Browsing category ask uncle colin

Ask Uncle Colin: A Strange Error

Dear Uncle Colin, If $(-2)^3 = -8$, why doesn’t $\log_{-2}(-8) = 3$? Exponential Rules: Rubbish Or Reasonable? Hi, ERROR, and thanks for your message! As is so often the case, there are two (or possibly three) answers to this. A problem of definition The way logarithms are usually1 defined as

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A “Components” Enigma

Dear Uncle Colin, Help! I’m working on a top-secret project somewhere in Buckinghamshire. I can tell you that it involves… components. The… machine has three slots for components, and there are five different components available (one of each) - so there are 60 ways to arrange the components. There’s a

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Ask Uncle Colin: Matching sines

Dear Uncle Colin, How do I solve $\sin(3x) = \sin(5x)$ for $0 \le x \lt 360$? Seems I Need Extra Smarts Hi, SINES, and thanks for your message! This involves a formula I always have to look up, or work out from scratch. Today I am in a working out

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Ask Uncle Colin: Laying Bricks

Dear Uncle Colin, I have a question I can’t make sense of: “It takes 3 bricklayers four hours to lay 4200 bricks. How long would it take 2 bricklayers to lay 3150 bricks?” I can never figure out when to multiply and when to divide! Markscheme Obtusely Recommends Taking A

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Ask Uncle Colin: Where Should I Send Charitable Contributions?

Dear Uncle Colin, I know you don't ask for any money for your incessant blogging, and I've already bought Cracking Mathematics and The Maths Behind - how can I possibly repay you for your work? - Charities Helping Resist Inequality, Serving To Massively Ameliorate Society Hi, CHRISTMAS, and thanks for

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Ask Uncle Colin: Some Messy Powers

Dear Uncle Colin, I’m told that $\frac{16^p \times 8^q}{4^{p+q}}=2^n$, and I need to find $n$ in terms of $p$ and $q$. How would I do that? $q$ Uppishly In $n$ Equation Hi, $q$UI$n$E1, and thanks for your message! There are several ways to approach this, as per always. Let’s start

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Ask Uncle Colin: A Trig Inequality

Dear Uncle Colin, I have to find the values of $x$, between 0 and $\pi$ inclusive, where $2\cos(x) > \sec(x)$. My answer was $0 \le x \lt \piby 4$, but the answer also includes $\piby 2 \lt x \lt \frac{3}{4}\pi$. I don’t understand why! Stuck Evaluating Confusing And Nasty Trig

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Ask Uncle Colin: A proof

Dear Uncle Colin, I have to prove that, if $a > b \ge 2$, then $ab > a + b$. I can see it must be true, but I can’t prove it! Any ideas? Questioning Everything Done Hi, QED, and thanks for your message! There are several ways to go

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Ask Uncle Colin: Greatest Common Divisor (with Polynomials)

Dear Uncle Colin, I have to find the greatest common divisor of $x^4 - 5x^3 + 8x^2 - 10x + 12$ and $x^4 + x^2 - 2$. How do I go about that? - Extremely Unhappy, Clueless Learner In Distress Hi, EUCLID, and thanks for your message! Before we try

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Ask Uncle Colin… About Partial Fractions

Dear Uncle Colin, I’m told that $f(x) = \frac{5x-7}{(x-1)(x-2)}, x\ne 1, x\ne 2$, and need to express it in partial fractions. My usual method would be to write it as $\frac{A}{x-1} + \frac{B}{x-2}$, multiply by $(x-1)(x-2)$ and substitute $x=1$ and $x=2$ to find $A$ and $B$ - but the definition

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