Wednesday, December 28, 2011

100: 100th Episode Spectacular

    This episode was hard to start, because I had trouble thinking of
an appropriate topic.  100 is a big, round number, which as we all
know means I have to do something significant.  But then I realized
that there is one basic topic that I haven't covered:  why am I doing
this in the first place?  Why did I start recording Math Mutation?
Most podcasts say something like that in their first episode, but as
you may have noticed, I just plunged right into the math.  That's
mainly because there are so many podcasters that don't stick with it,
and trail off after a dozen or so episodes.  In those cases, having
one episode devoted to their vision of the podcast just makes them
look like a dork.  Even more of a dork, that is, than if they had
recorded 99 podcasts about math.  But anyway, having stuck it out for
100 episodes, I think it's time to cover this topic.  I'll also cover
a couple of other loose ends that have been on my list.
    Ever since I got my first ipod, in those long-ago days of 2005, I
have enjoyed listening to it in a mode where it is shuffling music and
short (<10 minute) podcasts, so I hear songs randomly interspersed 
with interesting tidbits on a variety of subjects. A few years ago, I
realized there were great short-form podcasts on a lot of topics I
find interesting: history, science, astronomy, skepticism, humor, and
etymology, for example. But somehow the few math podcasts all seemed
focused on directly helping students with their schoolwork.
    Not that there is anything wrong with that, of course. But this
meant that the fun parts of mathematics, the crazy and wild ideas that
had brought the subject to life for me & motivated my desire to major
in the subject in college, were just not covered. Some examples: the
geometric implications of higher dimensions, the weird consequences of
defining infinity, the amazing thought processes of autistic savants,
or the strange math-based composition methods of John Cage.  If you've
been listening for 100 episodes I think you got the idea.
    So, I thought I would fill this gap, and create a podcast that
highlights all these areas that fascinate me. It won't directly help
anyone with tonight's math homework-- but hopefully, it just might
make them more interested in getting it done, and really understanding
what's going on in some of the infinite worlds of mathematics.  If
you're listening, then you probably agree, or at least enjoy making
fun of me for trying.
    Now before I go, I should also cover a couple of loose ends.
First, I need to announce the winner of the Math Day Madness contest
announced in Episode 98:  Chris Hantzmon from Klamath Falls, Oregon.
He proposed 'i day', to celebrate the imaginary number i, defined as
the square root of -1.  This day is celebrated every February 29th,
which fittingly makes the holiday imaginary during most years, though
approximately every four years we do get to celebrate with some I-ce
cream.  Honorable mention goes to Steffan Willis and Marc Jones, who
came up with a series of holidays including Calculus Day, determined
using numerical values of the letters in dy/dx;  Fibonacci Day, on
Febrary 11th at 3:58 AM; Triangle Numbver Day, on June 13th at 10:15
AM;  and Tetrahedral Numbers Day, on October 14th at 8:35 PM.  In case
the derivations of the last few are confusing to you, remember that
those crazy UKers write their days before their months.  And you can
check out the last three events on Facebook if you wish.  Anyway,
congratulations to Chris, Steffan, and Marc!
    Finally, a correction to an earlier podcast:  I casually mentioned
that a mole is defined as the number of hydrogen atoms in a gram, but
I forgot about those pesky neutrons that can throw off these
calculations.   Listener Ben Scarlato corrected me, that usually a
mole is defined in terms of Carbon-12 these days.  Thanks Ben!
    And this has been your math mutation for today.

  • Definition of a Mole
  • Fibonacci Day on Facebook
  • Triangle Number Day on Facebook
  • Tetrahedral Numbers Day on Facebook
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