When Nerds Collide: Grammatical and Mathematical Geekery

I stumbled upon this exchange while double-checking something on hyphen use. The full debate is here:

@whoa: It is relevant in that it was an example of where dozen isn’t really considered a number: All of math. 2 * 6 = 12 When choosing to write it out, you would write “two times six equals twelve” not “two times six equals dozen.” You could say “two time six equals a dozen” but now you have an article in there. If you feel comfortable calling that a number, so be it. I was just pointing out that it may be misleading to consider dozen the same kind of number as twelve much like a six isn’t the same “kind” of “number” as six or 6. –  MrHen Jul 26 ’11 at 22:35
@mrhen, That’s preposterous. “Jimmy has a dozen eggs, he gives Sally half, how many does he have left?”. Answer: 12 * 1/2 = 6. According to your logic, ‘half’ wouldn’t be considered a number either? A dozen is a real number, even in Math… –  whoabackoff Jul 26 ’11 at 22:50
@whoa: I am simply trying to point out the difference between dozen and twelve with regards to their qualifications for the label “number”. There is a difference and just calling dozen a “number” may be misleading. And yes, it would be just as misleading to refer to “a half” as a number. Or “a whole” or “first”. Do they technically qualify as numbers? You tell me. My point is that even if they do, there is a difference between those and numbers like 9, 10, pi, i. –  MrHen Jul 26 ’11 at 23:02
@whoabackoff: So, according to your definition of number, pair times pair times few equals dozen? Nevermind that you are ignoring the fact that pair, few, dozen, score, hundred, gross, etc. are commonly used as units of measure. –  Patrick87 Jul 27 ’11 at 1:05
Did you read the Wikipedia article? Clearly I’m not the only person alive who thinks calling “dozen” a “dimensionless unit of measure” is acceptable. If you accept this Wikipedia page to be at all authoritative, I don’t see how you can come to any other conclusion than that you are incorrect in this matter. –  Patrick87 Jul 27 ’11 at 15:13

Tuesday Links (07/09/13)

A Mathematician Goes to the Beach: Topology and modesty.

Semicolon (Lonely Island): Some inappropriate lyrics and some questionable punctuation advice.

How to Brand a “Useless” College Degree: It’s education puff piece season. Stay tuned for September when we learn how (North American) college students can’t spell and don’t know math.

Reading and Writing

I have book reviews due this forthcoming Tuesday (the 4th) and Wednesday (the 5th), for two different publications. But I`ve also been finding bits of time here and there to work on some non-review titles. I`m listening to an audiobook of Cory Doctorow`s For the Win, which is, as always, enlightening. Somehow his fiction packs so much information about politics, technology, and culture, it competes with non-fiction for its educational content.

Speaking of, I`m also reading How Mathematics Happened: The First 50, 000 Years, by Peter Rudman. Not the first book I`ve read about the history of math, and probably not the last. It`s pretty good, and I`m learning something new with each page. I`m also enjoying the “fun questions“ peppered throughout the text. As the go-to book on the subject, I think I would still give Tobias Dantzig`s classic, Number, the nod. But I`m happy I picked this one up.

Lastly, I`m working on Asimov`s robot stories, via his Robot Visions collection. It`s the last of his major series I hadn`t gotten around to reading yet.

As far as writing goes, I have the aforementioned reviews, I`ve agreed on deadlines for two posts for Care2, I`m writing a little something up for Green Man, and that takes me to the end of the week (it`s a busy week). After that, I think what I`d like to do is work on a couple of essays I`ve previously pitched to AE, and put together a pitch or two for a local magazine I`ve been in touch with. Those are things I`ll give myself `til the end of the month for, since there are no impending deadlines attached, and, hey, it`s holiday time. I want to relax at least a little.

LJ Reviews Roundup

My first three Library Journal reviews have run, and are partially or completely available online. Parts of my review of X and the City can be found here.

My full review of Benoit Mandelbrot’s memoir, The Fractalist, is quoted on the Barnes and Noble page for the book here.

My review of the coffee table book, Spectrums, gets the lead in a recent Xpress Reviews post at the Library Journal online.

Humans Can’t Create Randomness

What happens when a human being tries to create a random sequence of ones and zeroes (on and off, yes or no)?

Similarly, what if you wanted to randomly place objects around a room? Would they all be equally spaced? No, because if it’s truly random, each object isn’t thinking about the objects that are already there and trying to find its own spot.

In reality, random distribution of objects will also include (random) clustering. If a person tries to distribute objects on a two-dimensional plane and make them seem random, the lack of clustering is a clue that it was a person trying to be random rather than truly random.