tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-758931270865409762013-12-21T10:32:06.963-05:00MatheMUSEmentsArticles for kids about math in everyday life, written by Ivars Peterson for <i>Muse</i> magazine.Math Touristhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/00014397210725962876noreply@blogger.comBlogger88125tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-75893127086540976.post-65347907051292168292008-03-03T12:58:00.003-05:002008-03-03T13:24:13.839-05:00Knotty CordsYou're done with your iPod, so you carefully coil the headphone cord around the player and stuff it in your pocket. The next time you take it out, however, you find that you have to unravel the cord and undo a knot before you can go back to listening to your music. In fact, it's pretty amazing how easily knots can form by themselves—not only in headphone cords, but also in necklaces, coiled ropesMath Touristhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/00014397210725962876noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-75893127086540976.post-69342519267062204442008-02-17T13:06:00.004-05:002008-02-17T13:33:00.615-05:00Border StatesTake a look at a map of the United States and locate Colorado and Wyoming. On many maps, these states look like perfect rectangles.The laws that created these two states specify that each one lies between certain lines of latitude and longitude. (Latitude lines are drawn side-to-side on a globe; longitude lines go top-to-bottom.) Wyoming stretches from 41°N to 45°N latitude and from 104°W to 111°Math Touristhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/00014397210725962876noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-75893127086540976.post-22245636630851746912008-01-02T15:25:00.000-05:002008-01-02T15:54:54.198-05:00Ways to Lay TrackWhen you're a little kid, one of the joys of having a train set is assembling all the pieces into the longest possible loop, then operating a train that follows the railroad's twists and turns. And, as your collection of tracks—straight pieces, curves, bridges, tunnels, switches, and crossings—gets larger, your designs get more and more elaborate.Mathematician Mark Snavely of Carthage College in Math Touristhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/00014397210725962876noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-75893127086540976.post-91272762661792300472007-11-05T15:50:00.000-05:002007-11-05T16:54:03.980-05:00King Me!It's easy to learn to play checkers, but it takes a lot of practice to become an expert player, and no one has ever played checkers flawlessly—until now. This spring, a computer program became the first perfect checkers player ever. Tic-tac-toe, connect four, and other simple games were "solved" long ago, but checkers is the first of the complex games to fall.Computer scientist Jonathan SchaefferMath Touristhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/00014397210725962876noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-75893127086540976.post-10479706896581602962007-10-10T11:35:00.000-05:002007-10-10T11:58:12.489-05:00Mystic PuzzlerLots of computer games have you whacking monsters as you struggle to find better weapons and power up. Some games, however, rely on puzzles more than single combat. If your game is one of the puzzling kind, trial and error might get you by, but a bit of logic or mathematical knowledge will often speed you on your way.Near the beginning of the game Myst, for example, you encounter a contraption Math Touristhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/00014397210725962876noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-75893127086540976.post-64925032428659513252007-08-24T13:01:00.001-05:002007-08-24T13:19:43.733-05:00Changing the Soccer BallIf you've kicked around a soccer ball, you've probably noticed the distinctive pattern on the ball's surface. For a long time, soccer balls have been stitched or glued together from 32 pieces of material. Twelve of these patches are five-sided (pentagons), and twenty of them are six-sided (hexagons). These patches are arranged so that each pentagon is surrounded by hexagons. Traditionally, the Math Touristhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/00014397210725962876noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-75893127086540976.post-91143254787505685902007-07-06T11:42:00.001-05:002007-07-06T12:23:50.174-05:00Seven BridgesSuppose that you live in a town that sprawls across the banks of a branching river, with an island in the middle. Seven bridges link the different parts of town. One sunny summer day, you decide to take a bike ride. Looking at a map, you try to find a route that would take you across all the bridges and back to where you started. You also add the challenge never to cross the same bridge more thanMath Touristhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/00014397210725962876noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-75893127086540976.post-64901038746938267472007-07-05T08:19:00.000-05:002007-07-05T08:38:00.261-05:00Spiraling TrianglesPlaying with triangles can lead to amazing patterns and three-dimensional structures. That's what Hungarian designer Dániel Erdély (below) found when he created an intriguing geometric form out of two spirals of triangles that get smaller and smaller.Daniel Erdély holds a complex polyhedron constructed from spidrons. Photo by Regina Márkus.He called the resulting S-shaped object a spidron. Each Math Touristhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/00014397210725962876noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-75893127086540976.post-12160192495770855822007-07-04T10:32:00.000-05:002007-07-04T10:40:40.323-05:00The Power of 10Nearly everyone has 10 fingers and 10 toes, and it's been like that for a long, long time. So, it's probably natural that we count by tens—so natural that the decimal system is, by far, the most common way of expressing numbers in both spoken and written language around the world.In ancient times, Pythagoras and his followers taught that "everything is number." They considered 10 to be special Math Touristhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/00014397210725962876noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-75893127086540976.post-35095846034824490672007-07-03T07:28:00.000-05:002007-07-03T07:36:50.542-05:00The Simpsons and MathematicsMany people watch The Simpsons for its zany characters, political jokes, and outrageous situations. But other viewers keep a sharp eye out for references to mathematics. Really.Several of the show's writers studied math or computer science in college. And, from time to time, they just can't resist sneaking in a mathematical bit or two (or three). But, unless you're looking carefully, these insideMath Touristhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/00014397210725962876noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-75893127086540976.post-78559590326939000312007-07-02T08:06:00.000-05:002007-07-02T08:11:55.599-05:00UpgradingSo it's already been a pretty tough school year? Some of your grades are OK, but others are quite dismal (especially that test you took the day after staying up way too late playing Guild Wars online)? Luckily, your teacher says you can drop a single test. Alright! But wait, which one?The answer is easy if all of the tests are worth the same number of points. You simply drop the lowest score. ButMath Touristhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/00014397210725962876noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-75893127086540976.post-14642021597646427082007-07-01T19:18:00.000-05:002007-07-01T19:29:53.214-05:00Climbing a Watery SlopeSome insects can walk on water. They take advantage of water's high surface tension to skate across a pond or puddle. But at the edge of the pond, where wet meets dry, surface tension makes the water curve upward in a meniscus. For tiny, water-walking insects, scaling this slope isn't easy. If they try to stride up the slope, they simply slide back down.So how do these insects get out of the pondMath Touristhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/00014397210725962876noreply@blogger.com2tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-75893127086540976.post-74131073413593696512007-06-30T08:37:00.000-05:002007-06-30T08:46:38.810-05:00Count and CaptureYou're probably familiar with board games such as Monopoly, Candy Land, or Clue. These games are old enough that your parents likely enjoyed them when they were young, too. There are other games, which people have enjoyed across generations, that have been around even longer—some for thousands of years. One such game is awari, which originated in Africa. If you haven't tried it, you might be Math Touristhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/00014397210725962876noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-75893127086540976.post-12478885352525325982007-06-29T09:28:00.000-05:002007-06-29T09:33:58.889-05:00From Counting to Writing?We learn to count at such an early age that we tend to take the notion of numbers for granted. We know that two can stand for two apples, two oranges, or two argyle socks. But abstract numbers are the product of a long cultural evolution. They may even have played a role in the invention of writing, or so archaeologist Denise Schmandt-Besserat argues.Schmandt-Besserat has studied mysterious clay Math Touristhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/00014397210725962876noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-75893127086540976.post-42281105454465152472007-06-28T15:10:00.000-05:002007-06-28T15:16:21.449-05:00By the Numb3rs"We all use math every day." That's a line you might hear in math class or see at a science museum. You don't expect to find a TV crime series that celebrates it. Yet millions of people hear this line every week at the beginning of the popular CBS show Numb3rs, which features a young math professor as a crime fighter.Charlie Eppes, played by David Krumholtz, uses math to help his older brother, Math Touristhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/00014397210725962876noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-75893127086540976.post-63177054414917246802007-06-27T19:38:00.000-05:002007-06-27T19:44:49.143-05:00Problems to Sharpen the YoungOne of the oldest collections of mathematical problems we know of is Problems to Sharpen the Young. No one knows who wrote the book, but some scholars say that the author might have been someone named Alcuin, who lived from about 732 to the year 804 (three-digit years!). Alcuin was born near the city of York in England and was a student, then a teacher, and then head of the Cathedral School at Math Touristhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/00014397210725962876noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-75893127086540976.post-40152484783827351542007-06-26T18:59:00.000-05:002007-06-26T19:07:58.194-05:00Hard CashWhat could you do for fun with some coins and a sheet of paper? That's all Bob Hearn, a graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, needed to invent a new kind of puzzle. Here's an example.Place four coins on the bottom row of circles (covering G, D, E, and R). This leaves the letters MARTIN exposed. Your challenge is to slide the coins along the paths joining the circles untilMath Touristhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/00014397210725962876noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-75893127086540976.post-26571556847454827482007-06-25T19:19:00.000-05:002007-06-25T19:35:12.733-05:00The Beauty of the BagThe humble brown-paper bag that you use to carry groceries is actually a technological masterpiece that solves many practical problems. Unlike a plastic bag, it can stand upright by itself; you don't need an extra hand to hold it open while you fill it. Yet it folds flat for easy storage.A standard brown-paper bag can stand upright, as shown above.It took inventors years to come up with a design Math Touristhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/00014397210725962876noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-75893127086540976.post-10441160030035211252007-06-24T13:33:00.000-05:002007-06-24T13:57:22.075-05:00A Good PlotThese days, a lot of people recognize the name Harry Potter, the hero of J.K. Rowling's immensely popular books. But Harry isn't a very popular baby name. In the United States in 2004, it ranked only 531st among names for boys. It was much more popular about 100 years ago, when it ranked in the top 15.The popularity of the name Harry (above) has fallen since its peak more than 100 years ago. © Math Touristhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/00014397210725962876noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-75893127086540976.post-51960662189631232102007-06-19T20:16:00.000-05:002007-06-19T20:30:00.938-05:00Sudoku ManiaMillions of people around the world can't get started every day without their sudoku fix. Have you joined them?A sudoku puzzle usually consists of a nine-by-nine grid. Some of the spaces contain numbers; the rest are blank. Your goal is to fill in the blanks with numbers from 1 to 9 so that each row, each column, and each of the nine three-by-three blocks making up the grid contains just one of Math Touristhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/00014397210725962876noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-75893127086540976.post-57706057556556786092007-06-17T10:12:00.000-05:002007-06-17T10:15:16.425-05:00Icing the KickerThere are just a few seconds left in the football game. Your team is all set to kick a field goal to win. The opposing team, however, calls a timeout. Its players hope that the extra time will make your kicker think about his upcoming kick—and then miss the field goal. The strategy is called "icing the kicker."But does this time-honored trick really work? Does making a kicker wait an extra minuteMath Touristhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/00014397210725962876noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-75893127086540976.post-32545032082190619512007-06-16T06:56:00.000-05:002007-06-16T08:42:38.170-05:00Seeing ThingsYou've probably split sunlight into a rainbow of colors with a prism. Maybe you've also split sunlight with a spray of water from a garden hose or even with a CD. But have you ever tried splitting light with your fingernail?That's right. Your fingernail. On a bright, sunny day, if you look at sunlight reflecting off your fingernail at just the right angle, you might see a dancing pattern of Math Touristhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/00014397210725962876noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-75893127086540976.post-33509548540148436652007-06-15T07:28:00.000-05:002007-06-15T07:37:01.108-05:00Math MusicIn the right hands, mathematics can be a musical instrument, a spooky player piano that turns numbers, number sequences, or mathematical functions into mysterious and haunting melodies.Composers create music out of math by inventing special recipes, or formulas, that match numbers or mathematical patterns with musical notes. One example is Daniel Cummerow's recipe for a pi tune. (Pi is the numberMath Touristhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/00014397210725962876noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-75893127086540976.post-60324251198053992592007-06-14T20:07:00.000-05:002007-06-14T20:19:01.949-05:00Never Lift the PencilHave you ever tried drawing something without lifting your pencil from the paper? You usually end up with a squiggly mess that sometimes looks a bit like the object you were trying to draw.Now computer scientists have written a program that does first-rate "continuous-line" drawings. Why are they wasting their time on such frivolous things? The answer is that the drawings are actually a version Math Touristhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/00014397210725962876noreply@blogger.com1tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-75893127086540976.post-20311909809508725632007-06-12T19:51:00.000-05:002007-06-12T19:59:24.845-05:00Random KnotsHave you ever left a necklace or a piece of string lying around on a table in a jumbled heap? There's a good chance that it will have formed a knot when you pick it up again, especially if it has been jostled a little. The same thing can happen to a garden hose left in an untidy pile on the ground.Sailors and rock climbers know about this problem, so they take great care to store their ropes in Math Touristhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/00014397210725962876noreply@blogger.com0