## Math and Science Are Not Cleanly Separable

One of the hot topics of the moment is the E. O. Wilson op-ed lamenting the way math scares students off from science, and downplaying the need for mathematical skill (this is not news, really– he said more or less the same thing a few years ago, but the Wall Street Journal published it to […]

## The Psychology and Improbability of Shuffle Play

Kate and I went down to New York City (sans kids, as my parents were good enough to take SteelyKid and The Pip for the weekend) this weekend, because Kate had a case to argue this morning, and I needed a getaway before the start of classes today. We hit the Rubin Museum of Art, […]

## What’s FiveThirtyEight Good For?: The Inevitable Nate Silver Backlash

Now that we’ve apparently elected Nate Silver the President of Science, this is some predictable grumbling about whether he’s been overhyped. If you’ve somehow missed the whole thing, Jennifer Ouellette offers an excellent summary of the FiveThirtyEight saga, with lots of links, but the Inigo Montoya summing up is that Silver runs a blog predicting […]

## Shameless Innumeracy

On last month’s post about the public innumeracy of a Florida school board member, Tom Singer posts an update, which includes a link to a follow-up at the Washington Post blog that started the whole thing. In the course of rounding up reactions to the original, the author, Valerie Strauss, writes: In fact, there were […]

## On the Helpfulness of Numbers

Anybody who has taught introductory physics has noticed the tendency, particuarly among weaker students, to plug numbers into equations at the first opportunity, and spend the rest of the problem manipulating nine-digit decimal numbers (because, of course, you want to copy down all the digits the calculator gives you. Many faculty, myself included, find this […]

## The Advent Calendar of Physics: Introducing Angular Momentum

Moving along through our countdown to Newton’s birthday, we come to the next important physical quantity, angular momentum. For some obscure reason, this gets the symbol L, and the angular momentum for a single particle about some point A is given by: This is probably the most deceptive equation we’ll see this season. Yesterday’s definition […]

## The Innumeracy of Educators, or Mark Twain Was Right

“In the first place God made idiots. This was for practice. Then He made School Boards.” — Mark Twain In last night’s post about a school board member failing 10th grade standardized tests, I may have unfairly slighted our students. In response to a comment in which Rick Roach, the school board member who couldn’t […]

## Sad Balloon Physics II: How Long Will a Balloon Last?

As a follow up to Wednesday’s sad balloon post, the repair that lofted it back to the ceiling was a temporary reprieve, unsurprisingly. After 24 hours, more or less, it had sunk back down to the point where the ribbon was just barely touching the floor. On the one hand, it looks kind of pathetic […]

## Fermi Baseball: How Many Hitters Have There Ever Been?

I’m not much of a baseball fan, but we’re edging our way toward football season, so I flipped to ESPN radio a couple of days ago, in time to hear Mike and Mike discussing Jim Thome’s 600th home run. They were questioning how much meaning we should attach to home run records any more, given […]