Yearly Archives: 2011

A slight discrepancy

The image above shows the mesh top of a patio table, photographed after a soaking rain. Some of the openings in the mesh retain drops of water. What can we say about the distribution of those drops? Are they sprinkled … Continue reading

Posted in computing, featured, mathematics, physics | 36 Comments

Don’t try to read this proof!

On the subject of the Collatz conjecture (also known as the 3x+1 problem), Paul Erdos remarked: “Mathematics is not yet ready for such problems.” Shizuo Kakutani joked that the problem was a Cold War invention of the Russians meant to … Continue reading

Posted in mathematics, problems and puzzles | 4 Comments

Only correlate!

I’m not actually a shill for Google Labs, although it may seem that way from all my recent (and ongoing) attention to the Google Ngram Viewer: four posts (1, 2, 3, 4) and an American Scientist column, so far. What … Continue reading

Posted in computing, modern life | 6 Comments

Oh, the places I’ve been!

When I heard the rumors that my iPhone was tracking my movements and keeping a log of location data, I was annoyed. Now that Apple has fixed this bug/feature, I’m even more annoyed. There’s just no pleasing me. The fuss … Continue reading

Posted in computing, modern life, technology | 2 Comments

Zipfy n-grams

In the 1930s and 40s George Kingsley Zipf studied word frequencies in several languages and came up with a general observation: If you sort all the words from commonest to rarest, the frequency of the word at rank r is … Continue reading

Posted in computing, linguistics | 10 Comments