Canada is about to enter a federal election campaign, and you know what that means. Platforms, proclamations, partisanship, preening, pretending, pandering and pestering, not to mention politicians on your porch.
It’s enough to make you tired, but at least here that knock on the door is a smiling politician and not the secret police. As Winston Churchill famously noted, “democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.”
That doesn’t mean it can’t be improved, of course. In Canada, we periodically get calls for parliamentary reform, but there’s one kind of reform I’ve never heard mentioned, one that may sound drastic, but boasts mathematical evidence ...
It’s almost Christmas, and Christmas means food: turkey, dressing, candy canes, oranges, cranberries, chocolate, and, of course, pizza.
(OK, maybe pizza is not the most traditional of foods, but it’s still a popular holiday choice, so humor me.)
Pizzas normally come pre-sliced. The question is, and I’m sure you’ve asked yourself this a lot, “How do we eat this pre-sliced pizza in a way that ensures nobody gets an unfair share?”
That’s the question, as New Scientist reported on December 11
, that Rick Mabry and Paul Deiermann kept asking themselves when they used to share pizza for lunch at Louisiana State University in Shreveport. They kept getting into discussions about the mathematics of slicing it up while ...
Ever since there have been human beings, human beings have gambled.
Dice carved from the ankle bones of antelope have been found in prehistoric tombs. The ancient Egyptians played a game calle datep, which involved guessing how many fingers someone was holding up. The classical Greeks and biblical Jews had forms of dice, and the Romans bet heavily on gladitorial fights and chariot races.
At various times in history gambling has been almost universally condemned by religions and governments alike, but it has never been eradicated, and today, legalized gambling is making a comeback all over the world. Witness all the various national and provincial lotteries you can play in ...
I'm going to say something which, alas, will probably immediately alienate me from a large number of readers: I've always enjoyed math.
Times tables held no terrors for me, fractions I found fascinating, and algebra--ah, algebra! When I first started taking algebra, I enjoyed it so much I'd make up equations out of thin air and solve them just for fun.
No, I'm not from another planet: such people really do exist. In fact, many mathematicians look at math--and enjoy it--as if it were a game, especially those who develop new mathematics and solve previously unsolved or even supposedly unsolvable problems. As in other games, you have a goal, you ...
"1, 2, 3, 4! What are we all counting for?
"5, 6, 7, 8! Ain't our number system great?"
All right, so maybe you won't hear thousands of people chanting it at a street demonstration--it's still an interesting question. (The question in the first line, that is; the question in the second is rhetorical.)
What are we all counting for? And what are these things called numbers that we're all counting with?
Numbers are a system of symbols used to express quantities. Throw in a few rules about how to use them, and you've got a special language that makes all kinds of things possible--things such as counting ("997 sheep, 998 sheep, 999 sheep . . ...
Several centuries ago Shakespeare titled a play Much Ado About Nothing. If I gave these columns titles, that's what I'd call this one--not because I think I write as well as Shakespeare, but because that's what this column is about: nothing.
Nothing is very important. Um, what I mean is, the concept of nothing is very important: specifically, nothing as embodied in the simple circular form of the zero.
The zero was invented about 1500 years ago by a group of Indian astronomers. When its use became widespread in western mathematics in the 15th century, it had an impact comparable to that of the computer in this century--and, in fact, without zero, computers would be impossible....