Given a polynomial in which ax^2 + bx + c = 0, the quadratic equation, or “negative b plus or minus the square root of b squared minus 4 times a times c all divided by 2 times a” can solve for x. This formula has been seared in my brain since the 1980s. But now, apparently, there is a new way to solve for x that appeared in the most recent issue of Popular Mechanics.More
Being a man subject to his vices, I’ve started up again on World of Warcraft. Not the new stuff, the “Classic” servers. “Is that what’s taking up your time?” I hear you all saying, “I had wondered why it was slightly less nerdy and pedantic around here.” Well, worry no more! For the joy and edification of the Ricochet audience, here I reproduce the work I did with the damage formulas. Because a simple post about Warcraft wouldn’t be nearly nerdy enough.
It all stemmed from a simple question; which is better, strength or agility? Strength adds damage, but agility adds some damage as well, and some critical hit chance too. So how do you compare them? You can’t categorically say that one is always better than the other. Well, you can, and people often do. But you can’t and still be right. In a broader sense, how do you decide between two items? Here, let’s go shoe shopping. Which pair of boots do you think goes better with my yellow damage?More
Good polls, confusing polls and politicizing math are the focus of our martinis on Wednesday. Jim and Greg are glad to see Republican U.S. Senate challenger John James already in a virtual dead heat with Democratic Sen. Gary Peters in Michigan. They also shake their heads as a new Kaiser Family Foundation survey shows a […]
No, not vector in the epidemiological sense. The other, mathy kind of vector. Which, trust me, are fun. At least stick around for the zombies.
This dates back to my college days, when I took Differential Equations. Twice. I’ve always been good with math. Sure, I struggled with plenty of things along the way (percentages, trig identities, multivariable integration. Oooh, and concentrations in chemistry), but DiffEq is where I hit the wall like a coyote hits his own painted-on tunnel. Vector spaces were part of that; an abtruse concept used to justify an abstract concept used to solve some difficult equations that might, in turn, have something to do with the real world. But once I got my head wrapped around them, vector spaces turned out to be a fun and useful bit of math. Hey, it could happen.More
A few months ago Ricochet member @mattyvan put up a great post about Sweden, Sweden. Lessons for America? , which included an hour long documentary about Sweden’s economy. Since then we have seen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez become one of the most popular young Democrats and one of the oldest, Bernie Sanders, announce that he will run for president in 2020. With admitted socialist becoming more and more more prominent, it might be worth revisiting this topic.
While Cuba and Venezuela give us good examples of what socialism can do to a country, they do not exactly tell a happy story. So, the folks promoting “Democratic Socialism” are telling us to look to Sweden as an example of what we can do in America. The problem is, Sweden doesn’t really fit the model of what Bernie and company are trying to sell.More
A man has 10 trees and wants to line them up in 5 straight lines with 4 trees per line. What shape do the trees make? I was in college when a math professor gave me this riddle. It took me a weekend to solve. How can you get 10 trees into 5 rows with […]
We’re taking a break from the manufacturing process to cover some ideas in programming. Algorithms, what that means and why. Sounds fancy, doesn’t it? It ain’t as bad as it sounds. Let’s jump right in:
What’s An Algorithm?More
♫“I’m as something as something in something!”♫ Do you recognize the tune? Do you recognize what’s missing?
The syntax is there, but the content is blank. Welcome to my memory. The memory of someone who’ll never grow out of flash cards, for as long as I need to remember, not just structure, but the things that go in it. Whether I’m using them to organize thoughts, or to drill my recalcitrant memory, flash cards are Midge’s little helper. The original flash drive, if you will. Not because a card works like flash memory, but because, like a flash drive, cards are a small, easily-portable way to carry around bits of vital information.More
David French of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America applaud former NPR CEO Ken Stern for taking the time to meet voters in red states and realizing they are nothing like the caricature offered by the mainstream media. They’re also exasperated as President Trump and Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker resume their public feud and […]
Maybe you hate the backsplash tiles behind your kitchen sink. I know I do. Not your tiles, I mean – mine. Their pattern is a boring grid; their color, a grubby off-white (if you’ve ever dug up grubs in your garden, you know what color I mean). A few of the tiles are stamped with chintzy brown sunflowers in a listless attempt at cheer. It probably doesn’t help that I hate our kitchen sink as well, a sink wedged in a countertop corner for added inconvenience.
But maybe you’re lucky. Maybe you have a convenient kitchen sink and exciting backsplash tile. If your backsplash tile is laid in a hopscotch pattern, you even have the Pythagorean theorem lurking right behind your sink. To the left is a backsplash much nicer than mine, tastefully tiled in a hopscotch pattern (well, tasteful aside from the peculiar choice of blue grout). To mathematicians, the hopscotch pattern is known as “Pythagorean tiling”, because of how beautifully it illustrates the Pythagorean theorem. Several proofs of the Pythagorean theorem exist, some of which are more intuitive than others. To me, the diagram superimposed on the hopscotch tiling produces one of the most intuitive proofs, especially for children. If you like, you can knock off reading right now and do the proof yourself: the diagram has all the labeling you need.More
Those of you who remember the formula for the volume of a pyramid and its rounder cousin the cone may have, like me, have been told to simply accept it, at least until we learned calculus – that is, if we learned calculus. When I was in school, this bugged me. Bugged me enough to doodle a lot of pyramids until I discovered the primordial pyramid. The primordial pyramid is the only pyramid I know of which makes its volume obvious without the use of calculus – heck, nearly without the use of math! It is, however, a pyramid with specific proportions, incapable of answering for all pyramids and cones. To make it do that takes magical cheese.
Imagine a perfect cube. It could be a perfect cube of cheese, but at this point it’s more helpful to picture the cube as transparent – made of jello, for example. Picture lines inside the cube connecting each corner of the cube to its most opposite corner. The surfaces connecting these lines divide the cube up into six identical pyramids, primordial pyramids. The height H of each primordial pyramid is one-half the height of the cube, so the volume of the cube is (2H)^3. Because six of these pyramids together form the cube, the volume of each pyramid is (2H)^3/6. The base of each pyramid has area A = (2H)^2. Writing the volume of the primordial pyramid in terms of base and height, the volume is 2HA/6 = 1/3 HA. Now suppose we build a primordial pyramid out of that American kitchen staple, cheese singles (very thin, identical squares of cheese food product):More
I went to pick up a take-out order from a restaurant today and found a dozen or so customers sitting around with no food. The restaurant’s computer system was down. In the old days, we could calculate totals manually and even take credit card payments via a non-electronic system. But the young clerk just kept […]
Blaise Pascal, mathematician, scientist, inventor, and philosopher, a man who from the age of 16 had been making historic contributions to mathematics and the physical sciences, who, despite a sickly constitution and a capacity for intense abstraction nonetheless oversaw the material construction of his experiments and inventions with great zest, was barely past 30 when saw something unexpected one raw November night. He saw fire. The vision of it so branded him that he sewed the record he made of it, his Memorial, into his coat, carrying it with him the rest of his life:
What strange things do you do that you worry might get reported as terrorist activity? For many years, my greatest fear was my metronome, which I had reason to carry around with me wherever I went, including on plane flights. I mostly used it for its tuner function, but it wasn’t hard to accidentally press […]
I have little doubt that Zipf’s Law is not new to a great many Ricochetois, considering how many of y’all have brains the size of planets, but it was a new concept for me when I clicked on this highly fascinating YouTube video from VSauce: More
You have a box of 1500 screws. They’re inventory, they cost about a dollar each, and you want to send them out with your guys on various jobs over the next nine months or so. To track them, you want to parcel them out into bags, each of which contains 100 screws. You have a […]
I was trying to remember how to do it last night at work, and it remains elusive. I work support in a Hard Drive parts factory. We audit our manufacturing lots regularly through the process for defects. Last night I was tasked with tracking down an elusive problem. In a particular audit we inspect 54 […]