Questions tagged [popular-math]

Question on bits and pieces of mathematics that show up in popular media (TV, movies, comics, etc.)

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Almgren and Taylor's movie about soap bubbles

As I know, in 1970's two well-known geometric analysts, Fred Almgren and Jean Taylor, along with mathematician Michele Emmer, produced a film about minimal surfaces entitled "Soap Bubbles". ...
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3 votes
1 answer
177 views

Proof that there is a winning strategy for player 1 in Chomp.

This question is regarding the game "Chomp" which can be found here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chomp My quesiton is regarding the proof that there is a winning strategy, the proof can be ...
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3 votes
1 answer
385 views

When is 0.99999… ≠ 1?

There are many ways to see that $0.999\ldots=1$ over the Reals (or over $\Bbb Q$ or $\Bbb C$ for that matter) like "Is it true that 0.99999…=1?", and the reasoning is easy enough: If $x=0.\...
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2 votes
0 answers
91 views

How many lines and circles are needed to construct the 65537-gon (known lower bounds)

Johann Gustav Hermes went into exile for 10 years trying to find and write down a procedure for the construction of a regular 65537-agon only using a compass and a straightedge (and a pencil). He ...
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33 votes
3 answers
4k views

Verifying 'standup maths' homeomorphism claim

In his newest video, Matt Parker claims that a sphere with three holes (a pair of trousers) and a torus with one hole (a pair of trousers with the legs sewn) are homeomorphic. I assume he meant ...
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4 votes
1 answer
162 views

What is $e^{\frac d{dx}}$?

At the end of this video, 3blue1brown suggests it is possible to take $e^{\frac d{dx}}$. So, what does $e^{\frac d{dx}}$ equal?
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5 votes
1 answer
151 views

Can someone answer my question about geometry triangles

I saw on a children's maths program in early 1980; I think it was Johnny Ball presenting. He drew an obtuse triangle (or I think it was obtuse). Then he put a dot anywhere in the triangle and drew ...
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7 votes
5 answers
601 views

Common false/unproven "popular mathematics" claims

Motivated by the common unproven claim in memes that every finite sequence of digits appears in the digits of $\pi$ (see Does $\pi$ contain all possible number combinations?), I started wondering what ...
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3 votes
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Alternate solutions of Putnam 2000 A3, as in The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl

A friend is a children's librarian and she has a copy of The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl, a YA book about a girl who is struck by lightning and gains mathematical prowess. Her teacher gives her ...
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1 vote
0 answers
63 views

What are some sources of recommendations of Mathematical books - both Recreational and Popular Mathematics as well as Technical Mathematics?

I'm a lover of books about Mathematics. However, I have noticed it's quite hard to stay in touch with new releases or book reviews in the world of Mathematics. I use GoodReads for recommendations in ...
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1 answer
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Knights, spies, games and ballot sequences.

Problem statement: In a room there are n people, each labelled with a unique number between 1 and n. A person may either be a knight or a spy. Knights always tell the truth, while spies may lie or ...
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2 votes
1 answer
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Mathematician's analog of multiverse

I've heard a lot about multiverse from pop science TV shows and lectures. Somehow, physicists are very good at philosophizing their own theories and coming up with catchy terms that stem imagination ...
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0 answers
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Bounded run Binary Smirnov words counting (Numberphile video)

The Numberphile video. What Simon is counting are Smirnov words with bounded runs. This blog gives the generating function to get these numbers, but in the part of direct counting it does not provide ...
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4 votes
0 answers
97 views

Women in mathematics. [closed]

I'd like to read something about the history of women in mathematics. I'd love to have reading suggestions of books in English or Italian, of 3 kinds: 1) History of math books, academic style; 2) ...
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7 votes
1 answer
81 views

Identifying a mathematical museum exhibit

I recall reading a few years ago about an interactive exhibit at a science or mathematics museum, which involved a game of some description. There were screens on either side, and the same game could ...
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6 votes
1 answer
208 views

Matt Parker mistake in cannonball stacking video [closed]

I could need someone to do a check on this problem, since it has been published in Matt Parkers book "things to make and do in the fourth dimension" and has now been featured in a numberphile video ...
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12 votes
1 answer
2k views

How can I mathematically model and analyze an incremental game like Cookie Clicker?

Recently, I've been interested in the optimization of the infamous incremental game Cookie Clicker. From Wikipedia: The user initially clicks on a big cookie on the screen, earning one cookie per ...
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1 vote
0 answers
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Comic titles "impartial differential equations", "improbability", but what is "different finitenesses" supposed to be?

The following is a quote from Naming Infinity: A True Story of Religious Mysticism and Mathematical Creativity By Loren Graham, Jean-Michel Kantor The students were so devoted to their teachers' ...
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4 votes
1 answer
305 views

Simple Analogy to explain $\sum_{n=1}^\infty n = -1/12$

I'm looking for a simplified analogy to explain why the following formula does not actually mean what it seems to mean: $\sum_{n=1}^\infty n = -\frac{1}{12}$ I get this question all the time from ...
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1 vote
0 answers
45 views

Bar Room Scrap Interpretation

I was given this years ago while at a local tavern. I called it the Lloyd Intersection. Scrap Original What is this question? My work so far. Interpretation I believe this may be asking us to; ...
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13 votes
5 answers
6k views

Help to identify every equation in this meme? [closed]

A couple of the equations in this meme aren’t easy to read, and I probably don’t know them so I couldn’t tell what they are. Can you identify all the equations, and help me feel smart on twitter?
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5 votes
1 answer
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Metaphorical Story about the irrefutability of the law of excluded middle

One can refute in intutionistic logic that they cannot refute the law of excluded middle. The proof is a bit strange: ...
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3 votes
1 answer
291 views

What mathematics has been on page one of the New York Times?

Robert Israel's answer shows it is misinformation to believe that the first mathematics to make page one of the New York Times was Andrew Wiles' proof of Fermat's Last Theorem (announced above the ...
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22 votes
6 answers
4k views

How many primes do I need to check to confirm that an integer $L$, is prime?

I recently saw the 1998 horror movie "Cube", in which a character claims it is humanly impossible to determine, by hand without a computer, if large (in the movie 3-digit) integers are prime powers, i....
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15 votes
1 answer
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How did Vladimir Voevodsky "changed the meaning of the equals sign"?

This article from The New York Times is an obituary of the recently deceased Dr. Voevodsky. It explained that he was deeply involved in developing computer proof verification, and to do so "changed ...
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95 votes
5 answers
7k views

Cover of "Gödel, Escher, Bach"

Consider the cover image of the book "Gödel, Escher, Bach", depicted below. The interesting feature is that it shows the existence of a subset of $\mathbb{R}^3$ which projects onto $\mathbb{R}^2$ in ...
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1 vote
1 answer
230 views

What is the geometry problem banned by the Turkish government? [closed]

It is being reported recently (example) that the Turkish government has banned a geometry textbook because the letters $FG$, which are the initials of an alleged plotter of the 2016 coup d'etat ...
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43 votes
2 answers
7k views

Has anyone ever actually seen this Daniel Biss paper?

A student asked me about a paper by Daniel Biss (MIT Ph.D. and Illinois state senator) proving that "circles are really just bloated triangles." The only published source I could find was the young ...
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4 votes
2 answers
2k views

Sorting rows then sorting columns preserves the sorting of rows

From Peter Winkler's book: Given a matrix, prove that after first sorting each row, then sorting each column, each row remains sorted. For example: starting with $$\begin{bmatrix} 1 & -3 &...
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  • 1,663
2 votes
2 answers
3k views

Number of Spaghetti loops

From Peter Winkler's book: the 100 ends of 50 strands of spaghetti are paired at random and tied togethed. How many pasta loops should you expect from this process on average? I took ages because ...
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1 vote
1 answer
160 views

Bidding problem

From Peter Winkler's 'Mathematical puzzles' You can make a bid on a widget whose value to the owner, as far as you know, is uniformly randomly distributed between 0 and 100 dollars. However its ...
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2 votes
0 answers
137 views

Watches on a table

From Peter Winkler's 'Mathematical puzzles', taken from an All USSR Mathematical Competition, 1976: 50 accurate watches lie on a table. Prove that there exists a moment in time when the sum of the ...
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1 vote
1 answer
245 views

Voting with 3-way ties

From Peter Winkler's 'Mathematical puzzles' Ashford,Baxter and Campbell run for election and end up in a 3-way tie. To break it, they solicit voters' second preference and there is also a 3-way tie. ...
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1 vote
0 answers
78 views

Maximum length sequence with negative and positive subsequences

From ' mathematical puzzles' By Peter Winkler: " At the stockholders' meeting the CEO presents month-by-month profits and losses and declares : ' Since the last meeting we have made a profit in ...
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18 votes
2 answers
2k views

Did Feynman mentally compute $\sqrt[3]{1729.03}$ by linear approximation?

In the biopic "infinity" about Richard Feynman. (12:54) He computes $\sqrt[3]{1729.03}$ by mental calculation. I guess that he uses linear approximation. That is, he observe that $1728=12^3$. Let $f(...
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1 vote
1 answer
182 views

explanation of topology examples from movie or other [closed]

I always like topology and geometry. But there are some examples in film and videogames that upset me... 1)Imagine an empty room in which there is a door in the middle, and if I open it I can see a ...
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45 votes
5 answers
3k views

A golden ratio series from a comic book

The eighth installment of the Filipino comic series Kikomachine Komix features a peculiar series for the golden ratio in its cover: That is, $$\phi=\frac{13}{8}+\sum_{n=0}^\infty \frac{(-1)^{n+1}(2n+...
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2 votes
2 answers
773 views

Infinity xkcd style: can a turing machine exist?

I recently read this xkcd comic. It's about a guy who simulates a universe by a Turing machine (specifically, Rule 101, a cellular automaton), by laying down infinite rows of rocks, each row ...
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1 vote
1 answer
209 views

Latest episode of the big bang theory, vanity card.

I usually don't read these, but this time I did, and this was the card: Does the last mathematical symbols have any meaning? I get that the equal 150.6+V, is there any more meaning behind this?
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0 votes
0 answers
121 views

What probability analysis did the allies use during WWII after they cracked the Enigma, or how can this probability be quantified?

In the recent film, The Imitation Game, after cracking the Enigma they mentioned that the allies didn't simply use every cracked message but instead analysed the probability the Germans would find out ...
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26 votes
5 answers
8k views

"What if" math joke: the derivative of $\ln(x)^e$

Randall Munroe, the creator of xkcd in his latest book What if writes (p. 175) that the mathematical analog of the phrase "knock me over with a feather" is seeing the expression $ \ln( x )^{e}$. And ...
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  • 385
0 votes
2 answers
285 views

Is it incorrect to use the phrase "X percent probability?"

Very frequently, phrases like "50 percent probability" are used in science papers and popular writing. Is this phrase generally viewed to be correct by the mathematical community. Formally a ...
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2 votes
2 answers
3k views

Does ABC implies Fermat's last theorem?

I read from the newspaper that Mochizuki's proof of the ABC conjecture implies the Fermat's last theorem. Is it true? I think it implies the proof only for large enough exponents?
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0 votes
2 answers
108 views

Evaluate a function along a complex curve

Well, I don't know this question is appropriate but I really need to understand it. So, please help me. In the book Love and Math, The heart of hidden reality of Edward Frenkel, chapter 15, he said :...
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8 votes
0 answers
604 views

A question on popularization of math: inspiring the beauty of mathematics while making New Year's wishes

Many fellow students of mine today shared by various means the following picture: . I was told that this picture is supposed to communicate the beauty of math in a funny way, but I really can't ...
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52 votes
3 answers
4k views

Sheldon Cooper Primes

On the $73^{\text{rd}}$ episode of the Big Bang Theory, Dr. Sheldon Cooper, an astrophysicist portrayed by Jim Parsons $(1973 - \stackrel{\text{hopefully}}{2073})$ revealed his favorite number to be ...
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2 votes
1 answer
456 views

Can these phenomena occur within Non-Euclidean geometries?

I've enrolled in an undergraduate seminar on the subject of non-euclidean geometry. I wanted to ground myself a little before-hand, because popular media has lead me to believe that non-euclidean ...
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0 votes
0 answers
56 views

'Popular mathematics' resource about infinite ordinals

The 'popular mathematics' literature (think Martin Gardner, William Dunham, Hofstadter, and the like) abounds with material on the mathematics of infinite cardinals, starting - and quite often ending -...
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2 votes
2 answers
219 views

What is the meaning of this (potentially humorous) mathematical equation?

The equation in the image shown below (outlined in blue) was found on the cover of a magazine, along with several other "math equation jokes" like the "I heart pi" joke. My friends and I haven't been ...
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15 votes
1 answer
394 views

Mathematics of the Ice Bucket Challenge

I've been considering the mathematics of the now global ice bucket challenge. Simple model In the simplest incarnation, there is one original seed, who then nominates 3 others, each of which take ...
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