Compass Constructions Made Easy

First up, an easy one: draw a circle!

circle 1circle 2circle 3circle 4circle 5

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A Borrowed Joke (and 15 other math cartoons)

The Fence Post Error

2017.12.1 fencepost problem

I drew this one at the request of Prof. Jim Propp, who writes the excellent Mathematical Enchantments and whose November essay Impaled on a Fencepost explored the kind of off-by-one errors that I make at least 17 times per day. (Or is it 18?)

Greetings from Heisenberg!

2017.12.4 postcard from heisenberg

Tourist bureau of Würzburg, Germany: please feel free to sell these. Continue reading

Things to Know About the Year 2018

Whatever your grievances against 2016 as a year, it was a stellar number. Like a picnic with milkshakes and beer, this integer was fun for the whole family.

Just look at these equations:

1 new year

After this crowd-pleaser came 2017, a prime year, which engendered this brilliant Tweet from Matt Parker:

That brings us to 2018.

It’s not triangular, like 2016.

It’s not prime, like 2017.

Is it, then, worthless?

Well, I myself am neither triangular nor prime. But if the roles were reversed, I like to think 2018 would do its best to uncover my special qualities and catalogue them in a blog post. So I went to do “research” (my codeword for “Google searches”).

What secret mathematical properties and pleasures will our new year contain? Continue reading

The Terrible Truth About Dreidel

From time to time, a journalist may face a soul-shattering dilemma. A scoop so shocking it cannot be withheld, yet so terrible it cannot be told.

And what goes for journalists, goes double for stick-figure cartooning math teachers. Thus, as one who loves truth even at its ugliest, I choose to divulge a fact sure to rattle your faith in humanity itself:

Image (2)

The game of dreidel is built on a lie. Continue reading

A World Without the Number 6

a weekly roundup of links, cartoons, and
profound hypotheticals that only a 5-year-old would imagine

Great piece by Adam Kucharski on the discovery of the monstrous nowhere-differentiable function, and its ripples across history:

Calculus had always been the language of the planets and stars, but how could nature be a reliable inspiration if there were mathematical functions that contradicted the central ideas of the subject?

Somehow, linking to Clickhole makes me feel very square and old-fashioned, like taking out a newspaper ad to endorse a Tweet, but I want to draw your attention to 7 Shapes That Will Be Completely Obsolete After I Introduce My Latest Shape, the Triquandle:

The Trapezoid. A quadrilateral with only one pair of parallel sides? Ha! Pathetic. Try a triquanderlateral with so many pairs of parallel sides that men have died just trying to count them all. How many men died creating the trapezoid? Zero. Zilch. Nada.

2017.10.23 objective tests

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Insatiable for Updates

a weekly roundup of cartoons, links, and the updates you and your computer are both hankering for

2017.10.2 no more problems

I’m awaiting the day when the New York Times becomes a full-time math-only publication. This week brought us a step closer.

First, Manil Suri meditates on the social impact of mathematical discovery, by asking who invented zero.

And second, Jordan Ellenberg describes the state of gerrymandering in Wisconsin, where new computational techniques have elevated the old practice from an art to a science. “As a mathematician, I’m impressed,” writes Ellenberg. “As a Wisconsin voter, I feel a little ill.”

2017.10.5 computer updates

A gem from ArXiV: Marvel Universe Looks Almost Like a Real Social Network, applying graph theory to the Marvel comics universe. Each character is a node; appearing together in a comic book is an arc.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, 99.4% of all characters belong to a single connected component of the graph.

2017.10.6 odd number theorists

Last thought: the Best Mathematics Writing of 2017 looks sharp.