A Tour of the Chalkdust Magazine Blog

Tall 100 year old evergreen tree

Decorating for Christmas but running behind? The Chalkdust Magazine blog has a post about tangled strings of lights, formulas for “perfectly” decorating trees, and more. Image credit: Yuvarani N (Wikimedia CC)

Chalkdust Magazine (“for the mathematically curious”) and the associated blog are a treat. Anna wrote a post last year in which she described the magazine as “filled with as much mathematical goodness as a fresh unopened box of Hagoromo “Fulltouch” chalk.” Now I’m here to share links to a few of my favorite pieces on the blog.

Christmas lights, trees and maths

Earlier this year when we purchased our artificial holiday tree, my partner and I had a great debate about the relative merits of pre-lit versus unlit trees. I’m more old-fashioned — I would rather hang the lights myself and have the option of rearranging them in different configurations from year-to-year.

This blog post written by Hugo Castillo Sánchez in 2018 discusses connections between tangled strings of lights, knot theory and the second law of thermodynamics. As a last minute tree decorator and the self-appointed “official light string detangler” of our house, I appreciate the explanations in this post about how tangles form and why it’s often true that if one tangle is present, there are more tangles to be found.

Speaking of last minute decorations, if you’re like me (planning to decorate a tree but running behind) and want mathematical insights for decorating your tree, this post also includes “treegonometry” formulas for “perfectly” decorating a tree. Those formulas were developed in 2015 by members of the Sheffield University Maths Society.

Constructing the cover of issue 10

The post shows each step needed to create a tiling art project mimicking the style of cover artist Samira Mian, whose cover image was inspired by the work of Ali Reza Sarvdalir, a Persian geometer and architect.

The maths ‘black box’

In this 2018 post, John Pougué Biyong, who was in graduate school studying mathematical modeling and scientific computing at the time of its writing, wrote about his experiences. He describes studying Ebola virus propagation during the 2013 outbreak in West Africa and researching connections between droughts and food insecurity in Mauritania households.

His post also discusses a few disconnects between mathematics and people. “Looking back at my French middle and high-school years, I cannot remember a lecture during where a teacher put a mathematical concept into a more realistic context,” he wrote, adding. “As the years went by, the more complex the tools, the fewer the illustrations… when it should actually work the other way around. Consequently, most pupils would lose track of mathematics because it doesn’t speak to them anymore. And maybe it has never done.” He also noted, “As a maths student, I know as a fact that most people do not know what mathematics deals with and what it is for.”

He rounds out the post by describing the importance of representation and communication, ending with this inspiring line:

“At the end of the day, [mathematics] is all about passion and love so, until the sun sets, let us keep nurturing ourselves all together.”

A few other posts that caught my attention cover the mathematics of brewing, a ponytail shape equation and fractional polygons.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

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