February, 2017

From Euclid to Cantor

One of my favourite quotes is from Stefan Banach: "A good mathematician sees analogies between theorems. A great mathematician sees analogies between analogies." This post is clearly in the former camp. I'm fairly sure it's a trivial thing, but it's not something I'd noticed before. One of the first serious

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Ask Uncle Colin: Trigonometric inverses and picking the correct quadrant

Dear Uncle Colin, When I have an angle in the second quadrant, I can find it just fine using $\cos^{-1}$ – but using $\sin^{-1}$ or $\tan^{-1}$ gives me an angle in the fourth quadrant. I don't understand why this is! — I Need Verbose Explanations; Radians Seem Excellent Hi, INVERSE,

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A surprising overlap

Every so often, my muggle side and mathematical side conflict, and this clip from @marksettle shows one of them. My toddler's train track is freaking me out right now. What is going on here?! pic.twitter.com/9o8bVWF5KO — marc blank-settle (@MarcSettle) April 6, 2016 My muggle side says "wait, what, how can

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Ask Uncle Colin: Perpendicular vectors

Dear Uncle Colin, I'm struggling a bit with my C4 vectors. Most of it is fine, except when I have to find a point $P$ on a given line such that $\vec{AP}$ is perpendicular to the line, for some known $A$. How do I figure that out? — Any Vector

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Wrong, But Useful: Episode 41

This month on Wrong, But Useful, @reflectivemaths and @icecolbeveridge are joined by @evelynjlamb, who is Evelyn Lamb in real life. She writes the Roots Of Unity column for Scientific American. We discuss: How Evelyn got into maths, into writing and into France Evelyn picks the numbers of the podcast: 339,613

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Another of Alison’s Ace Puzzles

A nice puzzle this week, via NRICH's magnificent @ajk44: a semicircle is inscribed in a 3-4-5 triangle as shown. Find $X$. I think it's a nice puzzle because Alison's way of doing it was entirely different to mine, but thankfully got the same answer. You might like to try it

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Ask Uncle Colin: Bridges, Donkeys and Triangles

Dear Uncle Colin, I’m struggling to understand why, if you know a triangle has two sides the same, the base angles must be the same. Can you explain? — I’m Struggling Over Some Coherent Explanation Leveraging Equal Sides Hi, ISOSCELES, and thanks for your message! There are several good proofs

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Going around incircles

"Did you know," asked a student at third-hand1, "that the in-circle of a 3-4-5 triangle has a radius of 1?" That's the kind of thing I'd normally just fire up GeoGebra to check, but I was in the middle of a podcast! The best I could do was check to

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Ask Uncle Colin: A Triangle That’s Not As Nice As It Looks

Dear Uncle Colin, I need to find an angle! ABC is a triangle with median AD, while angles BAD and CAD are 110º and 20º, respectively. What's angle ACB? — Angle Being Evasive, LOL Hi, ABEL, and thanks for your question! Even if you've used degrees. For heaven's sake, get

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