# The Only Way to Win Is Not to Play th...

When I became a math and science writer, I had no idea that one of the most common requests I would get would be to weigh in on order of operations problems that somehow go viral in some segment of the internet. The latest one I’ve seen is 8÷2(2+2).
My favorite headline for this one: “Viral math problem baffles mathematicians, physicist [...]

# Chasing Completeness

The University of Utah, where I used to work, is built into the foothills on the east side of Salt Lake City. It is at a higher elevation than most of the city, so of course to get there one has to gain elevation. As a bicycle commuter, I was interested in gaining elevation in the least difficult way possible. Eventually I did find a route I [...]

# Diagonalizing the Psalms

This post first appeared on scientificamerican.com.
As I was drifting off to sleep one night, I had one of those brilliant ideas that only comes along when you’re drifting off to sleep: diagonalizing the psalms. Earlier that day I had noticed that Psalm 119 was very long—longer than 119 verses, in fact—and wondered how many psalms from the Bo [...]

# Parallels and Perpendiculars in the L...

This post first appeared at scientificamerican.com.
André Weil. Credit: Konrad Jacobs Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 2.0 DE)
A friend who recently defended his dissertation in comparative literature mentioned Simone Weil’s writing on the Iliad in his defense. Afterwards, I told him her brother André was a famous mathematician. (In my former field of re [...]

# A Thousand Years of Congruent Numbers

This post originally appeared at scientificamerican.com.
On our most recent episode of My Favorite Theorem, my cohost Kevin Knudson and I talked with University of Montreal math professor Matilde Lalín about her favorite bit of math, the congruent number problem. (You can listen to the episode or read a transcript at kpknudson.com.)
A congrue [...]

# A Feat of Mathematical Eponymy

This post first appeared at scientificamerican.com.
Last month, I wrote about the Euclid–Mullin sequence, a sequence of prime numbers generated when you apply the algorithm from Euclid’s proof that there are infinitely many primes. The sequence is named for Alexandrian mathematician Euclid, about whom we know almost nothing but who lived arou [...]

# Happy Numbers Have No Density

This post first appeared at scientificamerican.com.
If you’re feeling a little down today, maybe a happy number will cheer you up. To see if an integer is happy, start by squaring its digits (in base ten, though happiness is defined analogously in other bases as well) and adding them together. So the number 23 would become 13 because 22+32=4+ [...]

# The Funniest Math Joke

No disrespect to “why was six afraid of seven,” but “base 10″ is the funniest math joke.
I have made the mistake of unironically writing the phrase “base 10″ before, and I recently cringed and also laughed at an old post of mine that used the phrase “base 60” over and over again. I almost caught myself writ [...]

# Inka History in Knots (Book Review)

This post originally appeared at scientificamerican.com.
Imagine that in a few hundred years, archaeologists stumble on some of your old files. Maybe they find spreadsheets of tax information, medical bills, or bank statements, or maybe text files with old emails or drafts of your novel. These archaeologists cannot read Latin script, and no o [...]

# A Curious Sequence of Prime Numbers

This post originally appeared on scientificamerican.com.
Prime numbers are often described as the “atoms” of mathematics, or at least of numbers. A prime has exactly two distinct factors: itself and 1. (Hence 1 is not considered a prime number.) All whole numbers greater than 1 are either primes or products of primes.
One of the first questio [...]

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