Mathalicious Post: Most Expensive. Collectibles. Ever.

Hey y’all.  My most recent post on the Mathalicious blog has been live for a while, but in case you missed it, I’d encourage you to go check it out!  Consider it a Simpsons themed cautionary tale for collectors on a budget.  Here’s a sample:

One of the more recent trends in the world of Simpsons memorabilia is the advent of the Mini-Figure collections, produced by Kidrobot.  Each series (there have been two so far) consists of around 25 small Simpsons figures, each with his or her own accessories.  The figures cost around \$10 each (\$9.95, to be precise), so an avid collector would need to spend something like \$250 to complete each of the two collections, right?

Well, not quite.  When you buy one of these figures, you have no idea which one you’ll get, because the box containing the figure doesn’t indicate what’s inside.  All you know are the probabilities for each figure, . . . → Read More: Mathalicious Post: Most Expensive. Collectibles. Ever.

Mathalicious Post: Doubling Down

My latest entry on the Mathalicious blog riffs on the strategy of doubling down, using the film Swingers as a jumping off point.  Here’s a preview:

“You always double down on 11, baby.”  Sage advice from Vince Vaughn’s character in the 1996 film Swingers.  At one point in the film, Trent (played by Vaughn) and Mike (played by Jon Favreau) make an impromptu trip to Las Vegas, and Mike ends up completely out of his depths at a high-stakes blackjack table…Mike receives a six and a five, giving him a total of eleven.  Trent urges him to double down, and indeed, this seems like good advice.  After all, in a deck of 52 cards, 16 of them have a value of 10 – that’s over 30%!  Always doubling down on eleven is also consistent with the basic blackjack strategy popularized by Edward O. Thorp in his book Beat the Dealer.  From a mathematical standpoint, Trent . . . → Read More: Mathalicious Post: Doubling Down

Mathalicious Post: To Foul Or Not To Foul

Greetings, mathletes. As some of you know, I’ve recently joined the crew of good folks at Mathalicious. Consequently, the blog work here is in a bit of a transition, but don’t worry! I will still be around, though the focus may shift somewhat.

How Math Goes Pop! will be changing is the subject for another post. One thing’s for sure, though: I’ll be contributing to the Mathalicious blog regularly. My first post, on whether or not it makes sense to foul the opposing team at the buzzer in a close basketball game, went live last week. Here’s a small sample:

A three point shot by Sundiata Gaines turned a two-point loss for the Jazz into a one-point win. No doubt that’s a tough defeat for Cavs fans and players alike, but in such a situation, there’s really nothing the defense could’ve done to change the outcome.

Or is . . . → Read More: Mathalicious Post: To Foul Or Not To Foul

The Probability Games

Though we are still a few months away from the start of the summer blockbuster season, the scuttlebutt is that The Hunger Games, opening this weekend, is expected to do huge business (and by huge, I mean upwards of \$100 million).  Based on the 2008 Suzanne Collins book of the same name, this property is the hottest new thing in the realm of young adult fiction, and in this post-Harry Potter, nearly-post-Twilight era of cinema history, the timing could not be better for movie executives.  The book is the first of a trilogy, so whether you like it or not, these films will be with us for the next few years.

Cover image for the book.

If you have not read the book, or have no idea what I’m talking about in general, a trailer for the film can be found here (sorry, embedding has been disabled for the video).  The story takes place . . . → Read More: The Probability Games

Interview Roulette

Recently I started reading How Would You Move Mount Fuji?, a 2003 book written by William Poundstone on the history and popularization of the puzzle-focused job interview.  The presence of logic puzzles or seemingly unanswerable questions was once a staple of many job interviews in Silicon Valley, and while the book is much more than just a laundry list of good puzzles, it’s hard to write about puzzles without giving some juicy examples.

Today I’d like to talk about one of the earliest puzzles discussed in the books, and show how one can pretty quickly poke and prod this brain teaser until it becomes a different beast entirely.  Here it is, with wording taken from the book:

“Let’s play a game of Russian roulette,” begins one interview stunt that is going the rounds at Wall Street investment banks.  ”You are tied to your chair and can’t get up.  Here’s a gun.  Here’s the . . . → Read More: Interview Roulette

Playoff Probabilities

Continuing with last week’s theme, and since we are in the midst of playoffs, I’d like to take a moment now to discuss another link between baseball and mathematics.  This link is particularly timely since the scuttlebutt on the internet suggests that next year the playoff rules for baseball will be changed: the number of teams competing for the World Series will increase from 8 to 10, and because of that, another round of playoff games will be introduced.

Currently, the playoffs consist of three rounds.  The first round is the Division Series, in which eight teams compete in a best-of-five match-up (equivalently, a first-to-three match-up, i.e. the first team to win three games wins the series).  The second and third rounds, better known as the Championship Series and World Series, are composed of four and two teams, respectively, but are both best-of-seven (equivalently, first-to-four).  Because of these three rounds of several . . . → Read More: Playoff Probabilities

Scoreboard Stats

A couple of weeks ago I noticed this article on the Yahoo Sports page, which highlighted a statistically rare event that occurred in the American League on Sunday, May 8th.  On that day, 7 baseball games were played on the AL schedule, and in all of those games one team scored exactly 5 runs.  The post then links to this article from the AP, which gives this rare event the following context:

It was the first time in 18 years that such a quirky thing happened with a full schedule. On Aug. 10, 1993, all seven NL games featured one team scoring precisely two runs, STATS LLC said.

The last time it occurred with five or more runs was July 20, 1955, when all four AL games had at least one team score exactly six, STATS LLC said.

When I read this article, some questions immediately came to mind: exactly how rare is it . . . → Read More: Scoreboard Stats

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,