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Wedding Planning and the Ménage Problem

Last month I wrote a wedding-themed post on some statistics behind the show Four Weddings. Now, fully refreshed from my own two week honeymoon, I would like to take some time to discuss some other areas of intersection between weddings and mathematics.

One of the things I most looked forward to during the planning of our wedding was the determination of the seating chart. Searching for an optimal arrangement given peoples’ preferences to sit next to their friends and away from their enemies was a fun little challenge. In the end, though, perhaps I made things too easy on myself. Although I assigned people to specific tables, I did not assign seats within the tables themselves. Instead, people were free to sit however they chose once they found their table.

An example of our seating. Hat tip to Dave Gilbert for the shot!

Were I truly a glutton for . . . → Read More: Wedding Planning and the Ménage Problem

Parks and Recreation(al Mathematics)

Continuing last week’s trend of discussing mathematics in the context of NBC comedy, today I’d like to move from The Office to Parks and Recreation. More specifically, I’d like to discuss local government wunderkind/aspiring club owner Tom Haverford, whose unique charm I cherish almost as much as Ron Swanson‘s mustache.

What a stud.

In a recent episode, Tom Haverford waxed poetic on the slang he has invented to describe different types of food. A clip is currently on YouTube (though I don’t know how long it will stay).

Here’s a list of the slang Tom uses:

desserts = ‘serts, entrees = tre-tre’s, sandwiches = sammies, sandoozles, or adamsandlers, cakes = big ole’ cookies, noodles = long-ass rice, fried chicken = fry-fry chicky-chick, chicken parm = chicky-chicky parm-parm, chicken cacciatore = chicky catch, eggs = pre-birds or future birds, root beer = super . . . → Read More: Parks and Recreation(al Mathematics)

Addendum to Math Gets Around: The Humanities

Last week we discussed an example of when a mathematical background might prove useful even in the least quantitative of liberal arts courses. More specifically, we asked the question: if a teacher gives you a list of N questions, tells you that M will be on an exam, and you must answer K of the questions given on the exam, what’s the minimum number of questions you should prepare to guarantee that you will be able to answer K of the questions on the exam? (Answer: N + K – M.) We also looked at the question probabilistically – namely, we saw that of the questions appearing on the exam, the number that you’ve prepared for follows a hypergeometric distribution.

As a concrete example I considered the case N = 6, M = 5, K = 3 – in this case, the minimum number of questions you should prepare to . . . → Read More: Addendum to Math Gets Around: The Humanities

Top Chef Mathematics

If you like food, Washington DC, hubris, or reality television, then chances are you are a fan of Bravo’s cooking competition Top Chef. Every year the show takes a group of aspiring chefs, places them in a house in a new city, and throws weekly challenges their way. Following the Survivor template, every week one chef is voted off, and at the end someone is crowned Top Chef (and given a large check). This season, the action takes place in our nation’s capitol.

Now, a show such as this might seem to have very little to do with mathematics. But look, and ye shall find. In the second episode of this past season, the chefs were paired up for one of the challenges. There were 16 chefs at the time, combining to make 8 pairs. The pairing was determined by drawing knives: 16 knives were . . . → Read More: Top Chef Mathematics