sxsw 2014

SXSW Out-Geeks Itself With Giant ‘Pi In the Sky’

The digits of pi, broadcast over SXSW. (Imgur)

March 14 is pretty much a high holiday in the geek community, because its numeric form — 3/14 — is the same as the first three digits of pi. It’s even come to be known as “Pi Day.”

At SXSW, where nerds have (perhaps fruitlessly) been congregating for the past week, Pi Day celebrations kicked off a day early. As the Reddit community faithfully reported, a lengthy list of the digits of pi was broadcast (emitted? puffed?) into the sky above the festival on Thursday, delighting geeky spectators below. Read More

Survey Says

Science Says Girls Pretend to Be Anxious About Math Because Society Tells Them To

(Photo: Getty)

Researchers have just proven that not only is Mean Girls the greatest movie of all time, but it’s also scientifically accurate.

As reported on Motherboard, a recent study called “Do Girls Really Experience More Anxiety in Mathematics?” proves that—contrary to disturbingly popular belief—girls aren’t actually intimidated by math; they just think they should be. Thanks, society. Read More

Survey Says

Students Want to Be Scientists Until They Realize They Have to Do Science

General Election - Education

A new study conducted at a Kentucky college confirms what we all learned first semester of  freshman year: math and science majors seem really great, until students realize that they’re really freaking hard.

Led by Berea College’s Ralph Stinebrickner and the University of Western Ontario’s Todd R. Stinebrickner, the study surveyed 655 students at Kentucky’s Berea Read More

Love in the Time of Algorithms

Hope Is Alive! Math Nerd Who Wrote Paper Analyzing Why He Didn’t Have a Girlfriend Just Got Married

Mr. Backus (Photo: Facebook)

British math genius Peter Backus was pretty convinced he was going to be alone forever. He didn’t presume this because of the number of cats he owned or because he seemed genuinely comfortable eating out at restaurants by himself. Instead, he wrote a paper (PDF) where he applied the Drake equation, a “probabilistic argument used to estimate the number of active, communicative extraterrestrial civilizations in the Milky Way galaxy,” to discern what exactly his chances of finding love were. Turns out, they weren’t so hot. Read More

New School Learning

Wrathful Khan: Khan Academy’s Sal Khan Responds to Critical Post Editorial [Video]

Absolutely related. (Image:

The pissing match between Mathalicious founder Karim Kai Ani and Khan Academy founder Salman “Sal” Khan is heating up! Today Mr. Khan responded to Mr. Ani’s recent Washington Post editorial which questioned the hype surrounding Khan Academy’s mission to tutor math students with free online videos and also criticized Mr. Khan’s teaching ability. Mr. Khan offered a new correction to Mr. Ani’s correction of the definition of slope (so meta!) and may have outed his critic as low-down dirty profiteer in his email response to Valerie Strauss, the anchor for the Post‘s Answer Sheet education blog: Read More

New School Learning

Wrath About the Math of Khan: Puncturing Khan Academy’s Hype Balloon

Don't get struck by lightning when hanging with Bill Gates. (Photo: jurvetson)

We’re calling it: This Mystery Science Theater 3000 trolling  of Sal Khan’s Khan Academy videos, posted in June, was the beginning of an inevitable backlash against the breathless hype about Khan’s abilities as an instructor.

Today, in  “Khan Academy: The hype and the reality” in the Washington Post, math coach and Mathalicious founder Karim Kai Ani put some sting in the criticism with a much more direct, serious approach to criticizing the Bill Gates-backed “Messiah of Math”: Read More

Data Dating

OkCupid Is Easy to Cheat On, Mathematically Speaking

They can teach you how to get a date

OkCupid has earned a reputation for its fun and insightful use of data, playing with the mountains of statistics it has on the science of love. But today it met its match in the mathematics blog Isomorphismes.

The main thrust of the argument here is that the mandatory questions users need to answer when creating a profile and finding a match really skew the system. They are often rather sensitive questions, for example Isomorphismes’ mandatories include: Do you think homosexuality is a sin, would you try to control your mate with suicide, would the world be a better place if people with low IQs were not allowed to reproduce (yikes!). Read More

IP Uh Oh

A Brief History of Groupon Valuations, Told (Mostly) Through TechCrunch Headlines

groupon valuation chart

What happens when you combine tech investment fervor, hype-as-absurdist-performance-art and the kind of advanced mathematics required by birthday party magicians to “pick a number, any number at all”? You get a brief history of Groupon’s valuations in the press. This is what a coupon company whose value increases by a factor of 48 in less than two years looks like in TechCrunch headlines (with exceptions for context). Read More