A very fun Christmas treat for you all as I team up with my good friend Bobby Seagull for the Funbers Xmas Special – expect fun facts, lots of numbers, and more birds than anyone thought possible… Happy Holidays!!
Season 2 comes to a close with stories from my (rather eventful) trip to China, a new video series with BBC Maths Guru Bobby Seagull, and the number of calories needed by a Charizard per day to survive. That’s all on top of the usual puzzle and fun facts about the numbers 0 and 1. Plus, music from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, System of a Down, and Limp Bizkit. This is maths, but not as you know it…
- 00:00 Opening
- 00:13 Bowling for Soup – Normal Chicks
- 03:25 Limp Bizkit – My Generation
- 07:05 Red Hot Chili Peppers – The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie
- 11:44 News
- 18:00 Enter Shikari – Arguing with Thermometers
- 21:22 Puzzle
- 24:09 System of a Down – Shimmy
- 25:59 Atreyu – You Gave Love a Bad Name
- 29:22 Pokemaths: How many calories does a Charizard need per day?
- 38:13 Midtown – Get it Together
- 41:30 Billy Talent – Nothing to Lose
- 45:02 Funbers 0 and 1
- 51:36 The Story So Far – Right Here
- 54:02 Puzzle Solution and Close
Fun facts about numbers that you didn’t realise you’ve secretly always wanted to know…
28 — Twenty-eight
28 has the infamy of being the second perfect number. This may sound like it came in second place in some kind of ‘best number competition’, but in fact a perfect number is one where all of the numbers that divide it, perfectly add up to give the number itself: 1 + 2 + 4 + 7 + 14 = 28. We first talked about perfect numbers back in Funbers 4.6692…, 5 and 6, which gives you a pretty big hint as to what the first perfect number might be…
Twenty-eight is also a triangular number. Building equilateral triangles using only dots gives rise to a sequence of numbers, each of which is called a triangular number. We start with a single dot, then we add a row of two dots below to make a total of 3, then we add a third row with three dots to give a total of 6, etc. etc. (see below for examples). For a triangle with seven rows the total number of dots will be 28. If you feeling brave, try to work out the general formula for the number of dots in a triangle with n rows.
So far I think we can say 28 is doing pretty well being both a perfect number and a triangular number, but it doesn’t stop there. Twenty-eight is also a magic number (yes, really). Magic numbers are a concept in nuclear physics which correspond to the total number of protons and neutrons required to completely fill a shell within an atom. There are seven magic numbers known so far: 2, 8, 20, 28, 50, 82, and 126 with at least another eight predicted by the theory.
29 — Twenty-nine
Here’s a fun challenge for you: using the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4 only once, along with the four basic operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, can you make a total of 29? What about all positive numbers less than 29?
It turns out that 29 is in fact the smallest positive number that CANNOT be made using the method described above (it’s Funbers, you should have known there was a twist). In other claims to fame, it takes Saturn just over 29 years to orbit the sun, there are 29 states in India, and 29 Knuts make one Sickle in the currency of the wizarding world of Harry Potter. The real question is how many Sickles make a Galleon?
30 — Thirty
As we enter the fourth decade of Funbers, let’s look back at some of the interesting numbers we’ve met so far… 1, 4, 9, 16 — what do they all have in common? Adding up the first four square numbers gives exactly 30: 1² + 2² + 3² + 4² = 30. This property makes it a square pyramidal number or a cannonball number. The latter name comes from the fact that a square pyramid can be built from exactly 30 cannonballs — instructions below if you want to try it out for yourself, though I recommend using something lighter and easier to obtain than medieval ammunition.
If you’re lucky enough to reach 30 years of marriage, you celebrate the Pearl Wedding Anniversary where, as the name might suggest, you traditionally receive a gift of pearls, although the ‘modern’ list published by the Chicago Public Library suggests a gift of diamond instead. Either way, sign me up. There are in fact suggested gifts for most wedding anniversaries — too many for me to include them all — so here’s a selection of some of my favourites. I’ll let you figure out which is the traditional gift and which is the ‘modern’ one…
1st — Cotton or a clock
3rd — Leather or glass
7th — Wool or a pen and pencil set
8th — Salt or linens
24th — Opal or musical instruments
85th — Wine or your birthstone
90th — Stone or engraved marble
Finally, let’s end with the magical and mysterious date of February 30th. It of course does not occur on the Gregorian calendar, where February contains 28 days in a typical year and 29 days during a leap year, and so is often used as a sarcastic date to refer to something that will never happen or will never be done. That is, unless you happened to be living in Sweden during the year 1712. Instead of changing from the old Julian calendar to the new Gregorian calendar by skipping forward 11 days as had been done in other countries, Sweden decided to do things differently. Their plan was to omit all of the leap days from 1700 to 1740, which would in theory have the same result, just over a longer time period.
There were 11 leap years during this timeframe (1700, 1704, …, 1740) and so this approach would have indeed worked, were it not for the Great Northern War. The war began in late 1700 and lasted for over 20 years, which unfortunately caused Sweden to ‘ forget’ to omit the leap days in 1704 and 1708, leaving them on neither the Julian or Gregorian calendars. To avoid confusion (and likely further forgetfulness) they restored the old Julian calendar in 1712 with the addition of the magical day of February 30th (visible in the image below). Which reminds me, I must let Taylor Swift know I can’t make our dinner date on February 30th…
Cover image credit: Lozikiki
A special edition of Tom Rocks Maths on Oxide Radio with music inspired by Tom’s recent visit to Slam Dunk Festival. We’ve also got Pokemon and drinking games, a mind-bending Einstein Puzzle, and news of Tom’s antics running around the streets of Oxford in his underwear… This is maths, but not as you know it.
Episode 10 of Tom Rocks Maths on Oxide Radio sees the conclusion of the million-dollar Millennium Problem series with the Hodge Conjecture, a mischievously difficult number puzzle, and the answer to the question on everyone’s lips: how many people have died watching the video of Justin Bieber’s Despacito? Plus, the usual great music from the Prodigy, the Hives and Weezer.
Image credit: Lou Stejskal
New guidance, released by Pearson, says: If we want to tackle maths anxiety in Britain, we have to change the negative perceptions and experiences that so many learners have when it comes to maths. In this blog, Dr Tom Crawford, maths tutor at the University of Oxford, shares his take on the out-of-the-box approaches to help engage young people with the subject, spark curiosity and inspire life-long interest in maths.
Maths is boring, serious and irrelevant to everyday life – at least according to the results of my survey amongst friends, students and colleagues working in education. This isn’t necessarily something new, but it does highlight one of the current issues facing maths education: how do we improve its image amongst society in general?
With ‘Tom Rocks Maths’ my approach is simple: improve the image of maths by combatting each of the three issues identified above, and do it as creatively as possible…
Tackling “Maths is boring”
The misconception that maths is a boring subject often develops from maths lessons at school. Due to the extensive curriculum, teachers do not have the time to explore topics in detail, and in many cases, resort to providing a list of equations or formulae that need to be memorised for an exam.
My attempted solution is to do the hard work for them by creating curiosity-driven videos that explain mathematical concepts in exciting and original ways. Take the example of Archimedes Principle – a concept that explains why some objects are able to float whilst others sink – a key part of the secondary school curriculum. It’s perhaps not the most engaging topic for teenagers with no interest in weight regulations for maritime vehicles. But, if instead the topic were presented as part of a video answering the question ‘how many ping-pong balls would it take to raise the Titanic from the ocean floor?’ then maybe we can grab their attention.
Generating curiosity-driven questions such as these is not always easy, but the core concept is to present the topic as part of the answer to an interesting question that your audience simply has to know the answer to.
When teaching my second-year undergraduate students about Stokes’ Law for the terminal velocity of an object falling through a fluid, we discuss the question ‘how long would it take for Usain Bolt to sink to the bottom of the ocean?’ – something I think almost everyone wants to know the answer to! (Don’t worry you can watch the video to find out).
Tackling “Maths is irrelevant to everyday life”
Of all of the issues facing maths in society at the moment, this is perhaps the one that annoys me the most. The majority of people that I speak to who don’t like maths will tell me that it’s the ‘language of the universe’ and can be used to describe pretty much anything, but yet they almost always go on to say how they stopped trying to engage with it because it simply doesn’t apply to them. This is what we mathematicians call a contradiction.
To try to tackle this issue, I go out of my way to present as large a range of topics as possible from a mathematical viewpoint. This has seen me discuss the maths of dinosaurs, the maths of Pokémon and the maths of sport to name but a few. Throughout 2018, my weekly ‘Funbers’ series with BBC radio examined the ‘fun facts about numbers that you didn’t realise you’ve secretly always wanted to know’, where each week a new number would be discussed alongside an assortment of relevant facts from history, religion and popular culture. When working with the BBC, I was very insistent that the programmes were introduced as a ‘maths series’ to help listeners to make the connection between maths and everyday life.
Tackling “Maths is too serious”
At first this surprised me. I’d never personally thought of my subject as ‘serious’ and speaking to my friends and colleagues, they seemed equally perplexed. But then it hit me. Looking at maths and mathematicians from the outside, where you cannot understand the intricate details and beautiful patterns, calling the subject ‘serious’ is a very valid response. There are endless rules and regulations that must be followed for the work to make sense, and most people working in the field can come across as antisocial or introverted to an outsider, which is where I come in.
To try to show that maths isn’t as serious as many people believe, and just to have some plain old fun, I created my persona as the ‘Naked Mathematician’. This began with the ‘Equations Stripped’ video series on YouTube, where I strip-back some of the most important equations in maths layer by layer, whilst also removing an item of my clothing at each step until I remain in just my underwear. As well as providing an element of humour to the videos (as no mention is made of the increasing lack of clothing), the idea is that by doing maths in my underwear it shows that it does not have to be taken as seriously as many people believe.
I have also seen an added benefit of this approach in attracting a new audience that otherwise may not have had any interest in learning maths – from my perspective I really don’t care why people are engaging with the subject, so long as they have a good experience which they will now associate with mathematics.
Whilst I am aware that my approach to tackling the issues faced by mathematics in society may not be to everyone’s tastes, our current methods of trying to engage people with maths are not working, so isn’t it about time we tried thinking outside of the box?
The original article published by Pearson is available here.
Tom Rocks Maths launches into Hilary Term on Oxide Radio – Oxford University’s student radio station – with the continuation of the million-dollar Millennium Problems series, an explanation of how Tom’s PhD research can be used to help clean-up our oceans, and conspiracy theories aplenty with Funbers 11. Plus, music from Kings of Leon, Biffy Clyro and new Found Glory. This is maths, but not as you know it…
Dr Tom Crawford joined the Hall in October 2018 as a Stipendiary Lecturer in Mathematics, but he is far from your usual mathematician…
Tom’s research investigates where river water goes when it enters the ocean. A simple question, you might first think, but the complexity of the interaction between the lighter freshwater and the heavier saltwater, mixed together by the tides and wind, and pushed ‘right’ along the coast due to the Earth’s rotation, is anything but. The motivation for understanding this process comes from recent attempts to clean-up our oceans. Rivers are the main source of pollution in the ocean, and therefore by understanding where freshwater ends up in the ocean, we can identify the area’s most susceptible to pollution and mitigate for its effects accordingly.
To better understand this process, Tom conducts experiments in the lab and has conducted fieldwork expeditions to places as far-flung as Antarctica. What the southern-most continent lacks in rivers, it makes up for in meltwater from its plethora of ice sheets. The ultimate process is the same – lighter freshwater being discharged into a heavier saltwater ocean – and as the most remote location on Earth the influence of humans is at its least.
If you thought that a mathematician performing experiments and taking part in fieldwork expeditions was unusual, then you haven’t seen anything yet. Tom is also very active in outreach and public engagement as the author of the award-winning website tomrocksmaths.com which looks to entertain, excite and educate about all thing’s maths. The key approach to Tom’s work is to make entertaining content that people want to engage with, without necessarily having an active interest in maths. Questions such as ‘how many ping-pong balls would it take to raise the Titanic from the ocean floor?’ and ‘what is the blast radius of an atomic bomb?’ peak your attention and curiosity meaning you have no choice but to click to find out the answer!
Tom is also the creator of the ‘Funbers’ series which was broadcast on BBC Radio throughout 2018 telling you the ‘fun facts you didn’t realise you’ve secretly always wanted to know’ about a different number every week. From the beauty of the ‘Golden Ratio’ to the world’s unluckiest number (is it really 13?) via the murderous tale of ‘Pythagoras’ Constant’, Funbers is a source of endless entertainment for all ages and mathematical abilities alike.
And now for the big finale. If you are familiar with Tom’s work, you may know where we are heading with this, but if not, strap yourself in for the big reveal. Dr Tom Crawford is the man behind the ‘Naked Mathematician’ (yes you did read that correctly). To try to show that maths isn’t as serious as many people believe, to try to engage a new audience with the subject, and just to have fun, Tom regularly gives maths talks in his underwear! His ‘Equations Stripped’ series on YouTube has reached 250,000 views – that’s a quarter of a million people that have engaged with maths that may otherwise have never done so. His recent tour of UK universities saw several thousand students come to a maths lecture of their own accord to learn about fluid dynamics. It may not be to everyone’s tastes, but our current methods of trying to engage people with maths are failing, so why not try something new? This is maths, but not as you know it.
The original article published in the Aularian magazine can be found here.
Fun facts about numbers that you didn’t realise you’ve secretly always wanted to know…
25 – TWENTY-FIVE
You probably know 25 as five squared, 5 x 5 = 25, but I bet you didn’t realise that it’s also the sum of the first five odd numbers: 1 + 3 + 5 + 7 + 9 = 25. It also crops up a lot in Pythagoras’ Theorem (yes, him again — see Funbers root 2) because it’s the smallest square that’s also the sum of another two square numbers: 25 = 3² + 4². Since Pythagoras’ Theorem says that a² + b² = c², we have the exact result with whole numbers (integers) for a = 3, b = 4 and c = 5. A solution such as this, where all of the numbers are integers, is called a Pythagorean Triple.
Looking beyond the maths, most videos are recorded at a frame rate of 25 per second as the PAL video standard – other options are available, but twenty-five does an excellent job of tricking the human brain into seeing a moving picture where in fact only a series of still images are being shown. Less than 25 and we might start to notice the ‘jumps’ between frames, and for more than 25 we’ll need a lot more data to record and store the footage.
Twenty-five is also the average percentage of DNA overlap between yourself and your grandparent, grand-child, aunt, uncle, nephew, half-sibling, double cousin (when siblings from one family have children with siblings from another), or identical twin cousin (if one of your parents is an identical twin and their twin has a child). Oh, and apparently a ‘pony’ is British slang for £25 – news to me…
26 – TWENTY-SIX
With twenty-five being a square number, and (spoiler alert) twenty-seven being a cube number, twenty-six is uniquely placed as the only whole number that’s exactly one greater than a square (5² + 1) and one less than a cube (3³ – 1). Talk about niche. And then there’s the fantastically named rhombicuboctahedron — a shape with 26 faces, made up of squares and triangles. Can you spot how many of each in the figure below?
Twenty-six also gives the number of complete miles in a marathon (26 miles and 385 yards to be exact), the number of letters in the Latin alphabet, and the age at which males can no longer be drafted in the United States. The draft has been used five times throughout history: the American Revolution, the American Civil War, World War 1, World War 2 and the Cold War (including Korea and Vietnam). Let’s hope it never has to be used again.
27 – TWENTY-SEVEN
Now this one’s a real doozy: 27% of our universe is made up of “dark matter” – matter that has mass but is also completely invisible and doesn’t interact with itself or regular matter. The rest of the universe consists of 5% regular matter (the stuff we know about), and the other 68% is completely unknown. Something, something, dark energy…
Sticking with scary thoughts, in Stephen King’s novel ‘It’ (great film by the way) the creature returns to the town of Derry every 27 years, which also happens to be exactly the right amount of time for a new-born baby to join the 27 Club — a term used to refer to popular musicians who have died at the age of 27. Current members include Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse amongst many, many more. We also have 27 books in the New Testament and 27 bones in the human hand.
Ending with some maths — what else — twenty-seven is the only positive whole number that is exactly three times the sum of its digits: 2 + 7 = 9 and 9 x 3 = 27. It’s also a perfect cube, 33 = 3 x 3 x 3 = 27, and it’s equal to the sum of the digits from two to seven, 2 + 3 + 4 + 5 + 6 + 7 = 27. But, leaving the best until last, if you label the decimal places of the number pi, starting from 0, then the 27th and 28th digits read 27. It may seem like magic but it’s actually one of a few ‘self-locating strings’ in the number. The others being 6, 13598, 43611, 24643510, and no doubt many more yet to be discovered. That can be your homework…
π = 3.141592653589793238462643383279…
Image credit: Jonathan Kis-Lev