Useful while Traveling
for UH Math Department.
- Local times around the world
Some of the Best Writing about Mathematics
- You and Your Research, a talk
given by Richard Hamming that centered on the question "Why do so few
scientists make significant contributions and so many are forgotten in the
long run?". Hamming discusses what he has learned in terms of the
properties of individual scientists, their abilities, traits, working
habits, attitudes, and philosophies.
- Birds and Frogs, an essay by
Freeman Dyson that was written for his planned Einstein Public Lecture. In
it he divides mathematicians into two types: birds, who "fly high in
the air and survey broad vistas" (i.e. seek abstraction, unification, and
generalization), and frogs, who "see only the flowers that grow nearby"
(i.e. study the details of specific examples).
- How to Do and Write
Math Research by Reuben Hersh.
Opportunities by Freeman Dyson.
- A Mathematician's
Apology by G. H. Hardy.
- What is Good Mathematics?
by Terence Tao
- Does Mathematics have
Elements by Paul Halmos.
- The Emotional Perils of
Mathematics by Donald R. Weidman. (Also see the slides
from The Dark Heart of Our Brightness,
a great talk by Matilde Marcolli on mood
disorders and scientific creativity.)
- The Two Cultures of
Mathematics by W. T. Gowers.
- A Mathematician's Lament
by Paul Lockhart.
Knowledges: Internal, Social, and Cultural Aspects by Yu I. Manin.
- On Proof and Progress in
Mathematics by William Thurston.
- A survey of several key themes that
have characterized mathematics in the 20th century by Michael Atiyah
- The Death of Proof by John
Horgan, and a response piece entitled The Immortaility of Proof by
Steven G. Krantz.
- The Proof is in the Pudding
by Steven G. Krantz
- The Importance of Mathematics by
W.T. Gowers (and a transcript of the talk
that is unfortunately missing the diagrams that appeared on the overhead slides)
- Two survey articles on Undecidability in Mathematics by Bjorn Poonen
Legendary Math Writing
There are a number of urban legends about various written works in math
(shortest, longest, funny titles, etc.). Some of these are real, and
some are not. Here are some of the real ones.
- The shortest
mathematics thesis is by H.H.B. Martens and is 12 pages long.
- The shortest
published mathematics paper is by L.J. Lander and T.R. Parkin, Bulletin
of the American Mathematical Society 72 (6), 1079, and
it is 5 lines long. A close contender is
a paper by Edward Nelson that
is 9 lines long.
- The longest mathematics
thesis is by Kai-Wen Lan and is 1077 pages long.
- Stephen Hawking's Ph.D. thesis
- The shortest abstract
for a published paper.
- One of the pithiest titles for a mathematics paper: On On. Also see the
sequel, On On+1.
- The famous Cox-Zucker paper
by the mathematicians Cox and Zucker.
- An Application of Poincare's
Recurrence Theorem to Academic Administration by Kenneth R. Meyer.
- The Alpher-Bethe-Gamow paper.
- The paper with the longest time from
being received by the editor to being accepted for publication (approximately 11 years)
MathReviews contains a list of some of the most amusing MathReviews
that exist on MathSciNet. The comments in these reviews may be witty,
scathing, or humorous. Some of the reviews are positive and some are
negative; some of the comments made are called for while others are
unwarranted; but all the reviews are in some way exceptional.
(One of my personal favorites is MR746748.) Note: A subscription to
MathSciNet is needed to view the reviews.
mistake in this paper (also here) somehow
made it through proofreading, peer review, and copy editing. After the
mistake made the news, the journal took the paper down and replaced it with a
corrected version, but the incident raised some questions about the quality and
effectiveness in the current peer review process
(see this article
article). In a similar vein there is the
classic "insert statistical method
here" comment, which was left in a paper,
and is still
there right now.
Pi Day and The Tau Manifesto
Entertaining and Educational
- Nicky Case's Website containing numerous interactive
educational tools, many of which deal with mathematical topics.
Common is Your Birthday? (and in PDF)
Most of us are probably familiar with the calculation that
if you have 23 people in a room, there is a greater than 50% chance they share a birthday.
This assumes all days of the year have an equal likelihood of being a person's birthday --
in actuality certain days are more popular than others for birthdays (often dependent on
what was occurring 9 months prior) meaning that the probability is even higher than the
calculation indicates. This article shows a chart of birthday
frequencies over the year. Here you can see just the image
and also a table showing ranking the days
of the year by number of births. All data is for U.S. births only.
- Parable of the Polygons. What can Game
Theory say about social equality? Find out in this
playable post that shows "how harmless choices can make a harmful world."
- Simpson's Paradox --- An Online
Visualization Tool. Simpson's Paradox is phenomenon in probability and
statistics in which a trend appears in different groups of data but
disappears or reverses when these groups are combined.
Periodic Table of Finite Simple Groups and an
image of the periodic table
Undivided Mind is an art project that endeavors to show that wonder lies at the intersection
of science and art.
- A Description of Superfluids
in Physics through Dance and the winner of the
Physics/Math category of the "Dance your Ph.D. Contest".
- Number Gossip
- Mathematical Fiction
Headlines Would Look Like If We Lived in a Mathematically Literate World
(and in PDF)
- An Analysis of the Popularity of
Baby Names (also in PDF). In addition, check out the
Baby Name Wizard and
- The Math Atlas
- How to use a
Pump-Action Shotgun to Estimate the Value of Pi
- Math in Culture
and Pa Kettle Math. In an old Ma and Pa Kettle film from Universal Pictures, the
character of Ma and Pa patiently explain to a disbeliever that
25 divided by 5 equals 14, with
three different proofs that their calculation is correct.
- $0.002 and
0.0002¢. This is the famous phone call in which multiple people at Verizon
are unable to do basic math and understand that 0.002 dollars is not the
same as 0.002 cents.
- Hollywood Hates Math.
For mathematicians hoping to change the general public's attitude towards
math, one of the most aggravating phenomena is how the media reinforces
negative, incorrect, and damaging ways of thinking about the subject.
- Raj and Sheldon working.
This is a clip from the television show "The Big Bang Theory" giving a humorous, and
oddly accurate, portrayal of what it is like to do research in mathematics or
- How Professors spend their time
- A funny
rejection letter (and in PDF)
- NASA's response to a letter they received
- A Proof that Math is the Meaning of Life
- Comic Strips
- Piled Higher
and Deeper -- a grad student comic strip
- xkcd -- a webcomic of romance,
sarcasm, math, and language
- Abstruse Goose -- a webcomic
about math, science and geek culture
- Spiked Math Comics -- a math
comic to humor, educate and entertain the geek in you.
- Saturday Morning Breakfast
Cereal -- a webcomic on topics such as love, relationships,
economics, politics, religion, science, and philosophy
- Questionable Content
-- a webcomic about romance, indie rock, little robots, and the problems
- The Oatmeal -- a humorous site
on topics ranging from zombies, to horse care, to English grammar
- How to write a
- What Not to Do at Your Thesis Defense
- Why Graduate School Isn't Hell
Dealing with Students
- The Didactic Pirate has some
very humorous (and sometime thought provoking) posts on teaching and dealing with college students.
Some particularly good posts:
- Some humorous YouTube videos: