Math Tidbits

April 13, 2015

1.  First Woman Mathematician

In 400 A.D., Hypatia writes commentaries on Diophantus and Apollonius. She is the first recorded female mathematician and she distinguishes herself with remarkable scholarship. She becomes head of the Neo-Platonist school at Alexandria.

Raphael even includes Hypatia in his masterpiece Phillosphy, or School of Athens. This painting features the greatest minds in history up to the time of Raphael.

2.  Algebra

 Around 825 A.D. in Baghdad, Mohammed ibn-Musa al-Khwarizimi wrote a book called “Kitab al-jabr wa al-muqabalah”, which means “The science of restoration and reduction” and stood as the major algebraic work of the period. The word “algebra” comes from this title (“al-jabr”), since this was the first textbook used in Europe for this subject. The word “algorithm” is a distortion of al-Khwarizmi’s name.

 3.  Archimedes

 250 BC: In On the Sphere and the Cylinder, Archimedes gives the formulae for calculating the volume of a sphere and a cylinder. In Measurement of the Circle he gives an approximation of the value of π with a method which will allow improved approximations. In Floating Bodies he presents what is now called “Archimedes’ principle” and begins the study of hydrostatics. He writes works on two- and three-dimensional geometry, studying circles, spheres and spirals. His ideas are far ahead of his contemporaries and include applications of an early form of integration.

 4.  Art Garfunkel

 Singer Art Garfunkel holds an MA in mathematics from Columbia. He started on his PhD, but quit in order to pursue a career in music.

 5.  Bones

 Paleolithic people in central Europe recorded the first numbers on bones.

 6.  Card Hands

 There are 2,598,960 five-card hands possible in a 52-card deck of cards.

 7.  Danica McKellar

 Actress Danica McKellar (Winnie Cooper from The Wonder Years) was a math major. She now advocates math education through bestsellers like Math Doesn’t Suck, and Kiss My Math. She is an inspiration to aspiring young women.

8.  David Armstrong

 San Antonio Spurs center David Robinson received a BS in mathematics from the United States Naval Academy.

 9.  Four

 Four is the only number with the same amount of letters as its actual value.

 10.  Googol

 “Googol” is the mathematical term for a 1 followed by a hundred zero’s. The term was coined by Milton Sirotta, nephew of American mathematician Edward Kasner, and was popularized in the book, “Mathematics and the Imagination” by Kasner and James Newman. Google’s play on the term reflects the company’s mission to organize the immense amount of information available on the web.

 11.  Jiffy

 A ‘jiffy’ is an actual unit of time for 1/100th of a second.

 12.  Reindeer

 Assuming Rudolph was in front, there are 40320 ways to arrange the other eight reindeer.

 13.  Ruler vs. Compass

 Everything you can do with a ruler and compass you can do with the compass alone.

 14.  Zero

 The number zero was invented independently in India and by the Maya. In India a decimal system was used, like ours, but they used an empty space for zero up to 3rd Century BC. This was confusing for an empty space was also used to separate numbers, and so they invented the dot for a zero. The first evidence for the use of the symbol that we now know as zero stems from the 7th century AD. The Maya invented the number zero for their calendars in the 3rd century AD. The number zero reached European civilization through the Arabs after 800 AD. The Greek and Roman did not need the number zero for they did their calculations on an abacus.