Category Archives: mathematics

Pumping the Primes

On your desktop is a black box. Actually it’s an orange box, because black boxes are usually painted “a highly visible vermilion colour known as international orange.” In any case, it’s an opaque box: You can’t see the whirling gears … Continue reading

Posted in computing, mathematics | 11 Comments

Traffic Jams in Javascript

Building bigger roads can make traffic worse. The usual explanation for this counter­intuitive and counterproductive outcome is that bigger roads attract bigger shopping malls, which in turn attract more cars. But that’s not the whole story. In the 1960s Dietrich … Continue reading

Posted in computing, featured, mathematics, modern life | 12 Comments

Mrs. Nguyen’s prestidigitation

From a set of 1 through 9 playing cards, I draw five cards and get cards showing 8, 4, 2, 7, and 5. I ask my 6th graders to make a 3-digit number and a 2-digit number that would yield … Continue reading

Posted in mathematics | 7 Comments

A quasirandom talk

I’ll be giving a talk at Harvard this Friday, February 6: “Orderly Randomness: Quasirandom Numbers and Quasi–Monte Carlo.” If you’re in the neighborhood, please stop by. Lunch at 12:30; quasirandomness at 1:00 pm. Update 2015-02-08: Slides online. And video.

Posted in computing, mathematics | 1 Comment


Pick a number, N, then try searching for it on the web via Bing or Google (or maybe the leet version of Google). What can you expect to learn? I wasn’t quite sure of the answer, so I ran some … Continue reading

Posted in computing, mathematics | 20 Comments