Wild About Math! Making Math fun and accessible


Review: Manga Guide to Statistics

The Manga Guide to Statistics is a cartoon book in the same style as the publisher's Manga Guide to Calculus, which I reviewed a while back. It's been close to thirty years since I studied statistics (in High School) and reading this book brought back memories.

For the same reasons that I liked Manga's Calculus book, I enjoyed this one. It tells a story. It has pictures, so it engages the visual sense as well as the "word processing" sense. It takes a subject that can be taught in a very dry way and brings it to life, showing how statistics has meaning in real life problems; the importance justifies the mechanical machinery that is central to the study.


Slide rules rule

The March/April 2009 issue of the Stanford Magazine had this delightful letter to the editor.


The article on Tom Wyman and his slide rule collection (“Calculating Collector,” Red All Over, January/February) takes me back to 1972, when Hewlett Packard introduced the HP-35, its first pocket scientific calculator, priced at $395. I was living in Palo Alto then, so I went to the Stanford Bookstore to see it. I found a gentleman standing at the counter, experimenting with the display model. When he finished, I asked him if he was thinking of buying one. No, he replied, he was just a salesman who happened to be calling on the store. I asked him what he sold and he answered, “Pickett slide rules.”

“Well,” I said, “doesn’t this new gadget have you worried?”

“Not at all,” he replied, “our slide rules can do anything this can do, at a tenth the price. Our sales are better than ever.”

Of course, the rest is now history, and so are those once-ubiquitous Pickett slide rules.

Richard A. Dirks, Gr. ’62
Asheville, North Carolina

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An information theory puzzle

My brother shared this puzzle with me this morning. He heard it on the radio but no solution was offered. Neither of us know what the answer is so I'm looking forward to one of you posting the answer in the comments. Here's the puzzle:

Bob and Alice are both millionaires. They're both curious to know who is richer but they don't want to tell the other one how much money they have. Without engaging a trusted third party, how can they both know who is richer?

I wonder if the solution has something to do with public and private keys and/or authentication.

So, what's the answer?

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Nonplussed! Review

"Nonplus" is not a particularly common English word so I looked it up on dictionary.com.

–verb (used with object)
1. to render utterly perplexed; puzzle completely.
2. a state of utter perplexity.

"Nonplussed" is a book full of perplexing facts, and solid Math to explain the perplexities. In other words, this book is about mathematically provable facts that don't actually seem to be true.

Here is a great example of the state of being nonplussed and my favorite part of the book. Chapter 13 is all about Friday the 13th. Many of know that every year has at least one Friday the 13th. But, did you know that the 13th day of any month falls more frequently on a Friday than on any other day of the week? Did you know that the first day of any year ending in "01" (e.g. 1901, 2001) cannot fall on a Friday (or Wednesday or Sunday either)? These are some interested facts explored and proven in this one of fourteen chapters.