Stories by Evelyn Lamb

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Learn to Count like an Egyptian
Last semester, I began my math history class with some Babylonian arithmetic. The mathematics we were doing was easy—multiplying and adding numbers, solving quadratic equations by completing the square—but the base 60 system and the lack of a true zero made those basic operations challenging for my students. 
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Mathematics, Live: A Conversation with Amal Fahad and Rasha Osman, Part II
I had the pleasure of attending the 2nd annual Heidelberg Laureate Forum in September. Modeled after the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings, it brings together recipients of prestigious awards in mathematics and computer science and young researchers in those areas. 
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Mathematics, Live: A Conversation with Amal Fahad and Rasha Osman, Part I
I had the pleasure of attending the 2nd annual Heidelberg Laureate Forum in September. Modeled after the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings, it brings together recipients of prestigious awards in mathematics and computer science and young researchers in those areas. 
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12 Things I Had Way Too Much Fun Writing This Year
It’s the season for family, hot chocolate, and yearinreview lists. Guess which one this is! Roots of Unity has been around for two years now, and I’m so glad I have a place to share some of the weird and wonderful math I think about. 
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What We Talk about When We Talk about Holes
For Halloween, I wrote about a very scary topic: higher homotopy groups. Homotopy is an idea in topology, the field of math concerned with properties of shapes that stay the same no matter how you squish or stretch them, as long as you don’t tear them or glue things together. 
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Online Game CrowdSources Theorems
Now is your chance to prove some theorems without knowing what they mean! Chris Staecker, a mathematician at Fairfield University, created the game Nice Neighbors to get crowdsourced solutions to problems from a field called digital topology. 
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Seeing Music: What Does the Missing Fundamental Look Like?
I wrote a post yesterday about the missing fundamental effect. It’s a startling auditory illusion in which your brain hears a note that is lower than any of the notes that are actually playing. 
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Your Telephone Is Lying to You About Sounds
Telephones lie about sounds because odd numbers aren't even. Once again with those integers and sound perception! Telephones can only pick up frequencies above 300 or 400 Hertz (cycles per second, also called Hz), but most adults’ speaking voices are lower than 300 Hz (approximately the D above middle C). 
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The Saddest Thing I Know about the Integers
The integers are a unique factorization domain, so we can't tune pianos. That is the saddest thing I know about the integers. I talked to a Girl Scout troop about math earlier this month, and one of our topics was the intersection of math and music. 
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The Math Geek Holiday Gift Guide
Looking for a gift that says, "Hey, I know you like math"? Look no further. There is an embarrassment of riches when it comes to wonderful mathematical things to give to people, but here are some of the coolest items I've seen this year. 
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A Proof of the Math Fact of Rolle in Short Words
This proof of the math fact of Rolle, I wrote it down; here was my goal: Use just words with one part. (So it won’t sound too smart.) Please tell me if you find a hole. 
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Higher Homotopy Groups Are Spooky
When I tell people I'm a mathematician, I get a lot of different reactions. Perhaps surprisingly, I mostly get positive responses. Many of them are of the "You go, girl" variety. 
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In Which Omar Khayyam Is Grumpy with Euclid
My math history class is currently studying nonEuclidean geometry, which means we've studied quite a few "proofs" of Euclid's fifth postulate, also known as the parallel postulate. 
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Beyond Emmy and Sophie: Resources for Learning about Women in Math
Today is Ada Lovelace Day, an international celebration of women in science, technology, engineering, and math. If you’d like to read about women in math for the occasion, you're in serious danger of coming across an article about Hypatia, Emmy Noether, Sophie Germain, or Sofia Kovalevskaya. 
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Build Your Own Fractal with MegaMenger!
Later this month, people will be gathering at museums and schools around the world to build giant Menger sponges as part of a global fractal extravaganza called MegaMenger. 
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Another Reason to Love the Number Seven
The world's favorite number is seven, at least if the result of a poll conducted by Alex Bellos is to be believed. Some people like it because it is prime, some because they have a lot of sevens in their birthdates. 
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Extrapolation Gone Wrong: the Case of the Fermat Primes
Samuel Arbesman recently wrote about incorrect mathematical conjectures. I wanted to add one of my favorites, which came up in my math history class a couple weeks ago. 
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A Computer Scientist Tells Mathematicians How To Write Proofs
Believe it or not, I do have friends who would describe themselves as not liking math, and every so often one of them will share this meme on Facebook: And then Satan said, "Put the alphabet in math." There are different background pictures each time the meme pops up, but the text is always the [...] 
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Mathematics, Live: A Conversation with Evelyn Boyd Granville
Evelyn Boyd Granville was one of the first African American women to earn a Ph.D. in mathematics. She recently turned 90, and I wrote a post here to celebrate. 
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Ancient Babylonian Number System Had No Zero
As I told my class on Thursday, the theme of the first week of our math history course was "easy algebra is hard in base 60." We started the semester in ancient Mesopotamia, trying to understand Babylonian* mathematical notation and decipher Plimpton 322, an enigmatic tablet from about 1800 BCE. 
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In Praise of Proofs by Contradiction that Aren't
If you don't know what to do, do something. That's one of my mottos when I teach math (and it's probably good life advice too). Last year, I taught introductory analysis (basically calculus with the juicy bits left in), one of the first prooforiented classes students take. 
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What Is the Goal of a Math History Class?
I'll be teaching a math history class for the first time this semester. I'm excited to be teaching it, but I've noticed that preparing for this class has been very different from preparing for other classes I've taught, which have all been math content courses. 
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How to Talk About the Fields Medal at Your Next Cocktail Party
On Wednesday, four mathematicians will receive the prestigious Fields Medal at the International Congress of Mathematicians (ICM) in Seoul. 
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Math Twitter Bots, Reviewed and Rated
In the course of being a math person on Twitter, I have run across some mathrelated Twitter bots and feeds. It would just be mean to grade my human tweeps, but I have no qualms about rating the bots! 
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The Shocking Failure of British Rail Travel to Respect the Triangle Inequality
I spent about a month in the UK earlier this summer, and that meant I took a lot of train trips. I love riding trains: the feeling of endless possibility I get when I look at the departure boards, the countryside rolling by, the fantastic peoplewatching, the twohour delay between Edinburgh and Manchester because a [...]
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