Monthly Archives: July 2008

The Next Google:


A new search engine is on the scene with potential to rival the famous Google search algorithm.  Indexing more than three times as many pages as Google and using a new approach, there may be something to this newcomer.  I haven’t played with it much but will definitely keep my eye on it. 

Check out the story here: Ex-Google engineers debut ‘Cuil’ way to search

From their own site:

Welcome to Cuil—the world’s biggest search engine. The Internet has grown. We think it’s time search did too.

The Internet has grown exponentially in the last fifteen years but search engines have not kept up—until now. Cuil searches more pages on the Web than anyone else—three times as many as Google and ten times as many as Microsoft.

Rather than rely on superficial popularity metrics, Cuil searches for and ranks pages based on their content and relevance. When we find a page with your keywords, we stay on that page and analyze the rest of its content, its concepts, their inter-relationships and the page’s coherency.

Then we offer you helpful choices and suggestions until you find the page you want and that you know is out there. We believe that analyzing the Web rather than our users is a more useful approach, so we don’t collect data about you and your habits, lest we are tempted to peek. With Cuil, your search history is always private.

Cuil is an old Irish word for knowledge. For knowledge, ask Cuil.

Check it out.  Tell me what you’ve heard about it and what you think of it.

Gauss, The Chuck Norris of Mathematics

Chuck Norris (Family Guy)I stumbled across the website of Chuck Norris Facts not long ago.  You know such treasured gems as

1. When Chuck Norris does a pushup, he isn’t lifting himself up, he’s pushing the Earth down.
2. There is no chin behind Chuck Norris’ beard. There is only another fist.
3. Chuck Norris can lead a horse to water AND make it drink.
and my personal favorite
4. Chuck Norris doesn’t eat honey, he chews bees.

Well, I was quite impressed when I came across a similar list of facts about one of the greatest (some would say THE greatest) mathematicians of all time, Carl Friedrich Gauss.

Carl Friedrich GaussFrom Matt Heath:

  • Gauss didn’t discover the normal distribution, nature conformed to his will.
  • Gauss can construct transcendental numbers only using a compass.
  • Parallel lines meet where Gauss tells them to.
  • Some problems are NP because Gauss doesn’t like computers.
  • Gauss never runs out of room in the margin.
  • Gauss can write irrationals as the ratio of 2 integers.
  • Gauss never needs the axiom of choice.
  • Gauss can square the circle and then transform it into the hyper-sphere.
  • The location and momentum of a particle are what Gauss say they are.
  • An elegant proof is one line long. Gauss’ elegant proofs are one word long.
  • Gauss doesn’t look for roots of equations, they come to him.
  • There are no theorems, just a list of propositions Gauss allows to be true.
  • When Gauss integrates he doesn’t need to add a constant.
  • Hilbert put forward 23 unsolved problems because he hadn’t properly read Gauss’ notebooks.
  • Gauss knows the topological difference between a doughnut and a coffee cup.
  • Gauss can divide by zero.
  • Gauss would never ever have a badbox error.
  • Primes that aren’t Gaussian primes get teased.
  • If Gauss had to walk 100 metres, and half the remaining distance, then half the remaining distance again, and so on, he’d get there.
  • Erdos believed God had a book of all perfect mathematical proofs. God believes Gauss has such a book.
  • Gauss has Hilbert hotels on Mayfair and Park Lane.
  • God does not play dice, unless Gauss promises to let him win once in a while.

My favorite has to be "Gauss doesn’t look for roots of equations, they come to him."

Factoring Time

One of the first comics I read on the XKCD website was this one:



So don’t you think it would be a good idea to write a script that would factor every time throughout the day.  Just to make it interesting you might factor the time as a 6 digit number, including the seconds.  You could answer fascinating questions like what’s the most number of factors a time can have, how many times are prime, how many twin prime’s are there, etc…

Well, if you think it’s a good idea, too late.  It’s already been done and not by me.

Factor Clock


What’s the largest number of factors a time can have?

6 factors, 57 matches

How many times are prime, and what are they?


How many times form twin primes, and what are they?


No Gender Gap in Mathematics

image A study published in Science Magazine today puts to bed the question of gender differences in mathematics.  (Sorry, I chose not to emply the use of some tired mathematical pun like "it doesn’t add up".  I grew weary of them after reading a dozen articles in mainstream media outlets, each one seemingly trying to top the last.) There is no statistically significant difference in the mathematical test scores of the general population (grades 2 – 11) in the United States with respect to gender. 

Over 7 million students’ test scores were compared from 10 different states to reach this conclusion.  Thanks to the NCLB act, a surplus of data was available to address an issue that has been studied through meta-analysis in the past but can now be comprehensively analyzed.  Much of the data made available by individual states were missing adequate statistical information.  Soliciting from all 50 states, 10 were willing to comply with the study (Texas not included). The sample of states seems fairly representative:

Here is the study’s stated conclusion:

Our analysis shows that, for grades 2 to 11, the general population no longer shows a gender difference in math skills, consistent with the gender similarities hypothesis(19). There is evidence of slightly greater male variability in scores, although the causes remain unexplained. Gender differences in math performance, even among high scorers, are insufficient to explain lopsided gender patterns in participation in some STEM fields. An unexpected finding was that state assessments designed to meet NCLB requirements fail to test complex problem-solving of the kind needed for success in STEM careers, a lacuna that should be fixed.

There goes my reasoning for curving all my female students’ grades an extra five points. ;)  

Please note, for my own protection and in case you live under a rock, the emoticon at the end of the statement means I am NOT serious.

For more information on the study:

  1. The original study published in Science: Gender Similarities Characterize Math Performance (requires subscription)
  2. Girls = Boys at Math by David Malakoff (ScienceNOW Daily News)
  3. Numbers don’t lie: Girls as good at math as boys, study finds  (Dallas Morning News)

Why would I even need to learn that?

I have a calculator.  I can answer all the math problems I’ll ever need because I own a calculator.  There are many people that worry me when they say they were never any good at math: the nurse administering the medication, the clerk counting my change, the broker managing my investments, the salesman offering me financing at the car dealership, and now, the cop giving parking tickets:

From 360 (Unofficial Blog of the Nazareth College Math Department in Rochester, New York):

The Herald reported last week that a Traffic Warden was incorrectly ticketing cars in a Devon, England parking lot because of how he was using a calculator. In this parking lot, drivers would pay for a certain amount of time and then post a slip in the windshield with the time they’d entered and how long they’d paid for. One driver, for example, entered at 2:49pm and paid for 75 minutes.

Now 75 minutes is 1 hour, 15 minutes so the driver was covered until 4:04pm. But the Traffic Warden figured out the expiration time by entering in 14.49 into his calculator (for 1449 military time, which corresponds to 2:49pm) and adding on 0.75 (for the 75 minutes). He got 15.24, which he interpreted as meaning that the driver was only covered until 3:24pm. Since it was already 3:41pm, he issued the car a ticket. The car owner saw all this and tried to explain the error — that hours have 60 minutes, not 100, so standard decimal addition doesn’t apply — but the Traffic Warden didn’t see any problem and continued to ticket cars.

In good news, after appeal the incorrect tickets were repealed and a letter of apology sent.

Finished Reading “The Grass Crown”

image I have been reading a series by author Colleen McCullough called the Masters of Rome.  Two nights ago, I finished reading the second book in the series.  Spanning over 1000 pages per book, I have been utterly fascinated by the lives of men playing pivotal roles leading up to the beginning of the Roman Empire as it moves out of its time as the Roman Republic.

Here is the review I posted over at the website:

Fascinating continuation of Colleen McCullough’s Master’s of Rome series. This is the second book in the series of seven and it covers the Civil/Social war under the eventual leadership of Lucius Cornelius Sulla. It deals largely with the rise of Sulla to leadership both in military campaigns as well as policital power. It finishes with the fall of Gauis Marius, the third founder of Rome, as his mind fails following two strokes and he takes over Rome in a blood bath, killing anyone in Rome who once stood against him. It is his final goal before dying to subdue the rising star of Gauis Julius Caesar, which he supposedly does so by placing him in the role of a lifelong priesthood. The tale ends there, but we all know that Julius Caesar is not out for good and is destined to become the greatest man Rome has ever or will ever see.

I continue to enjoy this series and am continually fascinated by how developed society was even thousands of years ago. The struggles of society not all that different than today, only without the western influence of Christianity.

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)