Car Talk Mathematics

Happy 2012! I hope you all has a restful and calorie-filled holiday. For my part, the holidays typically involve a fair amount of driving, and ergo, a fair amount of listening to podcasts. To that end, I’d like to ease into a new year of mathematics by considering a simple puzzle, one which was featured recently on NPR’s Car Talk. If you are not fortunate enough to have listened to this show, it centers on two brothers from Cambridge, Massachusetts, affectionately known as Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers (though their real names are Tom and Ray Magliozzi). Each week, in between a fair amount of good-natured banter, the brothers field a variety of automotive questions from callers nationwide.

Even XKCD is on the Car Talk bandwagon! (Click the image to go to the source)

Most significant to our present discussion, however, is Car Talk’s weekly diversion known as . . . → Read More: Car Talk Mathematics

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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

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Dunder Math-lin

This week, Steve Carell uttered what may well be his last “That’s what she said” as Michael Scott, boss extraordinaire on the US version of The Office. Though the show will go on, Michael Scott has (spoiler alert) left Pennsylvania for Colorado and the love of his life. In preparation for this departure, the show has spent the last several episodes easing the audience through the transition.

From a mathematical standpoint, though, there are a couple of inconsistencies. Michael makes no secret of the fact that he has worked for the company for 19 years. His employees take this loyalty to heart, and in Michael Scott’s penultimate episode, “Michael’s Last Dundies,” they surprise their boss with a song parody of the Rent song “Seasons of Love,” which pays homage to such a long period of service. Below is the relevant clip – if you don’t have access to Hulu, you . . . → Read More: Dunder Math-lin

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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!)

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Math in the News(paper)

Last year, Professor Steven Strogatz of Cornell University wrote a series of op-eds for the New York Times that discussed the presence of mathematics in unlikely places. I discussed one of these columns here. Now, either those articles were well-received, or Professor Strogatz is well-connected, because this year he’s back in the Times with a much more ambitious series of articles. This time around, Strogatz is attempting to “[write] about the elements of mathematics, from preschool to grad school, for anyone out there who’d like to have a second chance at the subject.”

Preschool to grad school is a significant amount of ground to cover, but thus far Strogatz has used his articles to assault this goal with gusto. To date, he has tackled counting, patterns in addition, negative numbers, division, and basic high school algebra. This doesn’t really do justice to his content, though. Along the way he . . . → Read More: Math in the News(paper)

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A Mathematical New Years Game

First, let me begin by wishing a happy 2010 to you all. If you celebrate the holidays the way I do, then the past few weeks have seen you spending time with friends and family. And if you really celebrate the holidays the way I do, then some of that time with friends and family will have been spent with mathematical puzzles.

Very recently I was with a group of friends, discussing all that would come to pass in this new year. One friend, whose anonymity I will preserve by referring to him only as “Smith,” was in the enviable position of being the only one among us whose age divided the current year (I won’t embarrass him by revealing his age, but given that it’s a divisor of 2010, this certainly restricts the possibilities). Once we realized this, it became natural to ask how common an occurrence this should . . . → Read More: A Mathematical New Years Game

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Decimal Point Fail, Ctd

I apologize for my silence over the past few weeks – I have been out of the country learning math and eating pancakes. While I get back into the swing of things, I’ve got a couple of points to mention that relate to earlier posts regarding our collective inability to correctly use the decimal point.

The first is a picture from a flyer advertising maid service. Here’s the ad (sent in to me by a dedicated foot soldier in the army that is my readership, a.k.a. my mother):

Names and phone numbers have been cropped out to protect the innocent. But in a case such as this, are there really any innocents? Although we’ve seen decimal point errors on signs before, this one is arguably the most egregious of all. Presumably the intended price is $100 – if that’s the case, then not only is the decimal point . . . → Read More: Decimal Point Fail, Ctd

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The Cheapest Salad Bar in the World

Last week, I went to a number theory conference in Utah. The conference was very good, and I learned quite a lot, which I suppose is the goal of any such conference. The location of the conference itself was also quite nice – it was close to the mountains, a lake, and the home of Blendtec, famous for their “Will it Blend” series of videos.

As you might expect, most of what I learned on this conference pertained to number theory. However, there were lessons outside of this sphere of knowledge as well. The one lesson I will share with you is best encapsulated in this picture:

That’s right – Ghiradelli now makes salad.

It was my friend Jack who pointed out the placement of the decimal point. Apparently the people who work in cafeterias in Utah are the same people who work at Verizon call centers. If you ever . . . → Read More: The Cheapest Salad Bar in the World

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