Monthly Archives: November 2013

Thanksgiving Math

Does your Thanksgiving dinner need more math? Of course it does!

Here are 4 videos from Vi Hart to show you how to make green bean matherole, Borromean onion rings, optimal potatoes, and turduckenen-duckenen.

Benoit Mandelbrot


Benoit Mandelbrot and Mandelbrot Set

Today (November 20) is the birthday of Benoit Mandelbrot (1924-2010). Mandelbrot is known for his work in fractal geometry, specifically hIs “theory of roughness” and his discovery of the Mandelbrot set. Mandelbrot also coined the term “fractal”.

Mandelbrot was born in Poland, but his family fled to France to escape Nazi persecution. He studied mathematics at university in Paris, and then came to the U.S. to pursue a master’s degree in aeronatics at CalTech.  Mandelbrot returned to Europe for a time, but he then took a job at IBM in New York, where he worked for 35 years.

Other mathematicians had studied the mathematical sets we now know as fractals, but Mandelbrot had the advantage of access to IBM computers. Fractal sets are created by feeding a value into an equation, and then taking that result and feeding it back into the equation.  Up until the advent of computers, calculations had to be done by hand, limiting the number of iterations that were possible. Using computers, Mandelbrot was the first to do millions of iterations, creating his now famous Mandelbrot set.

Nova did a great show on fractals and Mandelbrot, which you may have seen in a previous post. But, if you missed it, hear it is again.

August Ferdinand Möbius


November 17 is the birthday of August Ferdinand Möbius a German mathematician and astronomer, who lived from 1790 to 1868. Möbius, of course, lends his name to the Möbius strip (although it was also independently discovered by  Johann Benedict Listing around the same time). Other mathematical concepts sporting Möbius’ name include  the  Möbius configurationMöbius transformations, the Möbius transform, the Möbius function, and the Möbius inversion formula.

Möbius is most known for his work in mathematics, but he also published work in astronomy concerning the occultation of planets and the motion of celestial objects.

One of Möbius’ teachers was Carl Friedrich Gauss, whom some consider one of the greatest mathematicians of all time.Mobius served as chair of astronomy and higher mechanics at the University of Leipzig.

One of the first posts on the blog was about the Möbius strip. If you missed it check it out here: Möbius Strip: One-Sided Wonder. Also, check out More Möbius.