You’ve wondered, I’m sure, about some of our names for the months. Perhaps you are puzzled about why October is the tenth month when the name clearly suggests that it should be the eighth. Similarly for September, November, and December…. Read More ›

# Math

## What? A model railroad can be a computational device and a musical instrument?!

Surely you’re joking, Mr. Aaronson. I can (just barely) believe the musical instrument claim, but a computational device??? Actually, both claims are true, hard as it is to believe. For the musical instrument, watch this short video and you’ll see… Read More ›

## A new unit of distance?

No, this sign isn’t at a Starbucks:

## A supposedly “new” way to solve quadratics

What’s wrong with the Quadratic Formula? Let me count the ways: It’s pure magic to 99% of high-school students, who have no idea why it works. It lends itself to sign errors because of the subtraction under the square root… Read More ›

## Pi(e) day: not actually a national holiday!

OK, I tried to release this at precisely 3/14 1:59:26.535897932384. How well did I do? But why would the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) lie to us about Pi Day? This is just too distressing for words: Declared a… Read More ›

## Why do physicists play dominoes? And what’s the connection between the Aztecs and the Arctic Circle anyway?

I’m sure you’ve been wondering: what’s a mathologer? Or perhaps you should ask “Who’s The Mathologer?” In that case, the answer is easy: The Mathologer is Burkard Polster. I’m kidding about part of this, of course—not about his name, which… Read More ›

##
*The Princess Bride *revisited

“Never get involved in a land war in Asia.” That’s the line I’ve remembered for more than three decades. Yes, it has been that long since The Princess Bride was first released! How well has this movie held up? Amazingly well, I… Read More ›

## Suppose you lived on a dodecahedron. How would you avoid your neighbors?

“Suppose you lived on a dodecahedron,” I say. “How would you avoid your neighbors?” “But I don’t live on a dodecahedron,” you claim. “Anyway, what if I don’t want to avoid my neighbors?” Stop! This is mathematics. We make abstractions away from the real… Read More ›

## A number theory discovery by a 12-year-old Nigerian boy! And one by an 11-year-old Massachusetts girl!

Everyone knows the stereotype: mathematical discoveries are made by white and Asian males in their 20s and 30s. Right? Well, like all stereotypes, there’s a certain amount of statistical reality that supports this impression and obscures all examples to the… Read More ›

## That’s Life. “Uncertainty is the only certainty.”

This is life: In a world where truth seems to be at a premium and the future unsure, it’s comforting to know precisely when the sun is going to come up and that when it does, it will do so… Read More ›