Math Jokes Explained
Numberphile explains some of the punniest math humor around. I happen to love puns, so this makes me infinitely happy.
How Richard Feynman cracked the safes at Los Alamos using human behavior and simple math, in the meantime convincing everyone there he was some sort of magician and further cementing his place in my heart as coolest, cleverest dude ever.
The Amazing World of √2
For instance, did you know that the two sides of a sheet of A4 paper differ by exactly √2?
Finally, in “things I learned today”: To type the “√” on a Mac, just hit Alt+V! We’re learning all kinds of stuff, aren’t we?
How to Order 43 Chicken McNuggets
I don’t know why you’d want to, but this does teach a bit of a math lesson.
The guys at Numberphile asked what the largest number of McNuggets is that you can’t order (depending on where you live). Restaurants and retailers everywhere deal with math problems like this as a question of efficiency and product design.
It’s a lesson in Frobenius numbers, which are really just a fancy application of the coin problem: What combinations of counting units (coins or nuggets or whatever) must you provide in order to allow for the most eventual combinations?
Don’t try this at home, because no one needs even 1 McNugget.
Pi and Buffon’s Matches
Did you know you could approximate the value of pi by dropping a bunch of matches on a piece of paper? It involves probability and random rotation of the matches, and it’s stunningly accurate.
Here’s the Numberphile team to take you through the steps, a modern take on the classic Buffon’s needle problem.
Dr. James Grime breaks down sudoku research (yes, people work on that). The sudokuologists have calculated that the minimum number of starting clues to uniquely complete a puzzle is 17. Not 16. But 17.
Why is that the fewest number of starting clues to complete a puzzle? It has to do with a lot of large exponential numbers and seven million hours of high-powered computing.
Work like this is about more than number games. It’s about building tools to solve bewilderingly huge problems. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go tell my grandmother. She’s a sudoku addict.