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…

Movie day in topology class: the Poincaré conjecture

Today was the last day of the topology class I’ve been teaching. I decided to devote the day to the Poincaré conjecture. I started by telling the students a little about the history of the problem. Then I showed them three videos. The first video was an excellent 50-minute lecture by Fields medalist Curt McMullen…

Bolzano-Weierstrass rap

In my next real analysis lecture we’ll be discussing the Bolzano-Weierstrass theorem. (It says that any bounded sequence of real numbers contains a convergent subsequence.) I’ll be showing my class this video in which Steve Sawin (AKA Slim Dorky) raps the complete proof of the theorem. You can read the lyrics here. He has some other…

Tom Lehrer’s math songs

After writing about some well known people with degrees in mathematics, I was moved to re-listen to some old Tom Lehrer songs on YouTube. I decided I’d post some links to his more mathematical songs here. Enjoy. First, “Lobachevsky,” a song about the Russian mathematician Nikolai Lobachevsky and his discovery of non-Euclidean geometry, which some…

Videos of past meetings of the ICM

As you may know, the 2010 International Congress of Mathematicians will be held in Hyderabad, India. This weekend I received an invitation to speak at one of the satellite conferences (Various Aspects of Dynamical Systems) at The Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda in Vadodara, India, which is being held immediately after the ICM. Needless to…

How the arch got its shape

The most recent video podcast episode of Science Friday is a short but nice discussion of the mathematics behind the St. Louis Arch: How the arch got its shape.

Musings about traffic on the highway

Here’s a neat looking infographic by Stephen J. Beard and Rich Exner from The Plain Dealer that I bookmarked a few months ago. It addresses the question, why do freeways come to a stop? Seeing this graphic reminded me of how much I used to be fascinated by traffic when I was a child (even though I…

Arthur Benjamin: Lightning Calculation and Other “Mathemagic”

I’m continuing to enjoy watching mathematics videos online. This week I saw a few math-related TED talks pop up in my news reader and enjoyed watching them: Math = Letting Dead People Do the Work at Let’s Play Math How calculus is changing architecture at Casting Out Nines In case you do not know what…

My virtual seminar goes live

I love my job—I teach at a small, highly selective liberal arts college. It is a great place to work. But one thing I miss from my days at big research universities is the constant stream of research mathematicians who give seminars and colloquia.  I am within two hours of Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington DC, and…

Bubbles with knotted boundaries

We can think of a mathematical knot as a knotted piece of string (or in our case, wire) with its free ends joined. Examples are shown below. There is a remarkable theorem that every knot can be realized as the boundary of a surface. Moreover, Herbert Seifert produced a very simple algorithm for constructing an orientable…