Questions tagged [popular-math]

Question on bits and pieces of mathematics that show up in popular media (TV, movies, comics, etc.)

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What is the solution to Nash's problem presented in "A Beautiful Mind"?

I was watching the said movie the other night, and I started thinking about the equation posed by Nash in the movie. More specifically, the one he said would take some students a lifetime to solve (obviously, an exaggeration). Nonetheless, one…
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Cover of "Gödel, Escher, Bach"

Consider the cover image of the book "Gödel, Escher, Bach", depicted below. The interesting feature is that it shows the existence of a subset of $\mathbb{R}^3$ which projects onto $\mathbb{R}^2$ in three different ways to form the letters of the…
Kind Bubble
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The Monty Hall problem

I was watching the movie $21$ yesterday, and in the first 15 minutes or so the main character is in a classroom, being asked a "trick" question (in the sense that the teacher believes that he'll get the wrong answer) which revolves around…
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Probability that random moves in the game 2048 will win

I have recently played the game 2048, created by Gabriele Cirulli, which is fun. I suggest trying if you have not. But my brother posed this question to me about the game: If he were to write a script that made random moves in the game 2048, what…
N. Owad
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Sheldon Cooper Primes

On the $73^{\text{rd}}$ episode of the Big Bang Theory, Dr. Sheldon Cooper, an astrophysicist portrayed by Jim Parsons $(1973 - \stackrel{\text{hopefully}}{2073})$ revealed his favorite number to be the sexy prime $73$ Sheldon : "The best number…
Nick
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A golden ratio series from a comic book

The eighth installment of the Filipino comic series Kikomachine Komix features a peculiar series for the golden ratio in its cover: That is, $$\phi=\frac{13}{8}+\sum_{n=0}^\infty \frac{(-1)^{n+1}(2n+1)!}{(n+2)!n!4^{2n+3}}$$ How might this be…
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Has anyone ever actually seen this Daniel Biss paper?

A student asked me about a paper by Daniel Biss (MIT Ph.D. and Illinois state senator) proving that "circles are really just bloated triangles." The only published source I could find was the young adult novel An Abundance of Katherines by John…
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What is this mathematical equation from Fringe?

The following mathematical equation was shown during the television show Fringe which aired on Friday, April 22nd. Any idea what it is? (edit by J.M.: for reference, this was Sam Weiss scribbling formulae in his notebook.)
Evan Wondrasek
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Mathematical toys?

Anybody know of "serious" mathematical ornaments or toys like the Gömböc, etc? Already have a rubix and abacus (that's more of a tool though).
Adam
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Verifying 'standup maths' homeomorphism claim

In his newest video, Matt Parker claims that a sphere with three holes (a pair of trousers) and a torus with one hole (a pair of trousers with the legs sewn) are homeomorphic. I assume he meant removing closed discs, since he wanted them to be…
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Mathematics understood through poems?

Along with Diophantus mathematics has been represented in form of poems often times. Bhaskara II composes in Lilavati: Whilst making love a necklace broke. A row of pearls mislaid. One sixth fell to the floor. One fifth upon the bed. The young woman…
Sniper Clown
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"A proof that algebraic topology can never have a non self-contradictory set of abelian groups" - Dr. Sheldon Cooper

In the current episode "The Big Bang Theory", Dr. Sheldon Cooper has a booklet titled "A proof that algebraic topology can never have a non self-contradictory set of abelian groups". I'm still an undergrad in mathematics and I have no idea what an…
studeth
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What is the best strategy for Cookie-Clicker-esque games?

Today, I stumbled across the game Cookie Clicker, which I recommend you avoid until you have at least a few hours of time to waste. The basic idea behind the game is this: You have a large stash of currency, which constantly increases at the given…
PhiNotPi
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"What if" math joke: the derivative of $\ln(x)^e$

Randall Munroe, the creator of xkcd in his latest book What if writes (p. 175) that the mathematical analog of the phrase "knock me over with a feather" is seeing the expression $ \ln( x )^{e}$. And he writes regarding this expression: "it's not…
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"Bad" Mathematics in Movies

There's a website and a companion book to it about bad physics in movies, called "Insultingly Stupid Movie Physics". Similar issues may exist about mathematics: What are the differences between movie mathematics an real mathematics? What are the…
Behzad
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