Posts Tagged ‘math’

Gladwell on Journalism

Thursday, November 5th, 2009

Malcolm Gladwell:

Aspiring journalists should stop going to journalism programs and go to some other kind of grad school. If I was studying today, I would go get a master’s in statistics, and maybe do a bunch of accounting courses and then write from that perspective. I think that’s the way to survive. The role of the generalist is diminishing. Journalism has to get smarter.

I agree.

Actually, I think everyone should make a real effort to learn more about statistics. Prob/stat is the only field of math that is both difficult and extraordinarily useful in everyday life.


Monday, June 22nd, 2009

It’s Summer travel season, so I figure now’s a good time to talk about podcasts in case you’re in the mood to try something new.

I recently listened to this episode of WNYC’s Radiolab about randomness (or stochasticity, for those who prefer bigger words). Don’t be scared off by the seemingly-esoteric subject-matter, it’s really not a technical podcast. It talks about unlikely events, such as the same person winning the lottery twice, random events such as coin flips, and randomness in sports. I’ve only listened to this episode, but I enjoyed it enough that I’m subscribed. Give it a try if you like learning surprising things.

(via kottke)


Monday, April 20th, 2009

“Philosophy is a game with objectives and no rules.
Mathematics is a game with rules and no objectives.”

(seen here via @vireshratnakar, though I’m not sure of the origin)


Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

Interesting 9-minute video about probability and coincidence:

Nothing shocking here, but I like the way the explanation is done.

Airport Puzzle

Sunday, December 14th, 2008

A simple puzzle, a bit trickier than I expected:

Suppose you are trying to get from one end A of a terminal to the other end B. (For simplicity, assume the terminal is a one-dimensional line segment.) Some portions of the terminal have moving walkways (in both directions); other portions do not. Your walking speed is a constant v, but while on a walkway, it is boosted by the speed u of the walkway for a net speed of v+u. (Obviously, given a choice, one would only take those walkways that are going in the direction one wishes to travel in.) Your objective is to get from A to B in the shortest time possible.

1. Suppose you need to pause for some period of time, say to tie your shoe. Is it more efficient to do so while on a walkway, or off the walkway? Assume the period of time required is the same in both cases.

2. Suppose you have a limited amount of energy available to run and increase your speed to a higher quantity v’ (or v’+u, if you are on a walkway). Is it more efficient to run while on a walkway, or off the walkway? Assume that the energy expenditure is the same in both cases.

3. Do the answers to the above questions change if one takes into account the various effects of special relativity? (This is of course an academic question rather than a practical one. But presumably it should be the time in the airport frame that one wants to minimise, not time in one’s personal frame.)

I’m not bothering with the third part, as I’m not smart enough, but the first two are fun. I got the second one wrong at first. Like a lot of similar puzzles, the key is to frame the goal properly, then the answer becomes simple. Well, except for the last part…
(via Greg Mankiw)