Funbers 31, 32 and 33

Fun facts about numbers that you didn’t realise you’ve secretly always wanted to know…

31 – Thirty-one

Hands up if you like ice cream? And your favourite brand? I’m not sure I could pick a favourite myself, but Baskin-Robbins is certainly up there. They have a total of 31 flavours of ice cream which means the name of their shops in Japan literally translates as ’31 Ice Cream’. In theory a great idea, but what if they discover a magical new thirty-second flavour…

Aside from frozen goods, thirty-one is also the number of teams in the National Hockey League, with 24 coming from the US and 7 from their Northern neighbours Canada. Each season, the teams battle it out to win the Stanley Cup — the oldest trophy to be awarded in professional sport in North America, and also the one with the infamously large base (see below). Originally, key members of the winning team were engraved on the base, which means its grown a fair few inches over the past 126 years. However, these days the oldest band is removed and replaced with a new one to prevent the trophy from getting any bigger. Less fun no doubt, but perhaps sensible given its already considerable size…

Andy_Saucier_with_Stanley_Cup_2017-06-11_16188_(2)

Credit: Michael Miller

Thirty-one is also a Mersenne Prime — the third such one in fact. A Mersenne Prime is a prime number that can be expressed as exactly one less than a power of two: 2^n — 1 for some positive whole number n. To get 31, we take n=5: 2⁵ = 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 = 32 minus 1 gives 31. A perhaps surprisingly large (and possibly infinite) amount of prime numbers take this form, with the current largest known prime number also being a Mersenne Prime: 2⁸²⁵⁸⁹⁹³³–1 = a number with 24,862,048 digits, aka too many for me to write out here!

32 — Thirty-two

Sticking with maths, thirty-two has the very nice property that it can be written as 1 to the power 1 plus 2 to the power 2 plus three to the power three, or in its neatest form: 1¹ + 2² + 3³ = 32. Here’s a challenge for you: can you work out the next largest number that follows the same pattern?

32 can also be written as 2⁴ + 4² = 32 which makes it a Leyland Number. Any number that can be written using two other numbers x and y, in the pattern x to the power y plus y to the power x, is classified as a Leyland Number. Here, we take x = 2 and y = 4 to get: 2⁴ = 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 = 16, plus 4² = 4 x 4 = 16, giving a total of 16 + 16 = 32. Other Leyland Numbers include: 8, 17, 54, 57 and 100 — I’ll leave it to you to figure out the specific values of x and y needed to satisfy the formula x^y + y^x = Leyland Number for each of the cases above.

Outside of the mathematical world, thirty-two is the number of completed piano sonatas by Ludwig van Beethoven; the number of black (or white) squares, and total number of pieces on a chessboard; the number of teeth generally found in an adult human; and the number of described physical characteristics of the historical Buddha, according to the text of the Pāli Canon in the Theravada Buddhist tradition. It’s a pretty long list, but I think it is best enjoyed in its entirety, so here you go:

  1.  Level feet
  2.  Thousand-spoked wheel sign on feet
  3.  Long, slender fingers
  4.  Pliant hands and feet
  5.  Toes and fingers finely webbed
  6.  Full-sized heels
  7.  Arched insteps
  8.  Thighs like a royal stag
  9.  Hands reaching below the knees
  10.  Well-retracted male organ
  11.  Height and stretch of arms equal
  12.  Every hair-root dark coloured
  13.  Body hair graceful and curly
  14.  Golden-hued body
  15.  Ten-foot aura around him
  16.  Soft, smooth skin
  17.  Soles, palms, shoulders, and crown of head well-rounded
  18.  Area below armpits well-filled
  19.  Lion-shaped body
  20.  Body erect and upright
  21.  Full, round shoulders
  22.  Forty teeth
  23.  Teeth white, even, and close
  24.  Four canine teeth pure white
  25.  Jaw like a lion
  26.  Saliva that improves the taste of all food
  27.  Tongue long and broad
  28.  Voice deep and resonant
  29.  Eyes deep blue
  30.  Eyelashes like a royal bull
  31.  White ūrṇā curl that emits light between eyebrows
  32.  Fleshy protuberance on the crown of the head

33 — Thirty-three

Let’s start with the bad. Thirty-three is one of the symbols of the Ku Klux Klan, with K being the 11th letter of the alphabet and 3 x 11 or 3 K’s giving 33. It is also believed to be the age of Jesus when he was crucified by the Romans.

On a more positive note, 33 is the longest winning streak ever recorded in NBA history, which was achieved by the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1971–72 season. We also find 33 vertebrae in a normal human spine when the bones that form the coccyx (the tail-like part at the bottom) are counted individually.

Now I don’t say this often — mainly because I think I’m supposed to be impartial when writing these — but this next fun fact is one of my all-time favourites. Long playing records, or LPs as they are more commonly known, are referred to as 33’s in the record industry, because they rotate 33 and a third times per minute when playing on a gramophone. So, next time you see a record player you know what to do…

Common-vinyl-record-dimensions-for-vinyl-to-cd-transfer-1024x407

Funbers Christmas Special

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!!

Tom Rocks Maths S2 E12

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…

Tracklist:

  • 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

Funbers 28, 29 and 30

Fun facts about numbers that you didn’t realise you’ve secretly always wanted to know…

28 — Twenty-eight

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Credit: Melchoir

29 — Twenty-nine

The_Making_of_Harry_Potter_29-05-2012_(7415385922)

Credit: SunOfErat

30 — Thirty

Square_pyramidal_number

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Cover image credit: Lozikiki

Tom Rocks Maths S02 E11

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.

Tom Rocks Maths S02 E10

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

Struggling to engage your students with maths? Think outside the box…

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 S02 E09

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…

Maths, but not as you know it… (St Edmund Hall Oxford Magazine)

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.

You can find all of Tom’s work on his award-winning website and you can follow him on FacebookTwitterYouTube and Instagram @tomrocksmaths for the latest updates.

The original article published in the Aularian magazine can be found here.

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