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It’s Not Complicated. Or is it?

Though I am hardly AT&T’s biggest fan, I can’t help but be charmed by their “It’s Not Complicated” ad campaign. Each ad features a dapper looking man asking softball questions to a group of young children. Though the ads are meant to elicit mostly meaningless platitudes that AT&T then spins as selling points (e.g. “Faster is Better”), the children’s answers and the gentleman’s reactions make the ad-watching experience just a little bit more bearable.

In one of the campaign’s more recent ads, however, I was disappointed to see a teachable moment go to waste. I suppose this is what happens when you have a cell phone company spokesman in a room full of children instead of an actual teacher. (Though to be fair, the math involved isn’t really suitable for elementary school.)

Here’s the ad:

In . . . → Read More: It’s Not Complicated. Or is it?

Should You Try to Escape the Friend Zone?

Last week I tried to provide a bit of dating advice through an exploration of the half your age plus seven rule. This week, I’d like to continue on this theme by analyzing what you should do if you find yourself trapped in the friend zone.

For those of you not hip to the lingo, the friend zone is a sort of platonic purgatory people find themselves in when they have unrequited feelings for a close friend. It is a commonly held belief that one winds up in the friend zone by waiting too long to make a move, and though the friend zone is typically thought of as a place where men wind up, women can easily find themselves there too. Here‘s a link to Joey explaining the concept to Ross on an episode of Friends (sorry, embedding for the video has been disabled). For a satirical look at . . . → Read More: Should You Try to Escape the Friend Zone?

How Powerful is the Pyramid?

My love of NBC comedies has, by now, been well established. Today I’d like to return to The Office, for although Steve Carrell’s absence may have hurt the ratings, it certainly has not diminished the potential for the show to inspire some mathematical thinking.

If you have not been watching recently, this season marked the debut of the company’s first ever tablet computer, dubbed the Pyramid. The Pyramid made its first appearance early in the season (and was also featured in on Wired), and has since been joined by a smartphone counterpart known as the Arrowhead. Here’s an image of Dwight touting the new tablet.

If you live in the States, you can also view the clip from which this image was taken:

On the face of it, the tablet is ridiculous (this fact is eventually sort of addressed later . . . → Read More: How Powerful is the Pyramid?

And the Award for Best Voting System Goes to…

Last year, the Center for Election Science wrote up a quick blog post on the Oscars to motivate a discussion of voting reform. Since 2009, the Oscars have used Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) to decide the winner of the prestigious Best Picture award, but there is growing backlash against this voting system because of a number of strange properties it possesses. For example, the winner of an IRV election may not be the most favored candidate among the voters; for another strange example, it can sometimes be to your advantage to rank your preferred candidate last instead of first. Here’s a video explaining some of these weird features:

Instead of using IRV, a strong argument could be made for using Score voting (also known as Range voting). I’ve discussed these voting systems before (see here for a discussion of the 2010 Oakland mayoral race, for example), so . . . → Read More: And the Award for Best Voting System Goes to…

Leap Day Bonus Post

Hello gentle reader. This week is a bit hectic for me, so I don’t have time for a proper update. But what with it being Leap Day and all, I thought it only appropriate to share some kind of gift with you.

If you have the time, below is an excellent documentary from the 90′s on Fermat’s Last Theorem and Andrew Wiles, the man who set his sights on proving it. It’s a great documentary, and may have somewhat blown my mind when I first saw it as a high school student. So take some time out from your Leap Day (it is a bonus block of 24 hours, after all) and check it out!

An Introduction to Pumpkin Chunkin’

In a recent episode of ABC’s Modern Family, Cameron and Mitchell (the show’s unambiguously gay duo) are with some friends talking about Thanksgiving when Cameron decides to tell a story from his youth which, in his opinion, is quite compelling. Mitchell knows better, but doesn’t have the heart to tell him that this particular story suffers from some basic structural flaws. As Mitchell puts it, the story can be summarized as follows: “Once Cam and his friends tried to slingshot a pumpkin across a football field. Three seconds. That’s all you need to tell that story.” Readers in the U.S. can see the full clip below:

Needless to say, Cameron’s version of the story is much more embellished. In his rendition, their experiment was a success; as he puts it, the pumpkin flew across the field, “goal post to goal post.”

When I first heard him say . . . → Read More: An Introduction to Pumpkin Chunkin’

A Mathematics Community

Whether knowingly or not, NBC Thursday night comedies have made occasional dalliances with mathematics. For example, you can see here for a mathematical discussion inspired by The Office, and here for one inspired by Parks and Recreation.

Today I would like to add to this esteemed list the show Community, now in its third season on NBC’s Thursday block. As the title indicates, the show centers around a group of friends who are students at the fictional Greendale Community College (how this formula will pan out if the show lasts more than four seasons is uncertain).

In a recent episode (titled Competitive Ecology), the gang divides themselves up into pairs of lab partners for Biology class, but they quickly discover their pairings are less than ideal – especially since, with an odd number in the central crew, one member must pair up with someone who is not in their clique. . . . → Read More: A Mathematics Community

Four Weddings and Some Statistics

When my fiancee was in the midst of the wedding planning, part of her research (or perhaps it was simply a guilty pleasure) involved watching wedding shows on basic cable. For those of you who have not had the pleasure, between stations like WE tv and TLC, there are no fewer than nine different wedding-themed reality shows airing weekly. Many of them are appealing in a rubbernecking sort of way; much like a car crash, the spectacle is too ridiculous to turn away from (I’m looking at you, My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding).

Of all of these shows, though, the one that most piques my mathematical interest is TLC’s Four Weddings. Based on a British show with the same name, the premise is as follows: four brides-to-be, unknown to one another, meet and attend each others’ weddings. When one bride gets married, the other three score various . . . → Read More: Four Weddings and Some Statistics