Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Combinational Mathematics = Combinatorial + Recreational

Thursday, May 3rd, 2007

 Plat diviseur

Web 2.0 is all about community.  WetPaint introduced a service which makes creating Wikis a snap.  It’s free (they provide the google ads).  So I created a Wiki called Combinational Mathematics for the combinatorists and recreational math ethusiasts among you (the URL: is simpler than the title).  For starters there is a book list (7, including 2 online pdf books [1], [2]); a links list (9); and a list of other math Wikis (8).

I also used a web widget from OUseful Info‘s blog to create a “carousel” of similar books.  It’s really simple.  Just enter the URL: , substituting the ISBN code, which can be found here or here.  The size is the width of the carousel.

In short, it is already a fun site!  Check it out.  And by all means don’t contribute . . . NOT!  You can buy the beautiful French plates here.  Go figure how it helps you slice a pie.

Happy Birthday Doctor Einstein > Photoelectric Effect

Thursday, March 15th, 2007

Artist's Impression     A simple experiment     Einstein

On Pi Day, 1879 Albert Einstein was born.  In 1921 he won the Nobel Prize in Physics, primarily for his pioneering work (pdf) completed March 17, 1905 explaining the photoelectric effect - a couple of months before he wrote about Special Relativity during his Annus Mirabilis.  Coincidentally, 2 other Nobel Prize winners were born within a month of Einstein: Otto Hahn, the father of nuclear chemistry, and Owen Willans Richardson, who also studied the photoelectric effect and explained the sea of electrons in metals.  In 1905 Einstein wrote:

According to the assumption considered here, when a light ray starting from a point is propagated, the energy is not continuously distributed over an ever increasing volume, but it consists of a finite number of energy quanta, localised in space, which move without being divided and which can be absorbed or emitted only as a whole.

In 7th grade I won a first prize in the Bronx county Science Fair with a project called How Does a Photelectric Cell Convert Light Energy into Electrical Energy.  The setup was a photocell connected in series to a microammeter and a standard light source aka a candle.  I spoke to the particle nature of light, but what I measured was the inverse square law for light.  I had the help of a neighbor, who was a physicist, in designing the experiment. The funny part is I thought my experiment was too simple to be any good.  I envied the nuclear battleship model, and other such elaborate things.  In 7th grade I knew nothing about Einstein’s Nobel Prize, or the elegance of physics.

Inverse Square Law

Today, in what is described as an experimental masterwork, French physicists claim to be able to trap a single photon in an “Einstein box.”

Einstein Box

Incidentally, Einstein got an average performance review in 1905.

Best Science Blogs of 2006 = The Open Laboratory

Wednesday, January 17th, 2007

The Open Laboratory 

Bora Zivkovic from A Blog Around the Clock has created a book on Lulu containing the 50 best science blog articles (culled by committee from over 200) in 2006.  The first article is a short essay to Science Fair entrants, by Phil Plait, that everyone should read.  If you live in the Northeast you might want to read the article Ticks and Time, by Diane A Kelly, with surprising new results about the etiology of Lyme disease.  And there are a lot more gems in this great anthology.

Farms & Cents = Borlaug & Yunus

Wednesday, October 18th, 2006

 Borlaug  Grameen Bank Borrower  Yunus 

The US Census Bureau has a Special Edition comparing data from 1915, 1967, and 2006 – when the US population was about 100, 200, and 300 million, respectively.  Aside from Wilson being president and John and Mary being the most popular names in 1915, what does it mean?

The table below shows how 8 factors compare relatively, using constant dollars and 1967 as a base.  Some are a surprise to me, e.g., we have a smaller percentage of the population being foreign-born today than in 1915.  The chart below illustrates how these 8 concerns weigh in relative to each other. 



In 1915 tuberculosis trumped everything.  The data suggests today our concerns (aside from war!) ought  to be milk prices over gas prices; aliens, legal and illegal but not extraterrestrial (too few or too many?); and not enough farms. 

Mohammad Yunus (autobiography) just won the Nobel Peace Prize - for developing micro-loans and starting the Grameen Bank helping Third-Worlders lift themselves by the boostraps – 12 years to the day of accepting the World Food Prize, created by another Nobel Peace Prize winner, Norman Borlaug (just published biography)- who founded the Green Revolution and probably saved the world from a Malthusian destiny.  In his 90s and still going strong, you can read and hear some of Dr. Borlaug’s views at an Ohio State University lecture.

25th Celebration = Freedom to Read

Wednesday, September 13th, 2006

Ban & Burn

On May 10, 1933, the year the Nazis took power in Germany, students, encouraged by their professors, burned mountains of “un-German” books{top left}. In his play Almansor (1821) the German writer Heinrich Heine wrote:

Where they have burned books, they will end in burning human beings.

In 1982, about 50 years later, they were burning books in Minnesota{top right}.  That same year, 25 years ago, the American Library Association proclaimed the last week in September as a week to celebrate banned books{posters below}.  Google Booksearch chipped in this year with a search to find banned books in a library near you.

banned books posters

Happy Birthday Donot != Mr. Wizard !?

Monday, July 10th, 2006

Mr. Wizard Then and Now

It’s Don Jeffrey Herbert’s (aka Mr. Wizard) birthday today.  He created Watch Mr. Wizard for NBC in 1951 and Mr. Wizard’s World for Nickelodeon in 1983.  One of his early books, Mr. Wizards Experiments for Young Scientists, was illustrated by Dan Noonan, who also helped Walt Kelly illustrating Pogo.  Here Egbert Elephant and his friends celebrate “Donot’s” birthday.

Happy Birthday Donot

Nuit, Nut, Nix = Mox Nix

Friday, June 23rd, 2006

Nut     Pluto Hubble Picture    Clyde Tombaugh

“Mox nix” derives from the German machts nichts meaning “it makes no difference.”  Yesterday the International Astronomical Union named the two newly discovered moons of Pluto Nix and Hydra.  Nyx is the Greek goddess of night, but that was nixed because there is an asteroid named Nyx.  So Nix, aka Nuit and Nut, the Egyptian goddess of the sky was used.  The ‘N” and ‘H’ are also the first letters of New Horizons, the spacecraft that will arrive at Pluto in 2015.

New Horizons was launched as the fastest spacecraft ever, at 10 miles per second (36,000 mph, ~0.005% the speed of light), and will further accelerate to 47,000 mph by using Jupiter’s gravity as a slingshot.  At that rate if one of the twins (Lia, of course) went to Pluto and back in 19 years, she would be about 1 second younger than Alan due to the Twin Paradox.  If the ship traveled 99% the speed of light, Lia would arrive back about 10 years younger than Alan!  Packaging this genuine fountain of youth is problematic.

Incidentally, I met Clyde Tombaugh, the discoverer of Pluto (in 1930), at the 1988 Stellafane Convention.

Bush in Budapest = 4 months early

Thursday, June 22nd, 2006

Oly távol, messze van hazám…
Csak még egyszer láthatnám.

Flag over Danube  Bush and President Solyom  October 23, 1956  Bush & troops  letters

President Bush visited Budapest today to commemorate the the 50th anniversary of the 1956 Hungarian Uprising.  He is 4 months early (history lesson from the book Anarchy, A Graphic Guide). 

It was October 23rd when the revolt began with demonstrations.  It was November 1st when Kádár János betrayed Hungary by “inviting” Soviet troops to assist putting down the revolution.  I remember my parents waking me in the  middle of the night to look out the window of our main street apartment to see a long line of those tanks entering Hungary – each with exactly one soldier seated on top carrying a flaming torch.  It wasn’t until my birthday on December 5th that we stepped outside our apartment for the last time and became refugees.  By mid-December the borders were effectively closed.  Over 200,000 Hungarians had fled their country of birth.

 The “Daily Dish of Cosmopolitan Budapest,” Pesticide said this about Bush’s visit:

Snow’s statement that Bush’s trip “about visiting the Hungarian government and paying homage to what they went through 50 years ago” seems just a little odd, given that the current government is pretty much the same party that fought against the heroic ’56ers. Not that this should really matter, given that it’s all about a “tone poem,” whatever the f*** that might be.

They also said this about protesting (Bush, not Voldemort!):

Go to the main protest against you-know-who, which will be starting at 16:00 on Szabadság tér (Freedom Square), conveniently right in front of the American Embassy. While we can hardly fault anyone for showing up to let off some steam at Uncle Sam, do make sure to note the big, ugly-ass Soviet monument while you are there, and remember that if it wasn’t for the occasionally boorish Yanks, you’d all be speaking Russian. Or, even worse, Hungarian.

Now go see the dokumentumfilm OLY TÁVOL, MESSZE VAN HAZÁM (in Hungarian). Or better, visit Budapest and use Bob Dent’s book Budapest 1956: Locations of Drama as your guide.