Posted in Uncategorized.

Dear Uncle Colin, Why are there only five platonic solids? - Pentagons Look Awful. Try Octagons! Hi, PLATO, and thanks for your message! A platonic solid is a three-dimensional shape with the following rules: Each face is the same regular polygon The same number of edges meet at every vertex

Read More →
Posted in podcasts.

In this month’s episode of Wrong, But Useful, we’re joined by @mscroggs, one of the editors of @chalkdustmag1. Colin has a bug and an article in Chalkdust Matt gives some insights into the editing process at the magazine Number of the podcast: 8 Black History Month: Matt refers to Episode

Read More →
Posted in puzzles.

When I was growing up, we had a game called Dingbats - it would offer a sort of graphical cryptic clue to a phrase and you'd have to figure out what the phrase was. For example: West Ham 4-1 Leicester City Chelsea 4-1 Man Utd Liverpool 4-1 Man City Everton

Read More →
Posted in ask uncle colin.

Dear Uncle Colin, I need to show that $\sqrt{7}$ is in $\mathbb{Q}[\sqrt{2}+\sqrt{3}+\sqrt{7}]$ and I don't really know where to start. We Haven't Approached Tackling Such Questions Hi, WHATSQ, and thanks for your message! I am absolutely not a number theorist, although I must admit to getting a bit curious about

Read More →
Posted in algebra, further pure 2.

Working through an FP2 question on telescoping sums (one of my favourite topics - although FP2 is full of those), we determined that $r^2 = \frac{\br{2r+1}^3-\br{2r-1}^3-2}{24}$. Adding these up for $r=1$ to $r=n$ gave the fairly neat result that $24\sum_{r=1}^{n} r^2 = \br{2n+1}^3 - 1 - 2n$. Now, there are

Read More →
Posted in ask uncle colin.

Dear Uncle Colin, I'm ok with my basic power laws, but I don't understand why $x^0$ is always 1, and I get mixed up when it's a fraction or a negative power. Can you help? Running Out Of Time Hi, ROOT, and thanks for your message! If it's any consolation,

Read More →
Posted in reviews.

Oh no! Your favourite mathematician has a birthday/Christmas/other present-giving occasion coming up and you don't know what book to get them! They've already got Cracking Mathematics and The Maths Behind, obviously... so what can you give them this year? Fear not, dear reader. I am at hand to list some

Read More →
Posted in ask uncle colin.

Integration by substitution, rigorously Dear Uncle Colin, Can you explain why integration by substitution works? I get that you're not allowed to 'cancel' the $dx$s, but can't see how it works otherwise. - Reasonable Interpretation Got Our Understanding Ridiculed Hi, RIGOUR, and thanks for your message. First up, confession time:

Read More →
Posted in ninja maths.

The student swam away, thinking almost as hard as he was swimming. The cube root of four? The square root was easy enough, he could do that in his sleep. But the cube root? OK. Breathe. It's between 1 and 2, obviously. What's 1.5 cubed? The Mathematical Ninja isn't going

Read More →
Posted in ask uncle colin.

Dear Uncle Colin, In a recent test, I was asked to differentiate $\frac{x^2+4}{\sqrt{x^2+4}}$. Obviously, my first thought was to simplify it to $\br{x^2+4}^{-\frac{1}{2}}$, but I'm not allowed to do that: only to use the quotient rule and the fact that $\diff {\sqrt{f(x)}}{x} = \frac{f'(x)}{2f(x)}$. When Evaluating, Inappropriate Rules Demanded Hi,

Read More →