Even More Quick Snippets

Published on Sunday, November 18, 2012 in , , , , , , ,

Luc Viatour's plasma lamp pictureNovember's snippets are here!

This time around, we're treating you to a little history, a little controversy, and some eye-opening mathematics. You shouldn't get too lost, as this journey will mostly take place through the magic of video.

• Here's a young man by the name of Ethan Brown, together with his uncle, wrestling commentator Joey Styles. Even as young as Ethan is, he performs an amazing magic square routine using his Uncle's birthday:

Would you like to learn how to do this? This routine, known as the Double Birthday Magic Square, was developed by Dr. Arthur Benjamin, who has made the entire routine available on his website as a free PDF!

• There's a classic challenge known as the Monty Hall paradox/dilemma/problem. I've written about it in 2006, and again in 2010 (among other times). Earlier this month, AsapSCIENCE posted a new video on it that explains it quite well:

If you read my post on Bayes' theorem, you should recognize the equations that were written at about the 2:00 mark in the video.

It turns out Bayes' theorem is an excellent tool for explaining the Monty Hall problem. Using the tree diagram approach from the Bayes' Theorem - Explained Like You're Five video, with help from Wolfram|Alpha and the Syntax Tree Generator, I put together and posted this visual explanation of the Monty Hall problem over at the Magic Cafe. If you've struggled with this paradox before, this explanation may help clear things up.

Bayes' theorem really is powerful. For example, back in 2009, Air France Flight 447 disappeared off the radar and a long search began, not just for the plane and people, but for the reason as well. For 2 years, they searched for the airplane's flight recorder without luck, until they hired a team to use Bayes' theorem to narrow down a search area. After that, the flight recorders were recovered very quickly!

Even as powerful as Bayes' theorem is, it had a reputation as being bad mathematics through much of the 20th century. It's only recently that it's gained a wider respect. Sharon Bertsch McGrayne wrote a book on this history, called The Theory That Would Not Die: How Bayes' Rule Cracked the Enigma Code, Hunted Down Russian Submarines, and Emerged Triumphant from Two Centuries of Controversy. She talks about the controversy in the following 32-minute lecture at Singularity Summit 2011:

There's also a 55-minute video of her Google talk available. If you're curious about her mentions of Alan Turing and the Enigma machine, I have a post from July all about Alan Turing.

Numberphile has posted a number of good, enjoyable videos recently. Being interested in the Tau vs Pi fight (and let's not forget Eta), I enjoyed their Tau replaces Pi video:

Take the time to check the rest of their other recent videos out, as well. The explanations are always fun.

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