November, 2014

A baseball with your name on it

At the 1939 World’s Fair, San Francisco Seals catcher Joe Sprinz tried to catch a baseball dropped from the Goodyear blimp 1,200 feet overhead. Sprinz knew baseball but he hadn’t studied physics — he lost five teeth and spent three months in the hospital with a fractured jaw. – from

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Proving a nice pattern

Over on reddit, noncognitivism posted a nice sequence s/he had come across: $4 + 1 = 5 = \sqrt{ (1)(2)(3)(4) + 1 }$ $(4+6) + 1 = 11 = \sqrt{ (2)(3)(4)(5) + 1}$ $(4+6+8) + 1 = 19 = \sqrt{ (3)(4)(5)(6) + 1}$ $…$ $(4+6+ … + (2k+2)) + 1

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The Mathematical Ninja takes on the Wall Game

For the first time anyone could remember, the Mathematical Ninja trembled with fear. He’d pulled his scary face, and it hadn’t worked: Victoria Coren Mitchell had simply said “you don’t scare me” and he had no idea what to do next. “It’s time for the wall game,” she said. “Right,”

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How big a lead can a football team have?

A reader asks: What’s the biggest lead a football team can have in the table after $n$ games? In a typical football league, teams get three points for a win, one for a draw, and none for getting beat. After, for example, one game, if one team wins and all

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Radians (and why they are better than degrees)

The brilliant @dragon_dodo has written a cartoon to explain – as if explanation were needed – of why radians are the correct way to measure angles.

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HOW much rice?

There’s a legend, so well-known that it’s almost a cliche, about the wise man who invented chess. When asked by the great king what reward he wanted, he replied that he’d be satisfied by a chessboard full of rice: one grain on the first square, two on the second, four

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Wrong, But Useful: Episode 20

Recorded LIVE at Big MathsJam Apologies for the variable sound quality in this episode; the problems of recording live. The Wrong, But Useful tag team are joined by @peterrowlett (Peter Rowlett) Colin concedes that Dave’s talk was quite clever Dave mentions the 1, 3, 2, 6 sequence (a talk by

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That pesky constant

A student asks: I’ve got to work out: $\int \cosec^2(x) \cot(x) \d x$. I did it letting $u = \cosec(x)$ and got an answer — but when I did it with $u = \cot(x)$, I got something else. What gives? Ah! A substitution question! My favourite — and it sounds

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Why does $x^3 e^{-x}$ go to zero as $x$ goes to infinity?

A student asks: I know that $x^3 e^{-x}$ approaches zero as $x$ approaches infinity – I can see it from the graph – but I don’t really understand why? Can you help? Of course I can! However, it’s going to take us into the murky depths of analysis, and we’ll

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