Wild About Math! Making Math fun and accessible


Jason Ermer – Inspired by Math #23

I'm experimenting with including some shorter podcasts with the hour-long ones. I discovered Jason Ermer's Collaborative Mathematics Project, was very intrigued by what Jason is up to and got him to do a quick interview.

If you like this interview, these shorter podcasts, or these interviews overall, please leave your comments and please click on the social media links and help spread the word. Thank you!

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Erica Klarreich – Inspired by Math #22

Erica Klarreich's name came up a couple of times when I asked people who I should interview for the podcast series. So, I looked her up and was impressed with the in depth articles she had written for Scientific American and a number of other publications.

Enjoy this 22nd "Inspired by Math" podcast.

About Erica Klarreich

Adapted from Erica's web-site:
Erica Klarreich has been writing about mathematics and science for a popular audience for more than ten years. A mathematician before she became a full-time journalist, she writes primarily about mathematics, but has also written about a wide range of other scientific fields, including economics, computer science, medicine and biology.

As a freelance journalist based in Berkeley, California, she has written for many publications, including Nature, New Scientist, American Scientist, and Science News, for which she was the mathematics correspondent for several years. She has also served as the Journalist-in-Residence at the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute in Berkeley. Her work has been reprinted in the anthologies The Best Writing on Mathematics 2010 and The Best Writing on Mathematics 2011.

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Julie Rehmeyer – Inspired by Math #21

Over the years I've enjoyed Julie Rehmeyer's craft of weaving together serious mathematics into stories that engage those of us who enjoy popular math and science. I recently had the chance to interview Julie and discovered that her exuberance for math is just as great as her talent for writing. Listen to the podcast and see if you agree.

About Julie Rehmeyer

Julie Rehmeyer writes about mathematics and science for Science News, Wired, Discover and other magazines. Her work appeared in The Best Writing on Mathematics 2010. Before becoming a math writer, she taught math and the classics at St. John's College in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and before that, she studied algebraic topology at MIT. In her spare time, she's built her own strawbale house, run a marathon, and mentored foster children.

If you'd like to get in touch with Julie, here's her email. She's happy to connect with listeners of her podcast. [Spambot-resistant image provided by: E-mail Icon Generator.]

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An interview with the Chaos Film Makers

I recently interviewed two of the three makers of the computer-animated Chaos movie, Jos Leys and Étienne Ghys. (The third movie maker, Aurélien Alvarez, couldn't join the interview.) My intent was to turn the interview into an "Inspired by Math!" podcast but we were not able to get good audio quality so I had the interviewed transcribed.

This is a two-hour math movie, divided into nine 13-minute sections. It is really well animated and will hold the interest of viewers of all ages. It is a film about dynamical systems, the butterfly effect and chaos theory.

Here are some of the questions we discussed:

  1. What inspired the two of you (and Aurélien) to create Chaos? What is exciting to you about chaos? Also, tell us about your Dimensions film.
  2. Please explain to our listeners what the film is about and who would enjoy it.
  3. Where does your excitement for math and physics originate from? Please share your stories of how you got inspired about physics.
  4. What inspired you to do animation?
  5. Tell us about the process and the technology you used to make the film. And, how long did it take to make it?
  6. What advice would you give to people who want to get into computer animation of mathematical ideas?
  7. First there was Dimensions. Now there's Chaos. What is your next big project?

Click here to enjoy the text of the interview.

You may remember these film makers from their 2008 movie, Dimensions.

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Dave Richeson – Inspired by Math #20

Professor Dave Richeson is one of the most exuberant math people I've gotten to know but I didn't know how exuberant he was until I interviewed him. He's also involved in a bunch of neat projects. It was one of these projects, documented in Dave Richeson's blog article, How I teach topology: an inquiry-based learning approach, that caught my attention since I have a real passion for collaborative learning.

About Dave Richeson

Dave Richeson is an Associate Professor of Mathematics at Dickinson College. He graduated from Hamilton College in 1993 with a degree in mathematics and received a Ph.D. in mathematics from Northwestern University in 1998. He came to Dickinson College after a postdoctoral position at Michigan State University. He is passionate about many areas of mathematics, but his research focuses on dynamical systems, topology, the history of mathematics, and mathematics pedagogy. He is the author of Euler's Gem: The Polyhedron Formula and the Birth of Topology, which was published by Princeton University Press. Euler's Gem received the 2010 Euler Book Prize from the Mathematical Association of America and it was selected by Choice Magazine as an "Outstanding Academic Title" for 2009. He is currently writing a book on the four problems of antiquity. He is editor-elect for Math Horizons, a publication of the Mathematical Association of America. He enjoys sharing his enthusiasm of mathematics with others on his blog (Division by Zero, http://divisbyzero.com) and on Twitter (@divbyzero).

About "Euler's Gem"

From the Princeton University Press web-site:

Leonhard Euler's polyhedron formula describes the structure of many objects--from soccer balls and gemstones to Buckminster Fuller's buildings and giant all-carbon molecules. Yet Euler's formula is so simple it can be explained to a child. Euler's Gem tells the illuminating story of this indispensable mathematical idea.

From ancient Greek geometry to today's cutting-edge research, Euler's Gem celebrates the discovery of Euler's beloved polyhedron formula and its far-reaching impact on topology, the study of shapes. In 1750, Euler observed that any polyhedron composed of V vertices, E edges, and F faces satisfies the equation V-E+F=2. David Richeson tells how the Greeks missed the formula entirely; how Descartes almost discovered it but fell short; how nineteenth-century mathematicians widened the formula's scope in ways that Euler never envisioned by adapting it for use with doughnut shapes, smooth surfaces, and higher dimensional shapes; and how twentieth-century mathematicians discovered that every shape has its own Euler's formula. Using wonderful examples and numerous illustrations, Richeson presents the formula's many elegant and unexpected applications, such as showing why there is always some windless spot on earth, how to measure the acreage of a tree farm by counting trees, and how many crayons are needed to color any map.

Filled with a who's who of brilliant mathematicians who questioned, refined, and contributed to a remarkable theorem's development, Euler's Gem will fascinate every mathematics enthusiast.

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Shecky Riemann – Inspired by Math #19

I got to spend a delightful hour today chatting with Shecky Riemann, apparently not his real name, discussing a bunch of math blogging stuff. It was great to interview a peer as this conversation had a lot of back and forth chatting that doesn't happen when I'm interviewing someone in a higher plane! Shecky's Math-Frolic blog is among my very favorites so it was super fun to get to know who the man is behind the monkey picture!

About Shecky Riemann

"Shecky Riemann" is the fanciful pseudonym of a former psychology/communications major (Pomona College/U of Kentucky) and lab-tech (primarily clinical genetics), who's been enamored of mathematics since childhood, and now hails from N. Carolina. Following Martin Gardner's death (2010), he was inspired to create Math-Frolic blog (and now also MathTango) to pay tribute to Gardner and be a cheerleader-of-sorts for those doing, or interested in, mathematics. He's especially intrigued with number theory, geometry, and the philosophical underpinnings of math. He sometimes enjoys hiking, birdwatching, tennis, flea markets, and hand-drumming. Cats, parrots, and shelties adore him.

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Of frolics and tangos

Shecky over at Math Frolic has been getting antsy. One blog isn't enough for him. Now there's Math Tango!

From the welcome post:

WELCOME Math-Frolickers!… MathTango is intended (and it'll be a bit of an experiment) to be the new residence for longer, more original entries that were occasionally posted at Math-Frolic (including book reviews, interviews, and just lengthier posts in general). Math-Frolic will continue to be a linkblog for quick links to mathematical content that I find interesting and wish to pass along, as well as a portal to many other sites/pages, and will continue posting several entries per WEEK. MathTango, on-the-other-hand, is intended to have only a few postings per MONTH.
Tomorrow, the first post appears (a book review).

I look forward to following Shecky's new baby blog.

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Have you heard of Math Munch?

I just discovered the Math Munch blog. It promotes itself as "A Weekly Digest of the Mathematical Internet." Their blog further explains:

Here you will find links to lots of cool mathy things on the internet. We'll post some new items each week for you to enjoy. We hope you are as inspired and excited by these creations as we are!

This is a really terrific blog that's been publishing for just a bit over a year. It's chock full of images, graphics, and videos. Justin, Paul, and Anna, the "Math Munch Team" are doing a terrific job so I want to give them a plug.

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Glen Van Brummelen – Inspired by Math #18

Today I got to interview another great author of a Princeton University Press title. "Heavenly Mathematics: The Forgotten Art of Spherical Trigonometry" is a delightful exploration of the techniques that ancient and medieval people from different cultures used to navigate and map the stars and the seas along with modern methods. There's a strong focus on the historical setting for these explorations. This setting brings the mathematics to life. I was very impressed to learn how very smart ancient astronomers and mathematicians were. Our twentyfirst century perception that we are smarter than our predecessors is simply not true. I was also delighted to learn an elegant variation of the familiar Pythagorean Theorem when applied to a sphere.

I thoroughly enjoyed getting exposed to this very elegant branch of mathematics and hope you too will catch some of Professor Van Brummelen's enthusiasm.

Chapter 1 of the book is available as a free PDF download.

About Glen Van Brummelen

From the Quest University Website:

Glen Van Brummelen, mathematics tutor, is a historian of mathematics, especially trigonometry and astronomy in ancient Greece and medieval Islam. He is past president of the Canadian Society for History and Philosophy of Mathematics, and senior fellow at the Dibner Institute for History of Science at MIT. In addition to authoring 30 scholarly and 10 encyclopedia articles, he is co-editor of "Mathematics and the Historian's Craft" (Springer) and recently published the first history of trigonometry in over a century with Princeton University Press called "The Mathematics of the Heavens and the Earth: The Early History of Trigonometry".

Glen has taught mathematics at small liberal arts colleges his entire career. He has taught over 30 different courses, including most traditional topics in math but also mathematics and music, mathematics and democracy, mathematics and computer graphics, spherical trigonometry (using a 19th-century textbook), and how to be an ancient astronomer. Several of his students have published their undergraduate research with him in recent years. In the summer he teaches the history of math regularly at MathPath, a math camp for bright 7th- and 8th-graders.

As if this wasn't enough, he keeps busy with his three very active kids of his own: Ariel (13), Matthew (9) and Andrew (5), all of whom will be mathematicians some day, and wife Heide (age unspecified). He is an avid soccer player, and played goal on the college team at his two previous colleges. He is undefeated at chess in the past 20 years, with a record of 2-0. Glen notes that "the key is to choose one's opponents carefully".

About "Heavenly Mathematics"

From the Princeton University Press Website:

Spherical trigonometry was at the heart of astronomy and ocean-going navigation for two millennia. The discipline was a mainstay of mathematics education for centuries, and it was a standard subject in high schools until the 1950s. Today, however, it is rarely taught. Heavenly Mathematics traces the rich history of this forgotten art, revealing how the cultures of classical Greece, medieval Islam, and the modern West used spherical trigonometry to chart the heavens and the Earth. Glen Van Brummelen explores this exquisite branch of mathematics and its role in ancient astronomy, geography, and cartography; Islamic religious rituals; celestial navigation; polyhedra; stereographic projection; and more. He conveys the sheer beauty of spherical trigonometry, providing readers with a new appreciation for its elegant proofs and often surprising conclusions.

Heavenly Mathematics is illustrated throughout with stunning historical images and informative drawings and diagrams that have been used to teach the subject in the past. This unique compendium also features easy-to-use appendixes as well as exercises at the end of each chapter that originally appeared in textbooks from the eighteenth to the early twentieth centuries.

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Keith Devlin – Inspired by Math #17

Dr. Keith Devlin joins me for a second podcast interview. Keith Devlin and I first spoke last February. Last night Keith Devlin shared in great detail his experience teaching "Introduction to Mathematical Thinking" MOOC (Massive Open Online Course). If you're considering enrolling in the MOOC when it's next offered in March, or if you might someday want to teach a MOOC, assist in a MOOC, or if you just want to understand the important role of MOOCs in the future of education, you won't want to miss this podcast.

Oh, and there's a teaser at the end about Dr. Devlin's next big "thing," being announced in just a few weeks.

More about Keith Devlin:

Dr. Keith Devlin is a co-founder and Executive Director of the university's H-STAR institute, a co-founder of the Stanford Media X research network, and a Senior Researcher at CSLI. He is a World Economic Forum Fellow and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. His current research is focused on the use of different media to teach and communicate mathematics to diverse audiences. He also works on the design of information/reasoning systems for intelligence analysis. Other research interests include: theory of information, models of reasoning, applications of mathematical techniques in the study of communication, and mathematical cognition. He has written 31 books and over 80 published research articles. Recipient of the Pythagoras Prize, the Peano Prize, the Carl Sagan Award, and the Joint Policy Board for Mathematics Communications Award. In 2003, he was recognized by the California State Assembly for his "innovative work and longtime service in the field of mathematics and its relation to logic and linguistics." He is "the Math Guy" on National Public Radio.

More information

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