Yearly Archives: 2017

Sir Roger Penrose’s Toilet Paper

Twenty years ago, Kimberly-Clark, the Kleenex company, introduced a line of toilet paper embossed with the kite-and-dart aperiodic tiling discovered by Roger Penrose. When I first heard about this, I thought: How clever. Because the pattern never repeats, the creases … Continue reading

Posted in mathematics, off-topic, uncategorized | 1 Comment

The Threats to the Net

My first glimpse of the World Wide Web came in 1993 on a visit to Fermilab, the physics playground near Chicago. Tom Nash, head of the computing division, showed me a screenful of text with a few highlighted phrases. When … Continue reading

Posted in computing, modern life | 3 Comments

Sudden Deaf

My erstwhile employer, mentor, and dearest friend was Dennis Flanagan, who edited Scientific American for 37 years. He is the larger of the two aquatic specimens in the photograph below. One of the quirks of life with Dennis was that … Continue reading

Posted in biology, off-topic | 4 Comments

Approximately Yours

Today, I’m told, is Rational Approximation Day. It’s 22/7 (for those who write dates in little-endian format), which differs from π by about 0.04 percent. (The big-endians among us are welcome to approximate 1/π.) Given the present state of life … Continue reading

Posted in computing, mathematics | 10 Comments

Counting Your Chickens Before They’re Pecked

It started with a brief story in the New York Times about Luke Robitaille, a 13-year-old student from Euless, Texas, who won the Raytheon Mathcounts National Competition by correctly answering the following question: In a barn, 100 chicks sit peacefully … Continue reading

Posted in biology, computing, featured, mathematics, problems and puzzles, statistics | 8 Comments