A bunch of people I follow on social media were buzzing about this blog post yesterday, taking Jonah Lerher to task for “getting spun” in researching and writing this column in the Wall Street Journal about this paper on the “wisdom of crowds” effect. The effect in question is a staple of pop psychology these […]

# Category: Math

## Another Commercial… What Are the Odds?

This year’s NCAA tournament is being spread over four tv networks, so that every game is shown in its entirety. Previously, you got whatever game was deemed to hold the most interest for your region of the country, plus occasional looks in at games elsewhere, that usually managed to miss the most exciting bits. For […]

## Trends in International Math and Science: Mostly Downward

My talk at the AAAS meeting was part of a symposium on the results from the 2008 Trends in International Math and Science Survey (TIMSS) Advanced. This is an international test on math and physics given to high-school students in nine different countries (Armenia, Iran, Italy, Lebanon, Netherlands, Norway, Russia, Slovenia, Sweden), and this is […]

## Dorky Poll: Favorite Prime Number?

A pretty straightforward question: Which prime number do you like the best? What’s your favorite prime number?online surveys This is a purely classical poll, so you only get to choose one favorite, not a superposition of multiple numbers. Your selection is legally binding, so choose wisely!

## Benford’s Law of Amazon Rankings

Late last year, Matthew Beckler was nice enough to make a sales rank tracker for How to Teach Physics to Your Dog. Changes in the Amazon page format made it stop working a while ago, though, and now Amazon reports roughly equivalent data via its AuthorCentral feature, with the added bonus of BookScan sales figures. […]

## Two Cultures Within Science

The great British physicist Ernest Rutherford once said “In science, there is only physics; all the rest is stamp collecting.” This is kind of the ultimate example of the arrogance of physicists, given a lovely ironic twist by the fact that when Rutherford won a Nobel Prize, it was in Chemistry. (He won for discovering […]

## Poll: Significant Figures

I’m grading a big backlog of homeworks today, so I don’t have time to do any really lengthy posts this morning. Thus, a poll question inspired by going through these homeworks: You are doing a physics homework problem. How many significant figures do you report?survey software While the class in question uses some quantum ideas, […]

## The Diagonal Parking Theorem

(With apologies to Georg Cantor) Theorem: There are an infinite number of stupid ways to park. Definition: We define as stupid any parking method that places any fender of a car outside the legal lines bounding the space. Proof:Consider a line L through the center of a legal parking space, parallel to the lines bounding […]

## Calculus Saves the Economy!

I’m taking a bit of flak in comments to my silly Bob Dylan post from Sunday, with various right-wingers spontaneously popping in to tell me that JFK cut taxes. My initial reaction to this is to think that supposing a perfect equivalence between JFK cutting the top rate from 90% to 70% during a time […]

## The Calculus Diaries by Jennifer Ouellette

I finished Jennifer Ouellette’s new book a few weeks ago, shortly after my trip to Alabama, but it’s taken me a long time to get around to reviewing it due to a combination of too much work and being a Bad Person. There’s finally a tiny break in the storm of work, though, so here’s […]