ImageDue to a serendipitous alignment of schedules and events I got to spend some time in the world of my brother Bob this week. Technically I got to spend some time in a place where my world and my brother Bob’s world intersect. Bob Franzosa is a professor of mathematics at the University of Maine in Orono. His specialty is in topology. This past week he was in Boston attending the largest annual mathematics meeting in the world held at the Hynes Convention  center. As I am currently “between  assignments” I had the time available to join him there. On Wednesday I attended the talk he gave on his lifetime passion “The Baseball Simulator” which was born as a dice game he created in the 1960’s and grew into an interesting tool to evaluate baseball using minimal statistics. Yesterday I sat in with him on a session dedicated to puzzles. While the relevance of the orthoganality of Magic Sudoku puzzles was a bit lost on me, the discussions on the construction and solving of puzzles was right up my alley….and the excitement over the potential proof of the 17-clue minimum for sudoku was great. Sometimes the dice of the universe give you a critical miss but it is ok because you find that the next roll yields something even better.

prime dissapointment

I finaly get my more efficient sieve working in Python and I discovered that the answer checking on is now offline…dissapointing.

5 x 7 =

my eight-year-old son is studying his multiplication tables in school. This morning he said he had to study up to the fives table so I quickly asked him what seven times five equeals…he thought for a few moments longer than rote memorization would have allowed…he then correctly replied "thirty-five". I asked him if took him so long because he was counting in his head "five, ten, fifteen…"…his reply was "no…I was counting seven, fourteen, twenty-one…" 🙂


51ATVPgT4sL._AA240_.jpgI’ve been meaning to post about this before but just haven’t got around to it. My older brother Bob has a new book out and it is very cool. His previous entry into literature was as an editor of a book that compiled a number of different folk-tales around the theme of  "the grateful dead", not the band but the folklore theme. While that was very cool, his new book is even cooler…and is actually in his professional field. Introduction to Topology: Pure and Applied covers the field of topology with a slant towards applications in the real world. If you know anything about topology then you know it can stray pretty far from the real world! I am actually credited in the book as I provided some information on applications in circuit design and printed circuit board layout. I’m pretty proud of him and his book especially knowing the many, many hours he put into it. If you are looking to get a good introduction to topology, this is a great book for you…I’m not biased at all.


200px-GEBcover.jpgIt was twenty-five years ago that I read Gödel, Escher, Bach by Douglas Hofstadter. I decided that it was about time I read it again. Only a few chapters in and it is already just as mind-blowing as I remember.

 edit – fwiw I made the decision to read this before I knew that he had a new book hitting the shelves this week!


some random stuff before I go on vacation…

Rush announced the release date for their new album

Christopher Eccelston is going to be in the cinematic version of The Dark is Rising

Sprouts is a cool little cross between a game and an educational exercise in topology

The Nurse With Wound List is a daunting compendium of fringe music (more bloggery on this another day) 

The Bonnaroo lineup looks amazing this year…one of these years… 

Caylus: Magna Carta is  due out shorthly and may supplant Caylus as my latest go-to game

Umberto Eco has once again reminded me that I should learn to speak Italian and travel to Italy

sad emergence

I read in the newspaper the other day that Artificial Intelligence and Neural Network pioneer Seymor Papert was the victim of a pedestrian/motor vehicle accident in Hanoi last weekend. The irony is that he was in Hanoi for a conference on the teaching math and had just come from a discussion of of the emergent swarming behavior of large groups of individuals… and Hanoi’s traffic is considered one of the best non-biological examples of this phenomena. Papert, along with Marvin Minsky (someday I’ll get back to his The Society of Mind), wrote the seminal work Perceptrons, he is a principal behind the One Laptop Per Child effort,  and he was also one of the foremost minds behind the Lego Mindstorms product concept. Thankfully I read today that he is out of the coma and recognizing family and friends. I hope for a speedy recovery for this remarkable mind.

gardner sent me to a nice interveiew with Martin Gardner.  Gardner is a very prolific writer in many different genres including physics, philosphy and even card tricks….but most notably he is know for his writings in the area of "recreational mathematics". I have fond memories of  my first exposure, the book  Mathematical Carnival that my brother Bob gave me for my birthday back when I was in my teens. Garnder’s monthly Mathematical Games column in Scientific American was one of the main reasons I subscribed for many years. It looks like the Mathematical Association of America has all of these columns as well as many of his books available on a CDROM. I’ll have to admit that my capabilities in math limit my ability to solve many of his puzzles but I always have an appreciation for the beauty and the subtlety of his presentaion of many times otherwise complicated math concepts.

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