Category Archives: mathematics

One number to rule them all: -1/12

by Matthew Cobb According to Douglas Adams, Earth was created as a kind of super-computer to find the question to which the answer was 42, the secret of life, the universe and everything. The Earth was, of course, destroyed by the Vogons just before the programme was due to come up with an answer (or […]

Two math posers

Poser #1: Yesterday a colleague from another school asked me how to test whether hummingbirds would visit two related species of flowers nonrandomly, that is, whether the flowers were reproductively isolated because the hummingbird (which pollinates as it sips nectar) prefers one over the other. He proposed an experiment in which he would put two […]

We can haz maths?

This was in a tweet from Ed Yong, so I assume it’s kosher.

Statisticians 51, Pundits 0

by Greg Mayer As both an undergraduate and graduate student, I was fortunate to be taught statistics by some of the best statistical minds in biology: Robert Sokal and Jim Rohlf at Stony Brook, and Dick Lewontin at Harvard. All three have influenced biostatistics enormously, not just through their many students, but also through writing […]

Flash Anzan: an amazing new number game

The Guardian‘s science section reports on a new numbers game, “Flash Anzan.” It’s based on the Japanese abacus, or soroban, which a million Japanese kids learn to use every year.  The game requires mental representations of an abacus; the game, according to author Alex Bellos, goes like this: . . . 15 numbers are flashed […]

Π in the sky!

Now this is conceptual art that I like.  On Sept. 12, 5 planes printed out the first 1,000 digits of pi using skywriting and digital presentation.  The printing stretched over a 100-mile path (see below) encircling San Francisco Bay. According to Open Culture, “. . . the Pi project was the brainchild of ISHKY, an eclectic […]

Rosenhouse on math jargon

Taking as his starting point my “rant” about the impenetrability of scientific papers in mathematics, Jason Rosenhouse has written a nice essay on what it’s like to be a mathematician who has to try to make sense of the papers of other mathematicians. It turns out that those papers are often as impenetrable to math […]


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