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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

The Calculus Diaries

As the holiday season begins, I recently felt compelled to read through a gift I received over the holidays last year, a book called The Calculus Diaries. Written by English major Jennifer Oullette, who, by her own admission, had to overcome a not uncommon fear mathematics to write it, the book attempts to do what any reasonable Calculus course ought to do, but in front of a larger audience: convince the reader of the universal applicability and beauty of the subject.

Unlike most Calculus textbooks, however, Oullette’s book has an extra helping of sympathy for its audience. Oullette’s goal is not necessarily to make her readers expert mathematics students; instead, she focuses on unifying seemingly disparate types of problems under the umbrella of Calculus. Included amongst these examples are applications of Calculus to the equations of motion, thermodynamics, surfing, and the spread of disease. The wheel is not being reinvented . . . → Read More: The Calculus Diaries

RIP Mr. Escalante

I’d just like to take a moment to remember Jaime Escalante, who died today at the age of 79. I’ve talked about this East LA math teacher whose antics were given a national stage in the film Stand and Deliver before, and out of all the films I’ve seen that try to do justice to mathematics, this one does the best job. So thanks again, Kimo, for reminding us that skill in mathematics, just as with anthing else worth doing, comes from hard work and dedication. Although, I’m sure that a cool hat certainly helps.

Mathematical badass.

Math in the Movies: District 9

In continuing with the theme of discussing movies before I see them, I’d like to say a few words about the upcoming film District 9. You can see the trailer below, if you haven’t heard of it (although if you live in LA it’s difficult to plead ignorance, since the viral marketing has been on full blast all summer).

It’s natural to ask what a film about aliens living in South African refugee camps has to do with mathematics. Aside from the obvious (no doubt any intergalactic species must have a good working knowledge of mathematics), I’d like to point you to an aspect of the marketing campaign for the film that’s featured on the official website. If you look in the lower right, you will see a link to a site that immediately aroused my interest: Maths From Outer Space. The purpose of this website is best summarized . . . → Read More: Math in the Movies: District 9

Restructuring the Math Pyramid?

A friend recently shared with me the following video from TED (see below). In it, mathematician (or, in this case, mathemagician) Arthur Benjamin gives a brief argument for eliminating calculus as the top of the “mathematical pyramid” in high school education, and replacing it probability and statistics. The main reason for this shift is that unless you are planning to have a career in a technical field, it’s unlikely you’ll find a use for calculus in your everyday life, but an understanding of statistics can benefit you no matter what you do. For example, it can help you to build an intuition about day to day decision making when risk and uncertainty are involved. Here’s the video (it’s short, only a couple of minutes):

A noble goal, to be sure, and it’s certainly a solution that wouldn’t cost a whole lot. There is an argument to be made for such . . . → Read More: Restructuring the Math Pyramid?