Tag: math

A lovely illustration of “mathgirl.” Not technically a superhero, but in my opinion, just as awesome.


“This is a piece for Delaware Today about young girls losing interest in science,technology, engineering and math related studies. The state’s schools and businesses are hoping to turn all this around. I love it when I come up with a few sketches that I still want to use for something and this was one of those times. A big thanks to AD Kelly Carter!”

By Byron Eggenschwiler, via Fresh Photons.

Science things that are awesome…

(Also, all of these goofy pics are now being archived at a tumblr I just set up – scienceisawesomethatisall.tumblr.com)


O.K. Yesterday was our provincial elections (in British Columbia), and in the end, the Liberal party came out winning. There’s quite a few environmental issues that are in the forefront in my neck of the woods, not the least of which concerns the Northern Gateway pipeline.

The Liberals didn’t actually have the greatest platform on this (at least from an environmental or science policy standpoint), but here’s hoping the public continues to pressure them to do the “best” (re: what scientific expert peer review suggests) thing for the province, and indeed the planet at large.


Last Saturday, my lab opened up the entire ground floor of the Michael Smith Building to the public. This was in conjunction with Science Rendezvous, a cross Canada science festival, and in the case of UBC, organized by the Faculty of Science. In the house (so to speak) were folks from the Beaty Museum, Civil Engineering, Pathology, Physics and Astronomy, as well as the Engineering Physics Robotics lab (who also brought in their 3D printers). We also used the building as ground zero for a number of tours throughout campus.

All in all, a great day (and busy too!). In my space, I actually brought out about a dozen or dissecting scopes and collected a nice jar of pond scum. Kids (and their parents), with some basic instructions, were let loose to find whatever they could find in the pond water. Lots of cooties were found, protozoa and algae abound, but my favourite was this Hydra that I managed to get a decent picture of on my iPhone.


The scientific method – it’s not perfect, but it’s pretty much the best way out there on collecting your thoughts and information to make sound decisions. All the more so, if the decision is high stakes IMHO.

Lightning photo PLUS lightning photo PLUS math EQUALS #verycool









Analysis by Richard Wheeler. Pics by chordnine and Bobo1010

Quick! Assign the letters JHMLCNVTURISEYAPO to the integers -8 to 8 and tell me what you get…

… a piece of brilliant recreational math from Lee Sallows.


S + U + N = 3 + 0 – 3 = 0
M + E + R + C + U + R + Y = -6 + 4 + 1 – 4 + 0 + 1 + 5 = 1
V + E + N + U + S = -2 + 4 – 3 + 0 + 3 = 2
E + A + R + T + H = 4 + 6 + 1 – 1 – 7 = 3
M + A + R + S = – 6 + 6 + 1 + 3 = 4
J + U + P + I + T + E + R = -8 + 0 + 7 + 2 – 1 + 4 + 1 = 5
S + A + T + U + R + N = 3 + 6 – 1 + 0 + 1 – 3 = 6
U + R + A + N + U + S = 0 + 1 + 6 – 3 + 0 + 3 = 7
N + E + P + T + U + N + E = -3 + 4 + 7 – 1 + 0 – 3 + 4 = 8
P + L + U + T + O = 7 – 5 + 0 – 1 + 8 = 9
E + R + I + S* = 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 = 10

Via Futility Closet

Scariest equation ever? Probability of sending inappropriate texts.


From Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, via Dave Semeniuk

When cats speak mathematically #funny


Via Buzzfeed

How you might express “meh” in mathematical notation


By Kristopher Kelly, via McSweeney’s

Converting Pi to a 26 base (alphabet unit) numerical code equals monkeys typing randomly on typewriters!

Whoa, this is pretty cool…

“If π is expressed in base 26, then each of its digits can be associated with a letter of the alphabet (0=A, 1=B, … 25=Z). This produces an endless string of letters:


If the digits of π are truly random, then this string “emulates the mythical army of typing monkeys spewing out random letters,” writes Mike Keith. “Among other things, this implies that any text, no matter how long, should eventually appear in the base-26 digits of π.”

By Mike Keith – more here (text found via futility closet)

Snakes on a (mathematical) plane


By ~bananagram, via IFLS.

It’s Pi Day everyone! And in celebration, here is an assortment of #awesome Pi related links. #piday

It’s March 14th (or 3/14), and I figure clicking on these links should keep you occupied for at least 3.14 minutes…

Pi! The poster! #awesome

Pi in the sky (or at least the first 1000 digits). #whoa

WANT: The Pi bottle opener.

When you use Pi to create art, these are the types of incredible images you might get.

Time to ride your Picycle! #math

When Pi reversed equals Pie.

The “ARE YOU A DICK?” Pi recognition scale.

Lovely mnemonic for Pi involving liquor and physics.

Pizza solved. #veryclever

In case you ever want to see Pi to the first one million digits.

Dear Algebra: Please stop asking us to find your ex… #funny


Source unknown, via IFLS

Foldable creature themed paper lights #pretty




By MostLikelyShop, via Colossal

Multiple choice question: Which PhD is not like the others?


Via IFLS (no source provided – please let me know if you know where this came from)

This Here: An Equation that Calculates the Odds of Being Cast as a Stormtrooper Extra in One of the New Star Wars Movies.


It (hypothetically*) goes like this:


* Like all good science, this needs some testing…

– – –

When news hit that Disney bought the rights to Star Wars, and that J.J. Abrams would be manning the first movie of a new trilogy, my inner geek went into giddy overdrive. This was because it gave me a chance to revisited my bucket list, which had previously scratched off “be an extra in a Star Wars movie” as something that was unattainable having presumed the prequels were my last chance. But now, there is (literally), A NEW HOPE. Even better, is the fact that my kids are old enough to also want this.

And so, being a science-y sort and all, I figured the first step would be to actually try and come up with a way to calculate the odds of such a thing happening, and hence you see the above – or what I have termed the Abrams’ Stormtrooper Axiom. In effect, this is an equation that aims to calculates the odds of you (or anyone) being cast as a stormtrooper in one of these new movies1.

Here’s how it works. We’ll first look at (1) which expresses the equation in its most obvious form.


When you look at this equation, there are three main components: two in the numerator: WkSblaster and bmiopthopt

And one in the denominator: 5.4(1+bop+bow).

The denominator is an expression designed to address the likelihood of being cast, as having a dependence on the individual’s chance of contact with J.J. Abrams. Specifically, bop refers to the degrees of personal separation the individual is from the Director, whereas bow refers to the degrees of internet separation the individual is from the Director. The base of the exponential relationship is, of course, the standard May The Force Be With You Constant (or 5.4).

All told, if you have very little connection to the director, your odds can dwindle significantly, about 5.4(1+6+6) times, or roughly one in 3.3 billion! It also infers that even if you know JJ Abrams personally, it does not guarantee being cast – mathematically, the closest association would still work out to 5.4(1+1+1), or roughly a chance of one in 158. This is because there are other factors that need to come into play when determining whether an individual is right for a stormtrooper part.

Which is where the numerator expressions exert their influence. We can first begin with the bmiopthopt element, which essentially considers the physicality of the individual vying for a stormtrooper part. The bmi portion considers body shape, whereas the h portion considers height.

Each element can be further derived as:


Where (2) calculates divergence from an average body type (as expressed by an individual’s body mass index with m equals to the individual’s weight in kilograms, and h is equal to the individual’s height in metres). You’ll note that the more you veer away from an “average” body type, the greater the modification of the bmiopt number to a number less than one (and therefore further lowering your odds).

In the same manner, (3) calculates divergence from an optimal height (deemed 1.8 metres as determined from casual examination of Star Wars’ trivia – i.e. calculating Mark Hamill‘s height and noting the “Aren’t you a little short to be a Stormtrooper?” comment). Like the BMI calculation, the more you deviate from the optimal height, the greater the modification of the hopt number to a number less than one (and therefore further lowering your odds).

Note that both (2) and (3) are included in the overall equation for pragmatic prop design reasons (not every extra can have a custom made set of armour, so it makes sense if casting aimed for similar body types). Then, of course, there is the whole clone army narrative which might also presume the troops having similar physical features. (Also note that in case you weren’t familiar with the symbol, the straight up and down lines enclose a value where you only use the absolute number – i.e. remove the plus or minus sign).

Anyway, when you put it all together you get the expression (4).


Which only leaves Wk and Sblaster to be defined. Here, these two variables relate to two specific personality traits that are deemed important for the stormtrooper casting decision.

For instance, I don’t think I’m the only Star Wars fan who notices the incredibly poor marksmanship exhibited by the stormtroopers. There are many instances in the movies where there are many of them (with their weapons – presumably high tech in nature), in close proximity to the target, and yet, they still always fail to hit their target. The below video is one of many classic examples where you can see this:

Given this observation, I’m left to assume that Stormtroopers, as a whole, have a deep distrust of guns, and with that discomfort tend to misfire (perhaps subconsciously). This also leads me to hypothesize that not only are they not very skilled, but that they are probably the sort that are not at all familiar with gun culture in their private lives.

Consequently, Sblaster is a number assigned to measure the individual’s relative experience wth guns, whereby a value of 1.0 represents full disconnect from the use of guns in their personal lives, and a number closer to zero represents an individual who is very familiar with gun culture.

Of course, perhaps the most important tangible characteristic (that could translate to a positive casting decision) is relative fandom itself. In other words, casting may be partly governed by how “into Star Wars” an individual is. Here, and in honor of Chewbacca’s reference of “pulling arms out of their sockets when they lose,” I’ve decided to use Wookie knowledge, or Wk as an indicator that can further increase casting chances. Essentially, this is a scale that ranges from 1 to 10, whereby 10 represents fanatical knowledge on all things Wookie, and 1 represents no knowledge at all. In effect, if you’re nuts about Star Wars (and wookies specifically), you can increase your chances of being cast by 10 fold.

In conclusion, I want to stress that this is the Abrams’ Stormtrooper Axiom, and by its very definition, an axiom is just a starting point. This means the equation will need more work, and it would be great suggestions to make it better. As it stands, it works as a general guideline using a number of test values2. As well, there is also the very real caveat of whether J.J. Abrams will even have stormtroopers in the new movies – never mind the fact that if he does, they may come in a different size, or be better at shooting, etc. In some respects, this reminds me a little of Schrödinger’s cat (we can call our version Abrams’ Stormtrooper): we won’t really know what he has in mind until he lets us open the box.

– – –


1. In general, I’ve used information from the original trilogy for points of reference.

2. For instance, an individual with no connection at all will result in a number that works against the backdrop of the total human population numbers. For J.J. Abrams, himself, where bop and bow are equal to zero, and his Wk is likely quite high, the equation would further calculate that he has practically perfect odds of being cast as a stormtrooper (which makes sense given his role in the movie). For the sake of comparison, I’ve calculated my own odds to be approximately: 0.00000519 or about one in 19,000.

Teaching math is way more fun after tenure


By Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal.

Literally, a killer physics question. #funny


From Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, via IFLS.

Equation to calculate critical number of guests that make a party too noisy.



N0 = the critical number of guests above which each speaker will try overcome the background noise by raising his voice
K = the average number of guests in each conversational group
a = the average sound absorption coefficient of the room
V = the room’s volume
h = a properly weighted mean free path of a ray of sound
d0 = the conventional minimum distance between speakers
Sm = the minimum signal-to-noise ratio for the listeners

– – –


As derived by William R. MacLean, “On the Acoustics of Cocktail Parties,” Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, January 1959, 79-80 (link | pdf). Text via Futility Closet.

Window mathematics (or more proof that math is truly everywhere)



By Aakash Nihalani at Nuart Festival in Norway. Via Fresh Photons.

Sciencegeek Advent Calendar Extravaganza! – Day 7


By Matthew Parker. Hand painted paper polygons with glitter detail.


Available for purchase.

(see more of Popperfont’s Sciencegeek Advent Calendar Extravanganza here)

This textbook physics question concerns the lubrication of hamsters.

From Thanks, Textbooks, via Fresh Photons.