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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

How Hard Are Computer Games?

Every week, on days just like today, millions of Americans are afflicted by the debilitating condition known as The Mondays. Urban Dictionary defines The Mondays as follows:

A day generally created for the purpose of making people wish they were someone else. The day you realize you have 4 days of work ahead of you and that they won’t be going by fast at all. Symptoms generally include feeling like crap, wishing you were dead, or not showing up for work in general.

For sufferers, The Mondays can be quite painful. However, there are remedies that can alleviate some of these symptoms. For one, individuals can spend their day playing games on the internet, in an attempt to push their troubles into the darkest recesses of their minds. Minesweeper is a popular choice, as is Tetris, as any fan of Office Space knows (in fact, I credit this film with . . . → Read More: How Hard Are Computer Games?

Math Gets Around: Finding a Job and Keeping Your Soul

Hello friends. My apologies for not writing over the past couple of weeks, but I was away at a conference. Being at math conference has its pluses and minuses (pun intended), but one nice thing about being surrounded by other mathematically inclined individuals is that you never have to explain what it is mathematicians do. You may talk a great deal about your research specifically, but everyone understands what it is to do mathematics.

In general, however, math jobs don’t get much buzz, aside from academic jobs and the oft-mired quants who have received varying degrees of blame for the recent recession. That’s why I’d like to highlight this recent post from the Scientific American blog, which discusses quantitative non-academic job opportunities at start-ups that have nothing to do with finance.

At first glance, it might seem like these companies have nothing to do with one another. Kickstarter aims . . . → Read More: Math Gets Around: Finding a Job and Keeping Your Soul

Finding Love with a Modified Drake’s Equation

Some time ago, I wrote an article on the optimal way to select a mate, assuming you know how many eligible partners exist, and that once you’ve dated someone, you can’t go back and date them again (sorry, Drew Barrymore and that dude from the Apple commercials). This is less romantically known as the secretary problem. Let me briefly recall the problem and its solution: suppose you have n candidates, from which you want to pick the best one. This applies to a variety of situations, from hiring a secretary to finding a girlfriend to apartment hunting. In either case, the outcome is the same: you should look at roughly the first n/e of them (yes, that e), and then select the first one after those n/e which is better than all that you have seen so far. While this strategy won’t guarantee you get the best choice, it . . . → Read More: Finding Love with a Modified Drake’s Equation

Math Gets Around: Breakfast

I admire the food blog Serious Eats because, as we’ve seen before, it’s not afraid to get a little mathematical. This month they have upped the ante with a post on the delicious object now known as the Mobius strip bagel.

Named for the classical geometric object of the same name, the Mobius strip bagel (and its cousin, the Mobius strip donut) give an elegant mathematical spin on ordinary edibles. In addition to the aesthetic value, the Mobius strip bagel also has the advantage of added surface area, meaning that one can pile on even more cream cheese before stuffing one’s face.

Mathematician George Hart has step-by-step instructions for the transformation from torus to Mobius strip here. I have yet to try this technique myself, but I can think of no better way to celebrate the holidays than by transforming breakfast food into mathematically themed breakfast food. . . . → Read More: Math Gets Around: Breakfast

Comic (but not Comical) Mathematics

A few months ago, my girlfriend and I were persuaded to subscribe to the LA Times by a very nice man at a nearby Ralph’s store who offered us $20 in groceries for the exchange. “Just try it out,” he insisted, “because you can always cancel and we’ll simply pro-rate the cost based on how long you were a subscriber.” Fantastic, we thought. Given the current uncertainty surrounding the future of the newspaper industry, subscribing made us feel like responsible citizens – like giving blood, but with fewer personal questions beforehand.

Unfortunately, once the newspaper began to arrive, we had to face the fact that we never read it. I think I skimmed through it a couple days that first week, but after that the papers would go from our doorstep to the recycling bin. Try as we might, we simply couldn’t fit a morning newspaper routine into our lifestyle. . . . → Read More: Comic (but not Comical) Mathematics

Math Gets Around: Preventing the Zombie Apocalypse

If pop culture has taught us anything, it is that in the event of a zombie outbreak, we are royally screwed. When faced with an onslaught of classical zombies (of the type first made famous by Romero’s 1968 film Night of the Living Dead), films have shown again and again that we are no match for hordes of cannibalistic undead. With the more recent interpretation of zombies that are faster and smarter, our hopes for survival have diminished even further.

Despite overwhelming odds, however, it is not in our nature to simply roll over in the face of adversity. While the body count is usually high in films chronicling the eventual war between the living and the dead, in most cases there are a few who survive to continue the fight after the credits roll. But how realistic is this depiction? How prepared are we to . . . → Read More: Math Gets Around: Preventing the Zombie Apocalypse

Math Gets Around: On Birthdays and Trading Cards

Today marks the 1 year anniversary of Math Goes Pop! I started on somewhat of a whim after reading an article about compulsory Algebra I education for all California 8th graders (although what with our finances down the toilet, who knows what the current status is here). When I started writing I wasn’t sure there was enough content out there to sustain a blog with this one’s focus. Once I started digging, though, I found that the rabbit hole went quite deep, and so here I am a year later with plenty left to talk about (the recent obsession with pointless math holidays certainly has helped with my output). Given the date, it seems fitting to begin by mentioning the birthday problem. This is a standard problem given in any introductory probability course, but many people find the result counter intuitive at first.

The birthday problem asks a simple question: . . . → Read More: Math Gets Around: On Birthdays and Trading Cards