A picture of frustration: Sam Loyd’s 15 puzzle

Mathematics, whether it be calculus homework or cutting-edge research, can be very challenging. Haven’t we all faced a problem that we struggle with for hours or days? The answer, we know, or we hope, is within our grasp—but we just can’t reach it. In moments like that I always think of this picture from the…

Music is math: ten songs about mathematics

Just for fun, here are ten songs about mathematics. Am I missing any good ones? Post them in the comments. 1. Finite Simple Group (of Order 2) by the Klein Four Group (lyrics). This excellent song was written and performed by graduate students at Northwestern University, where I did my graduate work. I think it…

Irving Kaplansky’s “A Song about Pi”

Perhaps I should wait until mid-March to post this, but oh, well. Irving “Kap” Kaplansky (1917–2006), the mathematician and former head of MSRI, was also a pianist and songwriter. In 1973 he brought all of these interests together to pen a song called “A Song about Pi.” The tune is was inspired by the digits of…

The Edmonton Eulers

A few years ago I found an alteration of the logo of the Edmonton Oilers (a Canadian hockey team in the NHL) in which “Oilers” was replaced with “Eulers.” I printed it and hung it outside my office door. Now I can’t find the original, but you can see a scanned copy on the left. I…

Pumpkin pi

My kids and I painted and carved pumpkins last night. And, yes, we made a pumpkin pi.

Exceptional MathReviews

If you have access to MathSciNet and are in the mood for some good laughs, head over to Kimball Martin’s collection of Exceptional MathReviews. He introduces his collection as follows: Were you ever looking up papers in MathSciNet and you found one that especially made you smile or laugh? And were you ever wishing that MathReviews…

The hitchhiker’s guide to infinity

I’ve had a few encounters with large numbers and the infinite lately. First, I came across this interesting blog post that asks how many times you would have to fold a piece of paper so that its thickness would be the same as the distance from the earth to the moon. It is a really…

An island on an island on an island

A few weeks ago I wrote about an island on an island on a landmass. Today I found this website which shows an island on an island on an island. Pretty cool! Zoom out on the map below to see the nested islands. There is a puddle… …on an island… …in a lake (Crater Lake)……

Thirteen mathematically-inspired products

Just for fun, here is a list of 13 mathematically-inspired products that I’ve stumble upon recently. Klein bottle house Come in/Go away ambigram doormat Klein bottle bottle opener Chair made of Voronoi cells Tiling a floor with irregular pentagons A Möbius bridge The Pittsburg Steelers logo (and my blog post about it) Nesting Fibonacci kitchen…

Coffee stains and the Simpsons in your LaTeX document

A few weeks ago John D. Cook posted a tweet asking for suggestions for his @TeXtip Twitter feed. Usually @TeXtip posts are useful tips or factual tidbits about the typesetting program. I decided to send him a humorous suggestion instead. He posted the tip on Twitter yesterday. I sent him a link to Hanno Rein’s coffee.sty package…

Water and land, nested

Just for fun… There is a puddle… …on an island (Ryan Island)… …in a lake (Siskiwit Lake)… …on an island (Isle Royale)… …in a lake (Lake Superior)… …on a landmass (the Americas)… …surrounded by water (oceans of the world). Can you do better? (By the way, I found this neat island on my own while…

Happy tau day!

It is 6/28! Happy tau day—a day that is twice as fun a pi day! Let’s celebrate our new favorite mathematical constant:  Remember, as Bob Palais told us, is wrong! I’m a fan of tau.