Invisible in the Storm wins the 2015 Louis J. Battan Author’s Award, American Meteorological Society

Congratulations to Ian Roulstone & John Norbury, co-authors of Invisible in the Storm: The Role of Mathematics in Understanding Weather, on winning the 2015 Louis J. Battan Author’s Award given by the American Meteorological Society.

The prize is “presented to the author(s) of an outstanding, newly published book on the atmospheric and related sciences of a technical or non-technical nature, with consideration to those books that foster public understanding of meteorology in adult audiences.” In the announcement of the prize, the committee said Invisible in the Storm “illuminates the mathematical foundation of weather prediction with lucid prose that provides a bridge between meteorologists and the public.”

For more information about the 2015 AMS awards: http://www.ametsoc.org/awards/2015awardrecipients.pdf


bookjacket

Invisible in the Storm
The Role of Mathematics in Understanding Weather
Ian Roulstone & John Norbury

Princeton at Heffers Bookshop

Heffers Bookshop in Cambridge (UK) is looking very “Princeton” right now. Heffers, which has been selling books in Cambridge for over 130 years, is currently displaying 7 “subject bays” of Princeton books: Economics, History, Maths, Natural History, Philosophy, Politics, and Popular Science. With 20 titles on offer per bay (and 20% off all Princeton titles), there’s bound to be something for everyone.

Princeton at Heffers_1

This display  will remain at Heffers well into October, so do pop in if you’re in the area.

Princeton at Heffers_3

This is how you survive the zombie apocalypse

Williams College math professor Colin Adams risks life and limb to record these survival guide videos. Ready your gear–armor, baseball bat, calculus textbook–and prepare for the onslaught.

Part 1: Why we can’t quite finish the zombies off.

Part 2: Escaping zombies in hot pursuit.

Credit: PBS’s NOVA and director Ari Daniel.
 


bookjacket Zombies and Calculus
Colin Adams

Grab your M&Ms and ace math this year with Math Bytes

In this segment from WCCB in Charlotte, NC, Tim Chartier shows how math can be both educational and delicious! This experiment is taken directly from his recent book Math Bytes: Google Bombs, Chocolate-Covered Pi, and Other Cool Bits in Computing. There are lots of other hands-on experiments that are suitable for aspirational mathematicians of all ages in the book.


bookjacket Math Bytes:
Google Bombs, Chocolate-Covered Pi, and Other Cool Bits in Computing
Tim Chartier

Quick Questions for Ian Roulstone and John Norbury, co-authors of Invisible in the Storm

Ian Roulstone (top) and John Norbury (bottom) are authors of Invisible in the Storm: The Role of Mathematics in Understanding Weather and experts on the application of mathematics in meteorology and weather prediction. As we head into hurricane season along the Eastern coast of the United States, we are still not fully recovered from Hurricane Sandy, empty lots still dot the stretch between Seaside and Point Pleasant and in countless other beach communities. But it could have been worse without the advance warning of meteorologists, so we had a few questions about the accuracy of weather prediction and how it can be further refined in the future.

Now, on to the questions!

Ian RoulstoneNorbury

 

What inspired you to get into this field?

Every day millions of clouds form, grow, and move above us, blown by the restless winds of our ever-changing atmosphere. Sometimes they bring rain and sometimes they bring snow – nearly always in an erratic, non-recurring way. Why should we ever be able to forecast weather three days or a week ahead? How can we possibly forecast climate ten years or more in the future? The secret behind successful forecasting involves a judicious mix of big weather-satellite data, information technology, and meteorology. What inspired us was that mathematics turns out to be crucial to bringing it all together.

Why did you write this book?

Many books describe various types of weather for a general audience. Other books describe the physical science of forecasting for more specialist audiences. But no-one has explained, for a general readership, the ideas behind the successful algorithms of the latest weather and climate apps running on today’s supercomputers. Our book describes the achievements and the challenges of modern weather and climate prediction.

There’s quite a lot about the history and personalities involved in the development of weather forecasting in your book; why did you consider this aspect important?

When reviewing the historical development of weather science over the past three centuries, we found the role of individuals ploughing their own furrow to be at least as important as that of big government organisations. And those pioneers ranged from essentially self-taught, and often very lonely individuals, to charming and successful prodigies. Is there a lesson here for future research organisation?


“We can use mathematics to warn us of the potential for chaotic behaviour, and this enables us to assess the risks of extreme events.”


Weather forecasts are pretty good for the next day or two, but not infallible: can we hope for significant improvements in forecasting over the next few years? 

The successful forecasts of weather events such as the landfall of Hurricane Sandy in New Jersey in October 2012, and the St Jude Day storm over southern England in October 2013, both giving nearly a week’s warning of the oncoming disaster, give a taste of what is possible. Bigger computers, more satellites and radar observations, and even cleverer algorithms will separate the predictable weather from the unpredictable gust or individual thunderstorm. Further improvements will rely not only on advanced technology, but also, as we explain in our book, on capturing the natural variability of weather using mathematics.

But isn’t weather chaotic?

Wind, warmth and rain are all part of weather. But the very winds are themselves tumbling weather about. This feedback of cause and effect, where the “effects help cause the causes”, has its origins in both the winds and the rain. Clouds are carried by the wind, and rainfall condensing in clouds releases further heat, which changes the wind. So chaotic feedback can result in unexpected consequences, such as the ice-storm or cloudburst that wasn’t mentioned in the forecast. But we can use mathematics to warn us of the potential for chaotic behaviour, and this enables us to assess the risks of extreme events.

Are weather and climate predictions essentially “big data” problems?

We argue no. Weather agencies will continually upgrade their supercomputers, and have a never-ending thirst for weather data, mostly from satellites observing the land and sea. But if all we do is train computer programs by using data, then our forecasting will remain primitive. Scientific ideas formulated with mathematical insight give the edge to intelligent forecasting apps.

So computer prediction relies in various ways on clever mathematics: it gives a language to describe the problem on a machine; it extracts the predictable essence from the weather data; and it selects the predictable future from the surrounding cloud of random uncertainty. This latter point will come to dominate climate prediction, as we untangle the complex interactions of the atmosphere, oceans, ice-caps and life in its many varied forms.

Can climate models produce reliable scenarios for decision-makers?

The models currently used to predict climate change have proved invaluable in attributing trends in global warming to human activity. The physical principles that govern average global temperatures involve the conservation of energy, and these over-arching principles are represented very accurately by the numerical models. But we have to be sure how to validate the predictions: running a model does not, in itself, equate to understanding.

As we explain, although climate prediction is hugely complicated, mathematics helps us separate the predictable phenomena from the unpredictable. Discriminating between the two is important, and it is frequently overlooked when debating the reliability of climate models. Only when we take such factors into account can we – and that includes elected officials – gauge the risks we face from climate change.

What do you hope people will take away from this book?

From government policy and corporate strategy to personal lifestyle choices, we all need to understand the rational basis of weather and climate prediction. Answers to many urgent and pressing environmental questions are far from clear-cut. Predicting the future of our environment is a hugely challenging problem that will not be solved by number-crunching alone. Chaos and the butterfly effect were the buzzwords of the closing decades of the 20th Century. But incomplete and inaccurate data need not be insurmountable obstacles to scientific progress, and mathematics shows us the way forward.

 

bookjacket Invisible in the Storm
The Role of Mathematics in Understanding Weather
Ian Roulstone & John Norbury

 

 

6 Free to Low-Cost Resources to Teach You Calculus in a Fun and Interactive Way

In his new book, Everyday Calculus: Discovering the Hidden Math All around Us, Oscar E. Fernandez shows that calculus can actually be fun and applicable to our daily lives. Whether you’re trying to regulate your sleep schedule or find the best seat in the movie theater, calculus can help, and Fernandez’s accessible prose conveys complex mathematical concepts in terms understandable even to readers with no prior knowledge of calculus. Fernandez has also provided a list below of his favorite affordable resources for teaching yourself calculus, both on- and offline.

Princeton University Press offers several other books to help you master this most notorious of the mathematics. If you’re already good at calculus, but want to be great at it, check out Adrian Banner’s The Calculus Lifesaver: All the Tools You Need to Excel at Calculus, an informal but comprehensive companion to any single-variable calculus textbook. For high school mathletes and aspiring zombie hunters of all ages, there’s also Colin Adams’s Zombies and Calculus, an interactive reading experience set at a small liberal arts college during a zombie apocalypse. Readers learn as they go, using calculus to defeat the walking dead.

Calculus. There, I said it. If your heart skipped a beat, you might be one of the roughly 1 million students–or the parent of one of these brave souls–that will take the class this coming school year. Math is already tough, you might have been told, and calculus is supposed to be the “make or break” math class that may determine whether you have a future in STEM (science, technology, engineering, or mathematics); no pressure huh?

But you’ve got a little under two months to go. That’s plenty of time to brush up on your precalculus, learn a bit of calculus, and walk in on day one well prepared–assuming you know where to start.

That’s where this article comes in. As a math professor myself I use several free to low-cost resources that help my students prepare for calculus. I’ve grouped these resources below into two categories: Learning Calculus and Interacting with Calculus.

Learning Calculus.

1. Paul’s online math notes–an interactive website (free).

This online site from Paul Dawkins, math professor at Lamar University, is arguably the best (free) online site for learning calculus. In a nutshell, it’s an interactive textbook. There are tons of examples, each followed by a complete solution, and various links that take you to different parts of the course as needed (i.e., instead of saying, for example, “recall in Section 2.1…” the links take you right back to the relevant section). I consider Prof. Dawkins’ site to be just as good, if not better, at teaching calculus than many actual calculus textbooks (and it’s free!). I should also mention that Prof. Dawkins’ site also includes fairly comprehensive precalculus and algebra sections.

2. Khan Academy–short video lectures (free).

A non-profit run by educator Salman Khan, the Khan academy is a popular online site featuring over 6,000 (according to Wikipedia) video mini-lectures–typically lasting about 15 minutes–on everything from art history to mathematics. The link I’ve included here is to the differential calculus set of videos. You can change subjects to integral calculus, or to trigonometry or algebra once you jump onto the site.

3. MIT online lectures–actual course lectures in video format (free).

One of the earliest institutions to do so, MIT records actual courses and puts up the lecture videos and, in some cases, homeworks, class notes, and exams on its Open Courseware site. The link above is to the math section. There you’ll find several calculus courses, in addition to more advanced math courses. Clicking on the videos may take you to iTunes U, Apple’s online library of video lectures. Once there you can also search for “calculus” and you’ll find other universities that have followed in MIT’s footsteps and put their recorded lectures online.

4. How to Ace Calculus: The Streetwise Guide, by Colin Adams, Abigail Thompson, and Joel Hass

If you’re looking for something in print, this book is a great resource. The book will teach you calculus, probably have you laughing throughout due to the authors’ good sense of humor, and also includes content not found in other calculus books, like tips for taking calculus exams and interacting with your instructor. You can read the first few pages on the book’s site.

Interacting with Calculus.

1. Calculus java applets–online interactive demonstrations of calculus topics(free).

There are many sites that include java-based demonstrations that will help you visualize math. Two good ones I’ve come across are David Little’s site and theUniversity of Notre Dame’s site. By dragging a point or function, or changing specific parameters, these applets make important concepts in calculus come alive; they also make it far easier to understand certain things. For example, take this statement: “as the number of sides of a regular polygon inscribed in a circle increases, the area of that polygon better approximates the area of the circle.” Even if you followed that, text is no comparison to this interactive animation.

One technological note: Because these are java applets, some of you will likely run into technology issues (especially if you’re on a Mac). For example, your computer may block these applets because it thinks that they are malicious. Here is a workaround from Java themselves that may help you in these cases.

2. Everyday Calculus, by Oscar E. Fernandez.

Self-promotion aside, calculus teachers often sell students (and parents) on the need to study calculus by telling them about how applicable the subject is. The problem is that the vast majority of the applications usually discussed are to things that many of us will likely never experience, like space shuttle launches and the optimization of company profits. The result: math becomes seen as an abstract subject that, although has applications, only become “real” if you become a scientist or engineer.

In  Everyday Calculus I flip this script and start with ordinary experiences, like taking a shower and driving to work, and showcase the hidden calculus behind these everyday events and things. For example, there’s some neat trigonometry that helps explain why we sometimes wake up feeling groggy, and thinking more carefully about how coffee cools reveals derivatives at work. This sort of approach makes it possible to use the book as an experiential learning tool to discover the calculus hidden all around you.

With so many good resources it’s hard to know where to start and how to use them all effectively. Let me suggest one approach that uses the resources above synergistically.

For starters, the link to Paul’s site takes you to the table of contents of his site. The topic ordering there is roughly the same as what you’d find in a calculus textbook. So, you’d probably want to start with his review of functions. From there, the next steps depend on the sort of learning experience you want.

1. If you’re comfortable learning from Paul’s site you can just stay there, using the other resources to complement your learning along the way.

2. If you learn better from lectures, then use Paul’s topics list and jump on the Khan Academy site and/or the MIT and iTunes U sites to find video lectures on the corresponding topics.

3. If you’re more of a print person, then How to Ace Calculus would be a great way to start. That book’s topics ordering is pretty much the same as Paul’s, so there’d be no need to go back and forth.

Whatever method you decided on, I still recommend that you use Paul’s site, the interactive java applets, and Everyday Calculus. These three resources, used together, will allow you to completely interact with the calculus you’ll be learning. From working through examples and checking your answer (on Paul’s site), to interacting directly with functions, derivatives, and integrals (on the java applet sites), to exploring and experiencing the calculus all around you (Everyday Calculus), you’ll gain an appreciation and understanding of calculus that will no doubt put you miles ahead of your classmates come September.

This article is cross-posted with The Huffington Post with permission of the author.

Recommended Reading:

 Fernandez_Everyday cover Everyday Calculus: Discovering the Hidden Math All around Us by Oscar E. Fernandez
The Calculus Lifesaver The Calculus Lifesaver: All the Tools You Need to Excel in Calculus by Adrian Banner
 7-18 Zombies  Zombies & Calculus by Colin Adams

Paying It Forward, Using Math: Oscar Fernandez’s ‘Everyday Calculus’ Donated to Libraries in Franklin County, PA

Everyday Calculus, O. FernandezWhat a week!

It was recently announced that one of our books, Everyday Calculus by Oscar Fernandez, is to be donated by the United Way of Franklin County, in partnership with the Franklin County Library System, to public libraries all throughout Franklin County. The decision recognizes the 2013 Campaign Chair, Jim Zeger, who has demonstrated a dedication to service and a “willingness to teach others” during the course of his four-year tenure on the board of directors.

But the choice of text was far from random; Everyday Calculus was selected “because of the need for materials that support financial and mathematical literacy within our library systems,” says Mr. Zeger. He’s one to know; before coming to United Way, Zeger studied math at Juniata College and taught mathematics at the Maryland Correctional Institute. He also served for a number of years as part of the Tuscarora School District school board, and “is very supportive and understanding of the value of relating and connecting applied math to students.”

Bernice Crouse, executive director of the Franklin County Library System, accepted the books and has found them a place in each County library, including the bookmobile, in order to make them more accessible to readers. According to Crouse, this book fits perfectly with Pennsylvania Library Association’s PA Forward initiative, which “highlights Financial Literacy as a key to economic vitality in Pennsylvania.”

Mr. Fernandez is reportedly “delighted” and “honored” by the decision, and looks forward to further collaborating with United Way.

A new effective thinking puzzle challenge from Ed Burger

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Ed Burger, co-author of The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking, spent the day at this leadership workshop at Eastern Michigan University. The assembled group solved creative puzzles using the skills found in the book. Put your own skills to the test with this mathimagical puzzle:

What’s black and red and magical all over?

Consider the following mathematical illusion: A regular deck of 52 playing cards is shuffled several times by an audience member until everyone agrees that the cards are completely shuffled. Then, without looking at the cards themselves, the magician divides the deck into two equal piles of 26 cards. The magician taps both piles of face-down cards three times. Then, one by one, the magician reveals the cards of both piles. Magically, the magician is able to have the cards arrange themselves so that the number of cards showing black suits in the first pie is identical to the number of cards showing red suits in the second pile. Your challenge is to figure out the secret to this illusion and then perform it for your friends.
 
Post your best guess below.

To quickly and easily improve your effective thinking skills, check out Ed Burger and Michael Starbird’s book. You can read a free excerpt here.

Concepts in Color: Beautiful Geometry by Eli Maor and Eugen Jost

If you’ve ever thought that mathematics and art don’t mix, this stunning visual history of geometry will change your mind. As much a work of art as a book about mathematics, Beautiful Geometry presents more than sixty exquisite color plates illustrating a wide range of geometric patterns and theorems, accompanied by brief accounts of the fascinating history and people behind each.

With artwork by Swiss artist Eugen Jost and text by acclaimed math historian Eli Maor, this unique celebration of geometry covers numerous subjects, from straightedge-and-compass constructions to intriguing configurations involving infinity. The result is a delightful and informative illustrated tour through the 2,500-year-old history of one of the most important and beautiful branches of mathematics.

We’ve created this slideshow so that you can sample some of the beautiful images in this book, so please enjoy!

Plate 00
Plate 4
Plate 6
Plate 7
Plate 10
Plate 15.1
Plate 16
Plate 17
Plate 18
Plate 19
Plate 20
Plate 21
Plate 22
Plate 23
Plate 24.2
Plate 26.2
Plate 29.1
Plate 29.2
Plate 30
Plate 33
Plate 34.1
Plate 36
Plate 37
Plate 38
Plate 39
Plate 40.2
Plate 44
Plate 45
Plate 47
Plate 48
Plate 49
Plate 50
Plate 51

Beautiful Geometry by Eli Maior and Eugen Jost

"My artistic life revolves around patterns, numbers, and forms. I love to play with them, interpret them, and metamorphose them in endless variations." --Eugen Jost

Figurative Numbers

Plate 4, Figurative Numbers, is a playful meditation on ways of arranging 49 dots in different patterns of color and shape. Some of these arrangements hint at the number relations we mentioned previously, while others are artistic expressions of what a keen eye can discover in an assembly of dots. Note, in particular, the second panel in the top row: it illustrates the fact that the sum of eight identical triangular numbers, plus 1, is always a perfect square.

Pythagorean Metamorphosis

Pythagorean Metamorphosis shows a series of right triangles (in white) whose proportions change from one frame to the next, starting with the extreme case where one side has zero length and then going through several phases until the other side diminishes to zero.

The (3, 4, 5) Triangle and its Four Circles

The (3, 4, 5) Triangle and its Four Circles shows the (3, 4, 5) triangle (in red) with its incircle and three excircles (in blue), for which r = (3+4-5)/2 = 1, r = (5+3-4)/2 = 2, rb = (5+4-3)/2 = 3, and rc = (5+4+3)/2 = 6.

Mean Constructions

Mean Constructions (no pun intended!), is a color-coded guide showing how to construct all three means from two line segments of given lengths (shown in red and blue). The arithmetic, geometric, and harmonic means are colored in green, yellow, and purple, respectively, while all auxiliary elements are in white.

Prime and Prime Again

Plate 15.1, Prime and Prime Again, shows a curious number sequence: start with the top eight-digit number and keep peeling off the last digits one by one, until only 7 is left. For no apparent reason, each number in this sequence is a prime.

0.999... = 1

Celtic Motif 1

Our illustration (Plate 17) shows an intriguing lace pattern winding its way around 11 dots arranged in three rows; it is based on an old Celtic motif.

Seven Circles a Flower Maketh

Parquet

Plate 19, Parquet, seems at first to show a stack of identical cubes, arranged so that each layer is offset with respect to the one below it, forming the illusion of an infinite, three-dimensional staircase structure. But if you look carefully at the cubes, you will notice that each corner is the center of a regular hexagon.

Girasole

Plate 20, Girasole, shows a series of squares, each of which, when adjoined to its predecessor, forms a rectangle. Starting with a black square of unit length, adjoin to it its white twin, and you get a 2x1 rectangle. Adjoin to it the green square, and you get a 3x2 rectangle. Continuing in this manner, you get rectangles whose dimensions are exactly the Fibonacci numbers. The word Girasole ("turning to the sun" in Italian) refers to the presence of these numbers in the spiral arrangement of the seeds of a sunflower - a truly remarkable example of mathematics at work in nature.

The Golden Ratio

Plate 21 showcases a sample of the many occurrences of the golden ratio in art and nature.

Pentagons and Pentagrams

Homage to Carl Friedrich Gauss

Gauss's achievement is immortalized in his German hometown of Brunswick, where a large statue of him is decorated with an ornamental 17-pointed star (Plate 23 is an artistic rendition of the actual star on the pedestal, which has deteriorated over the years); reportedly the mason in charge of the job thought that a 17-sided polygon would look too much like a circle, so he opted for the star instead.

Celtic Motif 2

Plate 24.2 shows a laced pattern of 50 dots, based on an ancient Celtic motif. Note that the entire array can be crisscrossed with a single interlacing thread; compare this with the similar pattern of 11 dots (Plate 17), where two separate threads were necessary to cover the entire array. As we said before, every number has its own personality.

Metamorphosis of a Circle

Plate 26.2, Metamorphosis of a Circle, shows four large panels. The panel on the upper left contains nine smaller frames, each with a square (in blue) and a circular disk (in red) centered on it. As the squares decrease in size, the circles expand, yet the sum of their areas remains constant. In the central frame, the square and circle have the same area, thus offering a computer-generated "solution" to the quadrature problem. In the panel on the lower right, the squares and circles reverse their roles, but the sum of their areas ins till constant. The entire sequence is thus a metamorphosis from square to circle and back.

Reflecting Parabola

Ellipses and Hyperbolas

When you throw two stones into a pond, each will create a disturbance that propagates outward from the point of impact in concentric circles. The two systems of circular waves eventually cross each other and form a pattern of ripples, alternating between crests and troughs. Because this interference pattern depends on the phase difference between the two oncoming waves, the ripples invariably form a system of confocal ellipses and hyperbolas, all sharing the same two foci. In this system, no two ellipses ever cross one another, nor do two hyperbolas, but every ellipse crosses every hyperbola at right angles. The two families form an orthogonal system of curves, as we see in plate 29.2.

3/3=4/4

Euler's e

Plate 33, Euler's e, gives the first 203 decimal places of this famous number - accurate enough for most practical applications, but still short of the exact value, which would require an infinite string of nonrepeating digits. In the margins there are several allusions to events that played a role in the history of e and the person most associated with it, Leonhard Euler: an owl ("Eule" in German); the Episcopal crosier on the flag of Euler's birthplace, the city of Basel; the latitude and longitude of Königsberg (now Kaliningrad in Russia), whose seven bridges inspired Euler to solve a famous problem that marked the birth of graph theory; and an assortment of formulas associated with e

Spira Mirabilis

Epicycloids

Plate 36 shows a five-looped epicycloid (in blue) and a prolate epicycloid (in red) similar to Ptolemy's planetary epicycles. In fact, this latter curve closely resembles the path of Venus against the backdrop of the fixed stars, as seen from Earth. This is due to an 8-year cycle during which Earth, Venus, and the Sun will be aligned almost perfectly five times. Surprisingly, 8 Earth years also coincide with 13 Venusian years, locking the two planets in an 8:13 celestial resonance and giving Fibonacci aficionados one more reason to celebrate!

Nine Points and Ten Lines

Our illustration Nine Points and Ten Lines (plate 37) shows the point-by-point construction of Euler's line, beginning with the three points of defining the triangle (marked in blue). The circumference O, the centroid G, and the orthocenter H are marked in green, red, and orange, respectively, and the Euler line, in yellow. We call this a construction without words, where the points and lines speak for themselves.

Inverted Circles

Steiner's Prism

Plate 39 illustrates several Steiner chains, each comprising five circles that touch an outer circle (alternately colored in blue and orange) and an inner black circle. The central panel shows this chain in its inverted, symmetric "ball-bearing" configuration.

Line Design

Plate 40.2 shows a Star of David-like design made of 21 line parabolas.

Gothic Rose

Plate 44, Gothic Rose, shows a rosette, a common motif on stained glass windows like those one can find at numerous places of worship. The circle at the center illustrates a fourfold rotation and reflection symmetry, while five of the remaining circles exhibit threefold rotation symmetries with or without reflection (if you disregard the inner details in some of them). The circle in the 10-o'clock position has the twofold rotation symmetry of the yin-yang icon.

Symmetry

Pick's Theorem

Plate 47 shows a lattice polygon with 28 grid points (in red) and 185 interior points (in yellow). Pick's formula gives us the area of this polygon as A = 185 + 28/2 - 1 = 198 square units.

Morley's Theorem

Variations on a Snowflake Curve

Plate 49 is an artistic interpretation of Koch's curve, starting at the center with an equilateral triangle and a hexagram (Star of David) design but approaching the actual curve as we move toward the periphery.

Sierpinski's Triangle

The Rationals Are Countable!

In a way, [Cantor] accomplished the vision of William Blake's famous verse in Auguries of Innocence:

To see the world in a grain of sand,
And heaven in a wild flower.
Hold infinitely in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.

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Click here to sample selections from the book.

Place Your Bets: Tim Chartier Develops FIFA Foe Fun to Predict World Cup Outcomes

Tim ChartierTim Chartier, author of Math Bytes: Google Bombs, Chocolate-Covered Pi, and Other Cool Bits in Computing has turned some mathematical tricks to help better predict the outcome of this year’s World Cup in Brazil.

Along with the help of fellow Davidson professor Michael Mossinghoff and Whittier professor Mark Kozek, Chartier developed FIFA Foe Fun, a program that enables us ordinary, algorithmically untalented folk to generate a slew of possible match outcomes. The tool weighs factors like penalty shoot-outs and the number of years of matches considered, all with the click of a couple buttons. Chartier used a similar strategy in his March Mathness project, which allowed students and basketball fans alike to create mathematically-produced brackets – many of which were overwhelmingly successful in their predictions.

Although the system usually places the most highly considered teams, like Brazil, Germany, and Argentina at the top, the gadget is still worth a look. Tinker around a bit, and let us know in the comments section how your results pan out over the course of the competition.

In the meantime, check out the video below to hear Chartier briefly spell out the logic of the formula.

Happy calculating!

June, summer, and Princeton University Press in the movies

Friends of Princeton University Press,

With June here, and summer finally upon us, our thoughts go to pleasant things—vacations, beaches, baseball, and the summer movie season.

ivory tower
Hodges_ImitationGame_Poster
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Princeton University Press has a special movie connection this summer–and beyond.

For starters, the soon-to-be-released documentary Ivory Tower, about the financial crisis in higher education, features prominently one of our authors, Andrew Delbanco, whose widely admired 2012 book, College: What It Was, Is, and Should Be, has been at the center of the debates over the future of higher education. Those who saw Page One, the acclaimed documentary about The New York Times and the challenges besetting newspapers, will be familiar with the work of Andrew Rossi, who made the film, Ivory Tower. Journalist Peter Coy reviews it in the current issue of Bloomberg Business Week, and mentions Andy Delbanco and our book.

Another PUP book forms the basis of the November 2014 release, The Imitation Game, the story of Alan Turing, the cryptologist who cracked the Enigma code during World War II and was later tortured for his homosexuality. The movie is based on our 2012 biography by Andrew Hodges, Alan Turing: The Enigma. The Imitation Game sports an all-star cast including Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightly, and Charles Dance. We will be re-releasing Hodges’ biography under the title, The Imitation Game, in September. A related PUP book is Alan Turing’s Systems of Logic: The Princeton Thesis, edited in 2012 by Andrew Appel of the Princeton School of Engineering.  Our poster for The Imitation Game generated huge interest last week at Book Expo in New York.

Speaking of all-star casts, the third movie with a connection to a forthcoming PUP book is Interstellar, also to be released in November, and starring Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Matt Damon, and Michael Caine. The premise of Interstellar is based on the work of PUP author and Caltech theoretical physicist Kip Thorne, who is credited as a consultant and executive producer of the film. His forthcoming book, with Stanford’s Roger Blandford, is Modern Classical Physics. Kip Thorne has another PUP connection, serving as he does on the Executive Committee of the Einstein Papers Project.

See you at the movies,

Peter J Dougherty
Director

THIS IS MATH: Wake up and Smell the Functions

Have you ever heard anyone say “I need a cat nap” or “I feel so much better after a power nap”? Why is this true? And how long should such naps last? If you ask my cat, 1.5 hours is the magic number.* When he wakes up he stretches and gets right back to chasing a ball. But does the length of the nap  really matter?  The answer is yes, and here’s why.

In humans, the sleep cycle lasts 90 minutes. It begins with REM sleep–where you often dream–and then progresses into non-REM sleep.  Throughout the four stages of non-REM sleep our bodies repair themselves. If we awake at the end of one of these 90 minute cycles, we feel refreshed and ready to go. But if we wake up in the middle of the non-REM cycle (when we are in a deep sleep) we feel groggy.

catnon-REM sleep

cat2This one did not do the math!

So, where’s the math?

Because our REM/non-REM stages cycle every 1.5 hours, that tells us that we can model the sleep stage S by a periodic function f(t)—one whose values repeat after an interval of time T, called the period—and that the period T = 1.5 hours.  f(t)—one whose values repeat after an interval of time T, called the period—and that the period T = 1.5 hours. If we let the awake stage be S = 0 and assign each following stage to the next negative number, for example, stage 1 as -1, and so on, we can construct a trigonometric function that results in the following graph.

fernandez_fig1-1

The peaks at the top of the graph show that 1.5, 3, 4.5, 6, and 7.5 hours are the optimal amounts of time to sleep. Don’t worry if you go a bit over or under, but you might want to keep the snooze on for only 5 minutes.

If you want to see more of the math, you can find it in Everyday Calculus: Discovering the Hidden Math All around Us by Oscar Fernandez. This problem is in Chapter 1 which is available free here [PDF].

*According to the College of Veterinary Medicine at The Ohio State University, cats do not have the daily sleep-wake cycle that we and many other animals have. Rather, they sleep and wake frequently throughout the day and night. This is because cats in the wild need to hunt as many as 20 small prey each day; they must be able to rest between each hunt so they are ready to pounce quickly when prey approaches. Although their sleep cycle differs from ours, they do have a cycle and need to be ready to go as soon as they wake up.