The estimable @colinthemathmo suggests a method for estimating the radius of the earth, which he credits to a sundial expert friend named Mike: Stand on a wall, perhaps two metres high, and wait for sunrise. When you see the sun just peak above the horizon, start the stopwatch, and jump

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Posted in ask uncle colin, inequalities.

Dear Uncle Colin, I'm pretty good with quadratic inequalities and pretty good with absolute values, but when I get the two together, I get confused. For example, I struggled with the set of values satisfying $x^2 -\left| 5x-3\right| < 2 + x$. Can you help? – Nasty Absolute Value Inequalities

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Posted in cav being... correct? That can't be right, geometry.

It's good to see @srcav back in the twitter and blogging fold – he's been missed! As part of his comeback, he shared this lovely geometry puzzle: Assuming the situation is symmetrical (which it needs to be to get a sensible solution), there are – as usual – several ways

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Posted in ask uncle colin, trigonometry.

Dear Uncle Colin, When I solve $2\tan(2x)-2\cot(x)=0$ (for $0 \le x \le 2\pi$) by keeping everything in terms of $\tan$, I get four solutions; if I use sines and cosines, I get six (which Desmos agrees with). What am I missing? – Trigonometric Answers Not Generated – Expecting 'Nother Two

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Posted in podcasts.

In this month's edition of Wrong, But Useful, @reflectivemaths and I are joined by special guest co-host @dragon_dodo, who is Dominika Vasilkova in real life. We discuss: What maths appeals to a physicist. Dominika's number of the podcast: $0.110001000000000000000001…$, Liouville's constant, which is $\sum_{n=1}^\infty 10^{-n!}$, the first constant to be

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Posted in algebra, big in finland, probability, puzzles.

Zeke and Monty play a game. They repeatedly toss a coin until either the sequence tail-tail-head (TTH) or the sequence tail-head-head (THH) appears. If TTH shows up first, Zeke wins; if THH shows up first, Monty wins. What is the probability that Zeke wins? My first reaction to this question

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Posted in ask uncle colin, calculus.

Dear Uncle Colin, I was asked to find the tangent to the curve $r=\frac{8}{\theta}$ at the point where $\theta = \frac{\pi}{2}$. I worked out $\dydx = \frac{ \frac{8 \left(\theta \cos(\theta)-\sin(\theta)\right)}{\theta^2}}{\frac{-8\left(\theta \sin(\theta)+\cos(\theta)\right)}{\theta^2} }$, which simplifies to $ -\frac{\theta \cos(\theta)-\sin(\theta)} {\theta \sin(\theta)-\cos(\theta)}$. Evaluated at $\theta = \frac{\pi}{2}$, that gives $\dydx=\frac{2}{\pi}$ and a

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Posted in ninja maths, trigonometry.

As the student was wont to do, he idly muttered "So, that's $\cos(10º)$…" The calculator, as calculators are wont to do when the Mathematical Ninja is around, suddenly went up in smoke. "0.985," with a heavy implication of 'you don't need a calculator for that'. As the student was wont

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Posted in ask uncle colin, factorising.

Dear Uncle Colin, If you know all of the factors of $n$, can you use that to find all of the factors of $n^2$? For example, I know that 6 has factors 1, 2, 3 and 6. Its square, 36, has the same factors, as well as 4, 9, 12,

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Posted in common errors, ninja maths.

I'm a big advocate of error logs: notebooks in which students analyse their mistakes. I recommend a three-column approach: in the first, write the question, in the second, what went wrong, and in the last, how to do it correctly. Oddly, that's the format for this post, too. The question

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