Some mathematical cheer

Does Pi Day have anything on the newly announced Thirdsday? Photo credit: Amit Patel via Wikimedia CC

I might be stating the obvious here, but the longest partial government shutdown to date gave the U.S. a rocky start to 2019. Though the government has re-opened (read the AMS announcement about it here), a long-term solution still needs to be reached or America will face another partial shutdown. I’ll admit all of this has put me in a funk. I’ve been alternating between feeling strong concern about at least three things (which are probably just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the shutdown’s impacts):

1. The families of federal workers and contractors whose jobs were affected by the shutdown

2. The impacts on scientists and their research

3. Joshua Tree and other national parks that were so damaged during the shutdown that they likely won’t fully recover in our lifetimes

Surely I’m not the only one in search of some math-based cheer to distract me from what’s happening in the government or, say, the polar vortex that’s hit the Midwest . Here’s roundup of a few cool math-related things I’ve compiled:

“These stories are our attempts at being creative about fostering creativity. Enjoy!” according to the post written by Gail Tang, Emily Cilli-Turner, Milos Savic, Houssein El Turkey, Mohamed Omar, Gulden Karakok and Paul Regier.

“As part of Mathemati-Con, Margot Lee Shetterly was awarded with the JPBM Communications award, and subsequently we were treated to an interview with her conducted by the always fabulous and brilliant¬†Talithia Williams. Here is my attempt to write down the interview, but I am the slowest person when it comes to typing, so a full transcript this is not. Enjoy,” Salerno wrote.

  • The announcement of a new mathematical holiday

“Thirdsday” is “that magical day on which we celebrate the wonder and mystery of the fraction 1/3,”¬†James Propp announced on his Mathematical Enchantments blog on December 31, 2018. The “jubilant festival…comes once every seven years or so, whenever January 3rd falls on a Thursday,” he explained. Katie Steckles wrote a roundup of ideas for celebrating this occasional-but-delightful holiday for the Aperiodical. Sure, the holiday doesn’t come around often, but that leaves ample time for planning a truly awesome way of celebrating the next one.

Laurie Gwen Shapiro wrote this piece for the New Yorker. It’s about Alice de Rivera’s fight for the opportunity to apply to Stuyvesant High School, “a specialized public school in downtown Manhattan that was widely regarded as the best secondary school in the country, and one that focussed [sic] on math and science.” In the 50 years since that battle occurred, “More than ten thousand girls have now attended [Stuyvesant], including the actress Lucy Liu, the string theorist Lisa Randall, and the feminist writer Jessica Valenti,” according to the article’s author, who also attended the high school.

Stay warm, folks! I’ll catch up with you in February! As always, feel free to reach me in the comments or on Twitter @writesRCrowell.


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