Thursday, December 12, 2019

L4 and L5 Points

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(C)Copyright 2019, C. Burke. "AnthroNumerics" is a trademark of Christopher J. Burke and (x, why?).

When I was little, I thought some day I could be part of some L5 Society. And then I turned 40, and I sort of did.

ObMath: For those who are unaware about the L4 and L5 Lagrange points in space, these are two of five points in spaces where the gravitation forces of other bodies (for example, the Sun and the Earth) equal the centrifugal forces felt by the third, smaller object. An object (satellite, space station) in one of these positions would be "parked" in space. They're named about Joseph-Louis Lagrange who wrote about them. What sets L4 and L5 apart from L1, L2, and L3 is that the former two are stable.

To find the location's of Earth's L4 and L5 points, imagine a line segment between the Sun and the Earth. Now imagine that a giant equilateral triangle in space. The L4 point is where the third point of the triangle crosses ahead of the Earth in its orbit. The L5 point similarly would be a point on the orbit behind the Earth.

So there's a giant rhombus is space with points S, L4, E, L5.

Come back often for more funny math and geeky comics.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Books: Math Recreations (Kraitchik) Part 6: Pythagorean Triples... Again

I have more old math books than I'll ever read or need. This is just a fact. I would collect them, and sometimes read through parts of them, but never finish any of them. ...

Day 6: Pythagorean Triples... Again

If you're a math teacher, and you like numbers, there's no way to avoid Pythagorean Triples, set of three rational numbers which can form a right triangle. I started musing about them when this blog was young -- and blog writing still new to me -- back with this post more than ten years ago. What started that was a curiosity born out of desire to find new numbers to use in math problems. Seriously, almost every triangle was 3-4-5 (or multiple), with the rare exception being 5-12-13 or 8-15-17.

Not that I've ever corrected my main line of reasoning, but I was originally caught up with primitive triples where the hypotenuse was either one or two more than the longer leg. I had Kraitchik's book back then -- there's a page scribbled with notes that's been a bookmark since then. In fact, this is probably where the idea to investigate triples with consecutive legs came from. I hadn't (to my memory) encountered any examples of those before. Surprisingly, but not too much, those pairs were related to the square root of 2. This much I reasoned: the legs are nearly congruent, and if they actually were the same, then the hypotenuse would be radical 2. However, because there are only close to being equal, the hypotenuse would come from an approximation to radical 2. With that in mind, I was able to get through the section on using expanded fractions for the square root of two to get possible triples.

Chapter 4: Arithmatico-Geometrical Questions

I read this chapter (and another book in my collection) back then, but at the time, the notation -- one again -- got to me. In particular, it uses x2 + y2 = z2, instead of the now familiar a2 + b2 = c2. (Ironically, the older version would have made the realization about the formula of a circle so much more obvious, once upon a time.) Moreover, a and b are used for calculating values of x and y. (I've seen m and n used in different sources.) And u and v get toss in for good measure to show the relationship between a and b.

On my own, a long time back, I discovered that instead of looking at the two longest sides, I should have been looking at the two odd numbers in the triples. And once I did that, I saw that the leg was always the hypotenuse minus 2n2. While that didn't give me the triples themselves, it told me that I needed to be looking at pairs of numbers with a difference of 2, 8, 18, etc. (I also came to the conclusion that part of the way I looked at the problem came from the fact that the triples I generally used were relatively small, so I just didn't come across some of them.)

At some point -- as this was me, not any book -- I worked out that for a counting number n, 2n + 1 is the leg of a triple and 2n + 1 + 2n2 is the hypotenuse. The other leg, was the square root of c2 - a2, and I was fine with that. And then I realized b2 = (c - a)(c + a), so I don't have to subtract bigger numbers in my head if I don't want to. And then when I started to work out a table:

n2n + 12n22n + 1 + 2n2c - ac + ab2
. . .

... I started seeing some of the same numbers showing up. It reminded me of a quiz I gave (special ed class, if I recall correctly) where one student got four out of five problems correct when he used an incorrectly-remembered formula. The four problems he got "right" were all primitive triples. The only that was incorrect was a multiple.

Kraitchik gets into more of the calculation, which I won't repeat here beausee they're likely in so many places on the web (as "helpful" people told me back in 2009), and there, of course, are copyright concerns. After this, there are discussions of Trigonometric Ratios and Heronian Triangles. Thankfully, both are brief and the chapter short. I don't think I would have gotten through something more complex, particularly if it moved in higher dimensions.

Moving on...

I'll likely skip commenting on the next couple of chapters. The chapter on the Calendar was moderately interesting but calculating the day of the week for any day in history isn't something I'm likely to work out with a ruler. There are perpetual calendars and simple apps for that type of thing. The chapter on Probability just isn't all that interesting. There's history, and then there's coin flipping and gambling and Gambler's Ruin. (Side note: it is the one source that says you could win at Roulette, but only because it leaves out the possibility that you will run of money or hit the table limit before you finally win one, which you inevitably will.)

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

More Perfect

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(C)Copyright 2019, C. Burke. "AnthroNumerics" is a trademark of Christopher J. Burke and (x, why?).

Tell it to the Mersennes!

I might reuse that line in a future comic. The Mersenne first appeared back in Comic #70 back in 2008. Their uniforms are a little lighter now.

And as discussed in this blog post from a few days ago, every known perfect number is a multiple of a Mersenne prime, and the other number is a power of 2.

Unfortunately for Rudy (8's proper name is Rudolph), 8 is not one of the powers of 2 have creates a perfect number. The form is (2n - 1)(2n - 1). Since 8 = 23, n = 4, but 24 - 1 is not prime, but the product of (22 + 1)(22 - 1). That is to say, that 16 - 1 = 15, which is the product of 5 times 3.

Final note: I was going to state "a more perfect union", in a Constitutional allusion, but I figured folks would tell me that union would imply addition. Or something other than what I intended. So I'll save that for some other time.

Come back often for more funny math and geeky comics.

Saturday, December 07, 2019

Books: Math Recreations (Kraitchik) Part 5

I have more old math books than I'll ever read or need. This is just a fact. I would collect them, and sometimes read through parts of them, but never finish any of them. ...

Day 5: Fermat Numbers, Mersenne Primes and Perfect Numbers

Following up to Thursday's entry in this series:

A few final thoughts on this chapter, and then I'll move on.

Fermat Numbers:

I don't think I actually knew what these were. Fermat concluded that numbers in the form 2k + 1, were prime when k was a power of 2. (Read below)
This could also be written as 22**n + 1, where n is a natural number and ** means exponent -- my HTML doesn't allow for exponents of exponents.

The reasoning why the exponents had to be powers of 2 is because k could not have any odd exponents. If k had an odd factor, it could be written as m n, where n was odd.

But we know that we can divide (xm n + 1) by (xm + 1) resulting in xmn - m - xmn - 2m + ... + 1
If that isn't readable, if one factor of the exponent is odd, the expression can be factored (or divided) by one more than x raised to the other factor. (In this case, x = 2.) The result of the division doesn't really matter, as long as we know it's an integer and the original number was composite.

Unfortunately for Fermat, he was wrong about his conclusion, although the first few Fermat Numbers are prime. Euler proved 2^32 + 1 could be factored, and other numbers have been tested now that computers make it easy. (As of the printing of the book, the factorization of many of these numbers is unknown -- only the fact that it isn't prime is known.)

Mersenne Primes and Perfect Numbers

Mersenne primes, I'm familiar with. I even did a comic a long time ago, back in 2008.

Mersenne primes are those that can be written in the form 2n - 1. It doesn't work for all values of n, of course. In fact, they are quite rare, and the search for these primes continues. Since the comic above was created, at least two more have been found.

But we can eliminate many exponents. For example, if n is even, that 2n - 1 can be factored with the Difference of Squares Rule into (2n/2 + 1)(2n/2 - 1). (the exception being 2 itself, because (2 - 1) is a factor of 1.) And if n is composite, then it can be factored similar to the Fermat numbers above, with a similar looking result (except the minus signs will all be addition instead).

So the exponent needs to be prime, and can be written as 2p - 1.

Nothing more needs to be said here. I just wanted the introduction so I could talk about Perfect Numbers. Perfect Numbers are numbers where the sum of all the factors, excluding the number itself, is that number. Example, 1 + 2 + 3 = 6 and 1 + 2 + 4 + 7 + 14 = 28, but 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 6 =/= 12.

Again, these are numbers I knew about long, long ago, even before I knew about Mersenne primes, which is why the following formula was such a revelation to me the first time I saw it:

(2n - 1)(2n - 1)

Can we stop and just admire the beauty of this expression.

I learned sometime ago (maybe from reading through this book once before) that Perfect Numbers were always a multiple of a Mersenne prime. That is itself seemed an odd co-incidence. But if you write it out, you see that the other factor is almost the same thing algebraically -- it's the same value of n. The only difference is the placement of the "- 1".

To be sure, this formula does NOT produce perfect numbers for all values of n, BUT as of right now, all known perfect numbers fit that expression. This means that all of the known perfect numbers are, in fact, even. Are there odd perfect numbers? Right now, it is not known, but this formula seems so ... perfect ... that I doubt one will be found.

Stuff like this make math awesome.

Friday, December 06, 2019

Upside Down on Your Numbers

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(C)Copyright 2019, C. Burke. "AnthroNumerics" is a trademark of Christopher J. Burke and (x, why?).

The numbers have definitely decreased, but working as a 9 is definitely worth one-and-a-half times for a 6.

Not sure what the job is since, in the past, 9 represented the 6's careers. Also a co-incidence that I used Oscar Twenty-one to hire them, which is the sum of 9, 6, and 6.

Come back often for more funny math and geeky comics.

Thursday, December 05, 2019

Books: Math Recreations (Kraitchik) Part 4

I have more old math books than I'll ever read or need. This is just a fact. I would collect them, and sometimes read through parts of them, but never finish any of them. ...

Day 4: Final Thoughts about Triangle Numbers and Squares

Continuing from yesterday's very long post:

We've seen images that two triangular numbers make a rectangle, which has dimensions N X (N + 1). If you take a second one and rotate it 90 degrees and place it next to the first, and then repeat this with a third and a fourth, you get a square with the center missing. That center has an area of 1 square unit. Like this:

We know from yesterday that the formula for finding triangular numbers is TN = 1/2 (N2 + N)

That means that 2TN = (N2 + N)

This is important because that middle piece looks familiar, like part of a quadratic expression. (The above image is already a great hint here.)

If I have 8 times a Triangular number, I have

8TN = 8 (1/2) (N2 + N)
8TN = 4 (N2 + N)
8TN = 4N2 + 4N)
At this point, it looks almost like a perfect square, except that there's something missing:
8TN + 1 = 4N2 + 4N)
8TN + 1 = (2N + 1)2

So we can see that the formula 8TN + 1 will always give us a perfect square. Moreover, it will always be an odd square (which makes sense, as it is one more than an even multiple).

The slightly confusing thing (to me) is that, for example, the third triangular number does not lead to the third odd square, but the fourth, because of the + 1 in the formula instead of a - 1.

I guess you can't have everything wrapped in a pretty little bow.

Next up: the book goes into the following topics, but doesn't spend much time on them: Mersenne Numbers and Perfect Numbers, Fermat Numbers, Cyclic Numbers, Automorphic Numbers, Prime Numbers and Multigrades. Then it gets into Cryptarthmetic and other puzzle and games.

There's not much I can add to some of those topics (other than updating data about Mersennes, maybe), and others I've never heard of. So I'll read those and see what I can figure out.

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

Books: Math Recreations (Kraitchik) Part 3

I have more old math books than I'll ever read or need. This is just a fact. I would collect them, and sometimes read through parts of them, but never finish any of them. ...

Day 3: Chapter 3 -- Triangular and Polygonal Numbers

I'm still in Chapter 3, Numerical Pastimes, and it touches on some interesting topics. Among those triangular numbers and polygonal numbers. (These are referred to as "figurate numbers", a term I'm less familiar with, in the text.)

Triangular numbers are of interest because they are the sums of consecutive numbers. And, of course, square numbers are exactly what it says on the tin. After that, pentagonal, hexagonal, etc, are (to me) more curiosities and fun little number puzzles than sums of series of numbers. I'm sure there are uses -- many of which will cause "Aha!" moments at the time -- but they aren't readily obvious as I type this.

The text is quick and dry, but it got my mind thinking. (So that's good, right?)

Personally, rather than go into a bunch of tables, which then derive formulas -- something I could totally do at the end of this blog post, if I'm so inclined -- I wanted to look at these types of numbers visually.

Triangular stack up like a triangle (naturally), so I thought I would build a triangle out of squares, instead of numbers, each with an area of one square unit.

On the right I overlayed a right isosceles triangle, with legs equal to N units (which is this example is 4). The area of the triangle is 1/2 b h, but since the base and the height are both N, the area of the triangle is 1/2 N2. In this example, the triangle has an area of 1/2 (4)2 = 1/2(16) = 8 square units.

But there are little blue bits sticking out of the triangle. There are half triangles that were cut out, and the number of these little triangles is equal to N, because there is one in every row. Collectively, there are N (1/2) (1) (1) = 1/2N, which has to be added to the bigger triangle.

So the total area of the N rows is 1/2 N2 + 1/2 N, or 1/2 (N2 + N), which can also be written as 1/2 (N)(N + 1), or "one-half of the number times the next higher number".

In this example, that becomes 1/2 (4)2 + 1/2 (4) = 8 + 2 = 10, which is the fourth triangle number.

Why would I do all this? BECAUSE I'M HAVING FUN DOING IT!

Yes, I could have copied the triangle, flipped it over, made a rectangle and then noticed that the rectangle was one unit longer than it was wide, and so the rectangle would have an area of (N)(N + 1), and then the triangles would be half as much ... but everyone does that, and you don't need to come here for that, right? (I am, of course, assuming that anyone comes here, other than me, and a couple of friends and relatives who humor me.)

Moving on from triangular numbers to square numbers should show no surprises:

The first time you see this is mind-blowing. I've seen adults caught off-guard by this. When given, as a puzzle, a set of sequences of numbers, and asked to find the next one, the sequence 0, 1, 4, 9, 16, ... is easy, but perhaps not for the reason it should be. There is a pattern: +1, +3, +5, +7 ... and the pattern is +2 to the previous number that was added to the number before that -- it's like two patterns in one. It was taken to the next level ... like to another dimension.

Then point out, "You know that those numbers are all perfect squares, right?" Say what, now? Oh, yeah, they are.

Why should adding odd numbers result in squares? The first time I saw the illustration, it made a lot more sense. Side note: This also makes it easier to find Pythagorean Triples because you are adding something to a perfect square and getting another perfect square. If the number being adding -- for example, 9 or 25 -- is a perfect square, the result is a Pythagorean Triple -- such as 4-3-5 or 12-5-13 because 16 + 9 = 25 and 144 + 25 = 169.

Obviously, the area of the square is length times width, which is N times N, or N2. But the square is made up of two triangles. Looking at it in terms of triangular numbers -- the area would be 2 * (1/2 N2 + 1/2 N) or N2 + N. But in doing this, we counted the diagonal twice, so we need to subtract N from that formula: N2 + N - N or just N2.

Keep with me, I'm going somewhere. I might be lost when I get there, but it will still be somewhere.

Pentagonal numbers are the next extension, and they can be visualized with this:

The problem here is that pentagons don't tessellate, and making a useful, compact figure that maintains this shape is little problematic. On the other hand, I can translate this model into the previous triangle version, as follows:

So the first thing that I noticed: a pentagon can be split into three triangles -- this is how we know that the sum of the interior angles is 540 degrees. And I could split the first pentagonal image into triangles, but it wouldn't helpful. For one thing, they wouldn't be right triangles, so finding the base and height would be impossible. But with this representation, right triangles aren't a problem. I expected three of them. However, instead of getting three triangles with extra half units, like in the first triangular numbers, this image is actually missing those N triangles.

In other words: 3 (1/2 N2) - (1/2 N) or 1/2 (3 N2 - N).
Not exactly what I might have expected when I started. Okay, so my hypothesis was incorrect. That's why we do experiments.

Before moving on, the image looks like a trapezoid, which has an area of 1/2 (b1 + b2) h.
In this example, that becomes (1/2) (N + 2N)N but we have to subtract 1/2N for the missing blocks.
This becomes (1/2) (3N)(N) - 1/2N = 1/2 (3N2) - 1/2n = 1/2 (3N2 - N)

Okay, I realize this is rambling too long. If you ever sit down with me for a conversation, you'll likely feel the same way.

For simplicity, I combined hexagonal, heptagonal and octagonal numbers into one image using the same format. (Obviously, this format would self-destruct in two more iterations.)

Hexagon numbers give us a rectangle. Octagonal numbers look like 3/4 of a square, but are actually more than that -- they're actually a smaller rectangle on top of the bigger rectangle.

Superimposing the right triangle, we can see that we're still losing space.

The hexagonal numbers create a rectangle with a width of N and a length of 2N - 1, as can be seen in the "missing" column. So it has an Area of N(2N - 1) = 2N2 - N. So the hexagonal numbers are double the square numbers but subtracting N.

After this, I ran into a problem. Do I line up my triangles with the missing columns, or should I shift it over. It seemed obvious that I should shift them -- why deal with both "extra" and "missing" pieces in the same problem?

In brief, heptagonal numbers are hexagonal numbers plus a triangle missing space, just as the pentagonal were missing space. This gives us the following:
Area = 2N2 - N + (1/2 N2) - (1/2 N)
Area = (2 1/2)N2 - (1 1/2)N = (1/2)(5N2 - 3N)

Heptagonal looks similar to pentagonal, which differed from triangular because of the sign. But this is where an Aha!! happened. In these three formulas, the first coefficients were 1, 3, and 5. The second coefficients are +1, -1, and -3. Both numbers are sequences. (I know, not surprising -- but I like seeing it visually.)

Moreover, as we can see that octagonal follows hexagonal, which follows square as a pattern: N2, 2N2 - N, 3N2 - 2N, etc. But this is actually the same pattern if we double all of the coefficients and put a leading multiplying of 1/2.

Now that there's only one pattern, I can come up with a single formula for all of this which -- WHICH will likely be the same expression that was presented in the book with little comment or explanation, and which likely caused my brain to freeze up and reach to turn the page. (Actually, the fact that book took it to the third, fourth and nth dimensions caused the brain freeze.)

Yes, notation can be my downfall in mathematics. It's very precise, but decoding it and understanding it can be as bad as translating and understanding any foreign language. And math is definitely a language of its own.

This entry is excessively long at this point, so I'll leave out the table showing the progression. Maybe another day.

However, I can end with the formula. N will which number in the sequence we're looking for, and S will refer to the number of sides in the type of polygon that the sequence is named for.

This means that the Nth S-type number is (1/2)((S-2)N2 - (S-4)N)

And, yes, I do feel better having worked it out myself.

Tuesday, December 03, 2019

Number Games

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(C)Copyright 2019, C. Burke. "AnthroNumerics" is a trademark of Christopher J. Burke and (x, why?).

This is sort of a reindeer games thing. Definitely not a hunger games thing.
Oddly, the Sixes are not odd, weird or irrational, and yet at times they are all three!

Come back often for more funny math and geeky comics.

Monday, December 02, 2019

Books: Math Recreations (Kraitchik) Part 2

I have more old math books than I'll ever read or need. This is just a fact. I would collect them, and sometimes read through parts of them, but never finish any of them. ...

Day 2: Chapter 3 -- Numerical Pastimes

Number puzzles can get repetitive quickly if interesting twists aren't added -- but at the same time, those twists shouldn't make the problem impossible to work out on paper.

Some of the problems in this chapter are easy with a calculator instead of paper and ridiculously easy with a spreadsheet or the Internet at hand.

Take a problem like this one:

Find a four-digit number in the form a a b b that is a perfect square.

Once upon a time, you might have had to start squaring a bunch of two-digit numbers to find the correct answer, or analyze a lot of four-digit numbers to find one that had a rational square root. I could use a spreadsheet in two minutes, and possibly refine it to just show what I wanted with a few minutes more.

But that's no fun.

Knowing that brute force was always a fall-back, we can narrow down the possibilities. For one thing, squaring a number means that the final digit must be 0, 1, 4, 5, or 6. We can eliminate numbers ending in 22, 33, 77, 88 or 99. And 00 isn't possible because no single digit squared becomes a two-digit number consisting of the same digit repeated. (Those pairs are all multiples of 11, a prime number, and not perfect squares.)

Likewise, we can skip 55 because all results from (10N + 5)2 end in 25, not 55.

So we could just square root 1111, 2211, 3311, 4411, etc., until we find it or until we have to move onto 44 and 66. There are only 27 combinations to try.

Don't ask me why, but 11 didn't seem likely to me, so I started with 44 instead. Gut instinct? Pattern recognition that I can't explain?

If you follow that up with, "Okay, same problem but with A A A B B B instead!", it might be less fun to do.

Another problem, with several answers, was along these lines:

Find a six-digit number ABCDEF, which is a perfect square AND ABC + 1 = DEF.

Again, I took the spreadsheet approach:
  • A1: Row() + 100
  • B1: =A1 * 1000
  • C1: =B1 + A1 + 1
  • D1: =C1 ^ .5

Additionally, you could have a conditional in the E column to tell you if you have a whole number in column D to make the visual inspection easier.
Copy this line and paste it down to row 898.

Doing this is brute force because we know that none of the answers ending in 3, 7, 8 or 9 will work. Forty per cent of the spreadsheet we know will fail, but it's quicker to calculate that extraneous information than to just check "good" numbers individually.

One benefit of this approach is that you can alter the columns to explore other ideas, like

  • What if DEF is double of ABC? (No need to look beyond 499.)
  • What if DEF is half of ABC? (The odd rows will be useless.)

And it isn't a difficult modification to switch to 8 digits.


A couple of observations to start:
The number 121 is a perfect square in any base, B > 2.
The number 1331 is a perfect cube in any base, B > 3.
The number 14661 is a perfect 4th power in any base, B > 6.

This Pascal triangle allusion is courtesy of the fact that whatever base B is:
B2 + 2 B + 1 = (B + 1)2
B3 + 3 B2 + 3 B + 1 = (B + 1)3
B4 + 4 B3 + 6 B2 + 4 B + 1 = (B + 1)4

Moving on ...

If you wanted to have a set of weights for a balance scale that could measure up to 40 pounds (or kilos, if you metrics prefer), how would you do it?
A quick answer is convert to powers of two, because binary is such an easy solution: 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, and 32. Five weights are needed.
But there is a better solution, using powers of 3: 1, 3, 9 and 27. Only four weights are needed.
This is because you can add to both sides of the balance: if an object is 2 pounds, it will be lighter than 3, but you can put 1 more with the object. So 3 - 1 gives 2.
So an object of 16 pounds can be found if the 27 and 1 are put on one side and the 9 and 3 on the other: 27 + 1 - 9 - 3 = 16.

There was a long proof in the book that gets into "why are you doing that" territory, but I believe it's just showing that 4 weights is the least you can deal with, and is certainly better than 40 1-pound weights.

The amusing part of this section was looking at notation like 1 + x + x2 + x3 + ... + + xn = (xn+1 - 1) / (x - 1)>
I have to remind myself that I just did that in a comic using repeated 9's.

The funny thing is that I didn't think about what that meant for the sum of sequences.
I knew that 1 + 2 + 4 + 8 + 16 = 31, which is 32 - 1, which is (16)(2) - 1, because it's binary, and I have a long history dealing with binary.

But it doesn't naturally occur to me that 1 + 3 + 9 + 27 = ((27)(3) - 1) / (3 - 1) = 80 / 2 = 40. Good to know.

So how much is 5 + 25 + 125 + 625?

Sunday, December 01, 2019

Books: Math Recreations (Kraitchik) Part 1

I have more old math books than I'll ever read or need. This is just a fact. I would collect them, and sometimes read through parts of them, but never finish any of them. There are two main reasons: either the math progresses to a point where I started losing interest in college, maybe starts using odd notation I can't recall; or it's more of a books of games, puzzles and logic, which after a while start to feel repetitive or like homework, possibly delving into areas or games I'm not particularly interested in.

In the case of notation, there are times when I think books should give an equation. Then rewrite it in English. Then explain in English what the previous sentence meant. And maybe explain why we're even doing this. The funny thing about that last one is that they usually are explaining why they're doing it -- just not in a way that makes a whole lot of sense to me by that point.

Anyway, I've decided that I'm going to start skimming through these books, following along as I can, and solving what I feel like solving, while nodding, yeah, I can do that, without actually solving other things. And as I move on to the next book, I'll donate, or recycle, the one I just finished. I'm not sure where exactly I could donate them -- most of the ones I have were removed from library circulation (either the public library or a public school library).

The first one I picked up, with its patterned green cover, is Mathematical Recreations by Maurice Kraitchick, Dover Publications, Inc, 1942. It was removed from the William E. Grady Technical Vocational High School Library sometime before 2010. ("In the late 2000s" did not seem like the correct phrase.) While there is no entry for it in my reading blog (which has a multi-year gap when I stopped posting), it did have a sheet of paper where I wrote calculations about Pythagorean Triples which ended up in blog posts over ten years ago.

The first chapter is MATHEMATICS WITHOUT NUMBERS and is the situational kind of logic problems that I've seen before whether I understood them or not at the time.

There are the Always-Lies/Always-Tells-the-Truth problems. The smart people/philosophers who can guess if there face is marked, what card is one their head, what color is on their back. Spoiler alert: they're all the same, but the reasoning was a little convoluted first time I saw it way back when. If they were really smart, they'd say, "I know the answer to this because it's always the answer to this problem!" That would similar to the student who writes: "the statement is true because every proof on a state exam is provable and true".

Sample Puzzle

A typical Three-Smart-Person problem is the three are sleeping and someone comes in and marks their faces with black marker. The each wake up at the same time and start laughing at the others and then stop laughing when they figure out that their own face must be blackened. How did they figure this out?

Again, it relies on the fact that they are smart, and they know that the others are smart.

A sees that B and C are laughing. A knows since B is laughing, he thinks that his face is clean. B can see C laughing as well. Now follow me here.

If A's face was clean, and B could see that A's face was clean, and B thought his own face clean, then B would be astonished that C was laughing because C would have nothing to laugh about. But since B is not puzzled by C's reaction, B must know that A's face is dirty. (And the other two think similarly.)

Me? I think in that situation, I'd be pointing at the other two as well as laughing, and then realize, why would someone spare me, unless they wanted to frame me for doing it.

Another puzzle of the situational kind involves a man who cannot beat two seasoned chess players even with a piece advantage and playing white, but who can beat his daughter, nevertheless watches as his daughter plays both players simultaneously with no advantages, allowing one to be white and the other black, and performing better than her father did. How does this happen?

It's the kind of thing where you have to think outside the box a bit. Basically, the young girl doesn't play at all. She mimics each player's moves on the other board, thus insuring that she will either win one game and lose the other, or that both games will be a draw. In reality, the seasoned players might find this amusing at all, but they'd soon quit or just leave out the middle person.

Chapter 2: Ancient and Curious Problems

So I moved onto Chapter 2 pretty quickly, and it has the advantage (for this blog) that parts of it are not under copyright because they come from other sources, namely Chuquet (1484) and Clavius (1608). As a math teacher, but not a mathematician or math historian, I'm not exactly familiar with either of these. Shame on me, I know. Also, there are problems from the Greek Anthology, a collection of epigrams (short poems).

I won't put all 50+ of them here -- and I might not even work them all out, even with the answers immediately below the problem (no back of the book!) -- but here are a few puzzles for my few readers to work on.


1. A man spends 1/2 of his money and loses 2/3 of the reminder. He then has 12 pieces. How much money did he have at first? (Chuquet)

2. A bolt of cloth is colored as follows: 1/3 and 1/4 of it are black, and the remaining 8 yards are gray. How long is the bolt? (Chuquet)

3. A merchant visited three fairs. At the first, he doubled his money and spent $30, at the second he tripled his money and spent $54, at the third he quadrupled his money and spent $72, and then had $48 left. How much did he start with? (Chuquet)

As you can see at this point, (1) and (3) are similar in that you have to work backward for the final answer, although (3) is a bit more involved. I have given similar problems in Algebra class to see how students approach problem solving.

I know how to approach these, so more problems of this kind quickly become less interesting in the book (particularly since the answer is printed below.)

12. "Best of clocks, how much of the day is past?" "There remain twice two-thirds of what is gone" (xiv. 6)
Assuming a 24-hour clock, h has passed and 2(2/3)h remains, so h + 4/3h = 24, so 7/3h = 24, and h = (24)(3/7) = 72/7 = 10 2/7 hours have passed.
Okay, I'll do that once, but stop making it seem like homework.

I'll leave off with one last example, because I'm not sure exactly how much is fair use here, even with paraphrasing:
Lewis: Give me $10 and I'll have three times as much as you.
Carol: And if I get the same from you, I'll have five times as much as you.
How much do Lewis and Carol have? (not the original names)

And, once again, the very next problem is almost the same thing. I already know the steps. Am I going to go through them again?
Yeah, probably. And then I'll move on to Chapter 3.


As posed by Frederick II to Fibonacci (Leonardo di Pisa) in 1225: Find a perfect square that remains a perfect square when increased or decreased by 5.
Luckily (for me), the explanation is on the following page. Since 4 + 5 = 9, but 9 + 5 is not a perfect square, I'm guessing that there are "crazy" numbers involved! (i.e. fractions).

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Happy Thanksgiving 2019

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(C)Copyright 2019, C. Burke.

Proportional limits without portion control may skew results at holiday tables.

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Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Mills Constant

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(C)Copyright 2019, C. Burke.

The numbers get big, so just try to find the Total.

Yes, I mixed brands for the "scoops" reference. You got me. You can send me up a Creek without a Battle!

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Friday, November 22, 2019

Twisted Logic? Nay!

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(C)Copyright 2019, C. Burke.

Now think before you filly the blanks.

Sorry for the two unrelated jokes and are less unrelated than you may imagine.

I can't state my case any more plane than that. Tap tap. (Final thought: Mike's name was originally going to be Ed, but I wouldn't go with a Mister Ed joke now, would I? I mean, except for that time that I actually did?

Hard to believe, the Horses tag was already there!

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Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Check Your Work

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(C)Copyright 2019, C. Burke.

Always Check your Check!

Honestly, it's not uncommon that that is where the mistake is.

But, please -- PLEASE!!! -- if you can't find the mistake,


Erasing it will not make your mistake go away. Okay, if your mistake was in the Check, it goes away, but then you didn't check your work, and you lose points for that. And if there's a mistake in the problem, that's two mistakes.

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Monday, November 18, 2019

School Life #13

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(C)Copyright 2019, C. Burke.

It's nice to be included, and it's nice to include -- except for the one who eats his pizza with a fork. He's just embarrassing.

No pineapple comments. No self-respecting pizza place in the area would dare. Besides, do you think a bunch of school kids can afford extra toppings?

ObMath: One of the first signs of friendship is realizing that pooling your money to get a pie is more economical than buying individual slices. The downside is having to split things 8 or 12 ways, and figuring who gets the extra slice.

And then there's the kid who has to have square when everyone else wants round (triangle) or vice versa.

These story lines make me wonder if I should just write "fan fiction" about my own characters. Problem is that I'd like to start writing "real" fiction first, without procrastinating as much as I do and blaming external circumstances.

ObMathJoke: Volume of Pizza = Pi * z * z * a. (I posted a copy of someone else's cartoon ages ago because it was better than anything I could have drawn at the time, and I couldn't improve on the punchline.)

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Saturday, November 16, 2019

(x, why?) Mini: BASIC

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(C)Copyright 2019, C. Burke.

COBOL wouldn't fit in the window, and forget about my knowledge of FORTRAN!

Seriously, I went to review some FORTRAN IV online and I couldn't tell if it was what I learned back in college or some version from the past 30 years or so.

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Friday, November 15, 2019

Temperature v Time

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(C)Copyright 2019, C. Burke.

That second area is known as "Fiddling with the knobs" or "Piddle, Twiddle and Resolve".

But I probably don't want "piddle" and "shower" in the same comic.

The Goldilocks zone is actually a little narrower than that. The y-axis is adjusted for readability.

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Wednesday, November 13, 2019


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(C)Copyright 2019, C. Burke.

I'm shocked -- shocked -- that I haven't used this pun before.

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Monday, November 11, 2019

Happy Veterans Day 2019

A little late, but a message to say Happy Veterans Day! and "Thank You! to all the veterans out there.

In the twelve years that (x, why?) has been published, this is one of the holidays that I've tried not to miss. However, there isn't a comic for it this year. Why?

The short answer: I couldn't think of one, short of another picture of a flag. The next to last resort is trotting out Mike's Dad and Uncle for a joke with the other vets.

Slightly longer: I'd rather not have one than to force one for a particular day. There were only a couple of Halloween comics this year due to fewer updates and less inspiration. Christmas is coming and it may suffer the same fate. When I make fewer updates and don't keep a regular schedule, I raise the bar on myself for what I should post. And holidays present their own problem in that they don't move, so I can't just post a comic a day or two later.

In the meantime, allow me to repost something that I found on the Internet some time in the 90s. I don't know if Father O'Brien, USMC wrote the entire thing, or just the part at the end. I used to post it every year when I had my own web pages when I was new on the Internet.


Father Denis Edward O'Brien, USMC


Some veterans bear visible signs of their service: a missing limb, a jagged scar, a certain look in the eye.

Others may carry the evidence inside them: a pin holding a bone together, a piece of shrapnel in the leg - or perhaps another sort of inner steel: the soul's ally forged in the refinery of adversity.

Except in parades, however, the men and women who have kept America safe wear no badge or emblem.

You can't tell a vet just by looking.

What is a vet?

He is the cop on the beat who spent six months in Saudi Arabia sweating two gallons a day making sure the armored personnel carriers didn't run out of fuel.

He is the barroom loudmouth, dumber than five wooden planks, whose overgrown frat-boy behavior is outweighed a hundred times in the cosmic scales by four hours of exquisite bravery near the 38th parallel.

She - or he - is the nurse who fought against futility and went to sleep sobbing every night for two solid years in Da Nang.

He is the POW who went away one person and came back another - or didn't come back AT ALL.

He is the Quantico drill instructor who has never seen combat - but has saved countless lives by turning slouchy, no-account rednecks and gang members into Marines, and teaching them to watch each other's backs.

He is the parade - riding Legionnaire who pins on his ribbons and medals with a prosthetic hand.

He is the career quartermaster who watches the ribbons and medals pass him by.

He is the three anonymous heroes in The Tomb Of The Unknowns, whose presence at the Arlington National Cemetery must forever preserve the memory of all the anonymous heroes whose valor dies unrecognized with them on the battlefield or in the ocean's sunless deep.

He is the old guy bagging groceries at the supermarket - palsied now and aggravatingly slow - who helped liberate a Nazi death camp and who wishes all day long that his wife were still alive to hold him when the nightmares come.

He is an ordinary and yet an extraordinary human being - a person who offered some of his life's most vital years in the service of his country, and who sacrificed his ambitions so others would not have to sacrifice theirs.

He is a soldier and a savior and a sword against the darkness, and he is nothing more than the finest, greatest testimony on behalf of the finest, greatest nation ever known.

So remember, each time you see someone who has served our country, just lean over and say Thank You. That's all most people need, and in most cases it will mean more than any medals they could have been awarded or were awarded.

Two little words that mean a lot, "THANK YOU".

Remember November 11th is Veterans Day

"It is the soldier, not the reporter,
Who has given us freedom of the press.
It is the soldier, not the poet,
Who has given us freedom of speech.
It is the soldier, not the campus organizer,
Who has given us the freedom to demonstrate.
It is the soldier,
Who salutes the flag,
Who serves beneath the flag,
And whose coffin is draped by the flag,
Who allows the protestor to burn the flag."

Father Denis Edward O'Brien

Sunday, November 10, 2019

1 + 1

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(C)Copyright 2019, C. Burke.

Simple math: two became one.

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Thursday, November 07, 2019

What Kind of Slope?

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(C)Copyright 2019, C. Burke.

Pretty much a given that it's negative, right?

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Wednesday, November 06, 2019


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(C)Copyright 2019, C. Burke.

I think it's mapped out pretty well.

The function is left as an exercise for the reader.

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Saturday, November 02, 2019

How the Knight Moves

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(C)Copyright 2019, C. Burke.

Number 1 with a Silver Bullet.

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Thursday, October 31, 2019

Happy Halloween 2019

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(C)Copyright 2019, C. Burke.

The waves are in motion.

One thought I had this year was to have Missy as herself while the others were dressed as Pokemon. Don't know if it would've worked.

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Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Math Horror Movies: Things To Come

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(C)Copyright 2019, C. Burke.

But is it a good sine? You could ask the Wishing Wells...

Depends -- is y = |.3x| sin (.8x) a good sine?

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Saturday, October 26, 2019

Math Horror Movies: Kong

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(C)Copyright 2019, C. Burke.

Tis twin beauties killed the identical beasts!

I enlarged the size of this comic so I wouldn't have to crop the image too much. I was going to shrink it again afterward, but I think I've been making these comics too small all along -- something that I discovered when they asked me to increase the size of some comics so that they could be used in a text book.

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Thursday, October 24, 2019

12 Years From the Day I Made (x, why?)

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(C)Copyright 2019, C. Burke.
Anthronumerics is a trademark of C. Burke and (x, why?)

You know that I had the Weird Al version in my head as much as the original, right?

Actually, I've heard the original more often lately, albeit in a shortened form. A local singer, Charlie Romo, bookends the beginning and end about his tribute to Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper. I'm dropping his name right here because you'll hear about him within the next couple years when he really breaks out. Anyway ...

Obviously, I shortened the song, but it's still longer than I originally had planned because I'd left so much out of it. Not that I had to mention everything, but when I looked at what I had mentioned, I wondered why I didn't include other stuff. And I wasn't doing any more rewrites.

As it is, I had to go with a background frame (and there are nearly 100 images behind the lyrics) and not include any characters, like Quinn correcting the pronunciation of "psi" and "phi", or any of the referenced numbers.

I don't use psi or epsilon much, either in class or in this comic, but it seemed like a good hook. Originally, it was "phi, psi" but then I realized what it sounds like the other way (Quinn's pedantry notwithstanding).

It was interesting looking back at the first 100 strips just to see how much has changed from my first year -- and not just the artwork. I used the Antronumerics(tm) a lot more (even if I didn't use that name), and they started developing personalities. But they've been used less in the past few years. The classrooms and the teachers lounge got more of the focus, especially when I started giving them names. And now I'm looking on the students so that they won't be the butt of all the jokes. Mr. 0 from f(x) News was featured quite often, but that program fell into lesser use even before a similarly named show program left the air.

Also, 2008 was an election year, and when I ran out of math jokes and needed to fill in those updates, I "went there". Looking back, even though a couple of those comics weren't too bad, overall it was a bad decision. On the other hand, there was a logo that looked like a zero that paired nicely with Mr. 0, but any plans for "Nillary" were cancelled. I avoided politics in 2012 and 2016, and I look to avoid it again this year. If I ever released a book of my first 100 strips, I'd want to leave most of these out.

Other changes are the upgrades of Paint, along with assists from a couple other programs to do little things. I'm still playing around with the size, but I'm making pixel size a little less random.

More song parodies when tunes stick in my head. Math horror movies around Halloween (fewer this year, sadly). And more Christmas comics because Christmas is fun.

What's up for the next year? I really want a wiki page of some kind. The existing one is poor, and that other wiki won't list me, despite 12 years at this. But I do have a TV Tropes page, which I did NOT create, but do occasionally try to maintain.

Thank you to everyone who comes by here to the actual blog posts, and doesn't just glance at them on social media. Thank you to the people who have been here for the long haul and gave words of encouragement.

By the way, everything in that song actually happened, just maybe not in the order presented. So there was a guy with a PhD and there was a girl who liked my parodies who didn't say much.

And despite my not having much to say, at times, I'll keep at it. Maybe even with a post for tomorrow! (Wouldn't that be cool? I have to work on it.)

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Wednesday, October 23, 2019


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(C)Copyright 2019, C. Burke.

I'm happy to see that they retained the knowledge and applied it elsewhere (factorial)

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