On Tuesday, I took my beloved number 4 subway down to the Nevins St stop so I could visit the brilliant BRIC House to see math whiz, funnyman, Public Engagement in Mathematics Fellow at Queen Mary University of London, and all-around good guy Matt Parker perform his entertaining blend of mathematics and comedy in a joint presentation of the Secret Science Club and the BRIC Stoop Series. Matt has just released a book, Things to Make and Do in the Fourth Dimension: A Mathematician's Journey Through Narcissistic Numbers, Optimal Dating Algorithms, at Least Two Kinds of Infinity, and More.
One of Mr Parker's first displays of acumen involved asking the audience if anyone had a calculator (practically everybody did, because we had phones- one lady in the audience actually had a straight-up calculator, which impressed Matt), then asking everyone to pick a double-digit number and to cube that number- he then quickly solved the cube root problems that he solicited from the audience, perhaps by using this method. He then moved on to perform his barcode bit, and digressed about the difference between European and North American barcodes, which led to a bit about the need to encode information in such a way that the inaccurate lasers can be compensated for, which led to a bit about using a 3mm drill bit to make a hole in a Blu-Ray disc (preferably someone else's, he quipped) and ascertaining that there was enough data coded on the disc to compensate for damage to said disc.
One of the tours de force of Matt's presentation was his spreadsheet trick (which you can duplicate at the linked site, by which he illustrated that digital images can be likened to spreadsheets, each pixel being a "spreadsheet cell". He capped this by noting that anyone who relaxed after work by watching television was basically going over multiple spreadsheets per second.
A lot of Matt's presentation involved props, such as interlocked rolling discs and a plethora of Möbius strips. Mr Parker told us that the Möbius strip is his second favorite shape, and in the Q&A admitted that his favorite shape is the Klein bottle. He also proudly displayed a self-correcting binary scarf knitted by his mum, who is now working on a Klein bottle hat.
It was an entertaining night of mathematics, but enough of my yapping... how about some of Matt's mathematical musings? Here is a long bit about a computer constructed out of dominoes:
Here's a funny bit about the imperial measurement system:
Here is a nifty "Fractal Pterodactyl" pattern (hint: the pterosaurs depicted are Pteranodon longiceps:
Here's a review of Matt's book, which promises to be a fun series of activities. He'll be appearing in Seattle next week, so if you're in the area, he's a fun lecturer and a great person, so check out his event. If you're really serious (but not overly serious) about math(s), check out one of the mathsjam events in your area, and while you're engaging in mathematical activities, drink to Mr Parker's health.