is no surprise that Los Angeles is home to several similarly specialized patisseries.

Though smaller than the average cupcake, the macaron is also more labor-intensive, and is therefore frequently on the more expensive end of the confectionery spectrum. The macarons at Bottega Louie, for example, will run you $1.75 each.

One of many delightful flavors

If you need a sweet fix, though, a single macaron may not be enough. Anticipating such a first-world problem, Bottega Louie also offers boxes of macarons for . . . → Read More: Math of Macarons

Second Annual Tau Day: Interview and Ideas!

Last year marked the dawn of a new era in mathematical holidays. Spearheaded by Dr. Michael Hartl, Tau Day (celebrated today, June 28th) is an attempt to draw awareness to what he sees as a fundamental error in the definition of the beloved circle constant . In particular, he (and others) argue that the more natural choice of the circle constant should be , which he affectionately dubs . I outlined the reasons for this in a post last year, though if you have the time, I highly encourage you to read Hartl’s Tau Manifesto.

This year, I thought it would be nice to talk with Dr. Hartl in more detail about his inspirations for Tau Day, and where he envisions it in the future. He was gracious enough to agree to a brief interview, which I humbly submit to you here.


Q: When did you first . . . → Read More: Second Annual Tau Day: Interview and Ideas!

Do Not Trust the Meat Mathematics Institute

Friends, as many of you may have noticed, Burger King has begun a promotion for its BK Stacker line of cheeseburgers. The ad focuses on Burger King’s Meat Mathematics Institute, where mathematicians from around the world gather to find ways to bring consumers a maximum amount of meat flavor for a minimum cost. Sadly, as of this writing, the ad is not available online, although this related video has made an appearance on YouTube.

While the institute seems like a delightful place to work, I regret to inform you that the research coming out of the institute is as bogus as the existence of the institute itself. The claimed solution to the problem of maximizing meat (or meat flavor, depending on your source) while minimizing cost is contained in the 3 BK Stackers pictured here (image courtesy of foodbeast):

As you can see, the Stacker family of . . . → Read More: Do Not Trust the Meat Mathematics Institute

Would You Like Math With That?

Last week, my friend Jon forwarded me this article posted on CNN’s Eatocracy blog. In it, writer Laurie Segall describes the number of possible burger combinations at a restaurant in New York City called 4food. Using some elementary combinatorics and the brain power of her statistician husband, together they calculated that the number of possible burgers one could order at 4food is 1,598,238,720. This is assuming that one follows the rules of the restaurant; if you want the option of including all 12 condiments on your burger, rather than sticking to the suggested limit of 0-3, and similarly for the cheese options, the number of combinations jumps to 96,639,764,160 (roughly a 60-fold increase).

This reminded me of a similar calculation I had been meaning to do for the chain of hamburger restaurants called The Counter. Founded in Los Angeles in 2003, The Counter has since branched out across the country, . . . → Read More: Would You Like Math With That?