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Showing posts from October, 2010

Baby Names: Why my boy's name is a sentence

As many of you may know, we will be having our fifth baby in just a few months (February 28th). I just recently got over the fact that next year isn't 2012, so there is no chance of the baby being born on Leap Day, so please don't bring it up.

With it being right around the corner, I've started reflecting on what kinds of names I like.

No, we're not finding out (at least until the baby is born), so we're doubling our work to come up with good boy and girl names.

Yes, our kids have very unique names. Did you know, for example, that Remi's full name is a sentence?

Joshua Remington Cummings
No, he wasn't named after the gun as hilarious as that would be now that we live in Herriman, UT.

Our first child was born in August 2004. We knew this name a couple weeks before he was born. Originally, we were going to go with "Joseph Remington Cummings," but, as you will find out, it's all about the meaning of the name for me.

Back when I was in high school, I…

Teaching Your Computer to Write Your Sacrament Meeting Talks

(This post is inspired by a great post by Orson Scott Card regarding lousy sacrament meeting talks. (Which post, incidentally, was very hard to find since the search box on mormontimes.com is broken.))

So, I'm not sure about you, but it seems to me that there are a number of "musts" when it comes to giving a sacrament meeting talk, at least in Utah. When following these "musts" you can easily take up 5 minutes of your 15-minute talk without actually talking about the topic.

The three lousy talk musts

First, you must tell some story about how you received the assignment to give the talk. This will take up a minimum of 30 seconds (e.g. I was just mowing my lawn on Wednesday when I got a call from Brother So-and-so to give a talk this Sunday) and could very well take up your whole 5-minute pre-talk.

Second, you must tell a joke. It would be better to make sure that the joke has nothing to do with the topic since that might end your pre-talk earlier than you intend…

Mole Day: Get Mollified

While many of you probably already have your Mole Day activities lined up, I thought I'd take a moment to offer up some things that I consider vital to do honor to the number, the animal, and our dear chemist Avogadro this October 23rd.

First of all, I'm shocked that my Zemanta plugin hasn't suggested any links to the zillions of articles, pictures, and videos surrounding this highly-vaunted chemistry holiday... oh, wait, there it goes.

Second of all, there may be a few unenlightened souls remaining in the canvas of humanity regarding Mole Day. Every October 23rd from 6:02 AM to 6:02 PM, chemists everywhere gather to worship honor a fundamental mathematical constant, Avogadro's number, which equals 6.02 x 10^23 and is named after cute-ified versions of the miscreant rodents that tear up your front lawn, especially when you are trying to put it up for sale.

Third of all, yes, Mole Day is inferior to Pi Day, but better than Intermediate Value Day.

So, what does one do on Mo…

Vedic Mathematics: Multiplying 2-, 3- and 10-digit numbers in your head

Image via WikipediaI remember being teased in fourth game for being able to multiply 4-digit numbers in my head.

Actually, it wouldn't have helped anyway because, had I told them that I couldn't do such a ridiculous thing, they would have simply teased me for not being able to multiply 4-digit numbers in my head.

But that's all water under the bridge, including my not being able to multiply 4-digit numbers in my head. Want to learn how?

Many cases are not that difficult once you know a couple of mental math tricks related to "Vedic mathematics".

Vedic?

While some people like to play of the mysticism of the name, Vedic Math is just a system of mathematics that was created by the Vedas people hundreds/thousands of years ago, rediscovered on old Sanskrit manuscripts by Bharati Krsna Tirthaji in 1911 and decoded from Sanskrit into modern-day mathematical notation over the following seven years. So, while not super-mystical, it is friggin' awesome.

Multiply…

Starting Your Own T-Shirt Shop: So you've got a great idea for a shirt?

This is the first in a series of posts about how I started The Pi-Dye T-Shirt Shop. Hopefully, it will help you in starting your own t-shirt shop.

About six years ago, an idea sparked in my head born partly out of an obsession with pi and partly out of a desire to create something that people like so much that they would be willing to pay for it. Yes, I had a great idea for a shirt.

It would have the digits of pi on it in some cool fashion and would have the phrase "Approximation Is For Wimps" at the bottom. It would be funny for a lot of reasons: 1. Just having so many digits of pi plastered on a shirt has intrinsic humor, b. It plays off of the fact that most math nerds are seen as wimps (or they definitely don't line up with the term "jock"), and 3) It's ironic because even the 3141 digits or so on the shirt will still be an approximation.

So, we've all had this experience. Maybe yours wasn't charged with as much mathematical humor, but you h…

Math Games: Why My 4-Year-Old Understands Prime Numbers and the Four-Color Theorem

Some parents take pride in their kids knowing how to read by four years old. Others that their kids can ride a bike by three. Still others that their kids were potty trained by two.

Why any parent would take pride in these when topology and number theory are within their child's grasp is beyond me.

Could my kids understand Prime Numbers?

My boys over the course of about 6 months had collected a number of pennies. They were mostly garnered from doing jobs for Mom and Dad, but I'm sure they found some in our couch once or twice. I can only hope that it was always our couch.

They brought them to the table before dinner, and I was trying to think of something that we could do with them in order to teach them some principle. We decided to create mazes out of the pennies, with the pennies as the walls.

While that was pretty fun (the boys liked "trapping people" inside their maze more than actually making a functional maze), it wasn't really what I was looking for.

Then,…

LDS General Conference: The Software Guesses the Speaker

Image via WikipediaLet's say that you stripped the author and photo from the online transcript of any given LDS General Conference talk. Let's also say that you didn't see or hear that talk delivered. Could you tell who gave the talk just by reading it?

My computer can. Here's how:

It turns out that modern text processing software is getting pretty good at this kind of stuff. You've always known that your inbox can tell whether or not a random email is spam with a fair amount of accuracy. Have you used cutting-edge software like Zemanta, though, that classifies and categorizes your blog post as you are typing it? Or how about companies that have software that preprocesses incoming customer feedback emails to decide whether you are happy with the product or not?

Even the most basic approaches can be very precise in some domains; this example being LDS General Conference talks.

The first thing that the computer needs is a set of training text. This text is like giv…

How to Juggle Five Balls

Image via WikipediaWay back in the summer of 1997, I attended my first World Juggling Day event in Magna, UT. There I met two fellow jugglers who would become long-time friends, Arwen and Merlyn Hall. I had already known how to juggle three and four for years at that point, so I asked Arwen about juggling five balls, and that summer's obsession was born.

It look me three months of practicing for about 30 minutes nearly every day, but by the end of the summer, I had it down and could even do a few tricks. Here is what I think were the keys:

First, the five-balls-with-a-gap, or 5-2-5 pattern

I don't think I could have done it without learning this pattern first. Since I already knew how to do four, it wasn't too difficult. The basic rhythm is to do four as a cascade, each hand throwing two balls in a row; right-right-left-left-right-right-left-left. As you get better at the rhythm, it will start to sound like one-two-three-four-(gap)-one-two-three-four-(gap). The better …

Mental Math Tricks: Is this divisible by 17?

Image via WikipediaSo, most know how to tell if something is divisible by 2 or 5, and many know how to tell if something is divisible by 9. What about other numbers?

So, here are strategies for discovering divisibility from 2 to 10, and then we'll talk about some rarer, more surprising divisibility tricks:

Divisible by two:If the number ends in 0, 2, 4, 6, or 8, it is divisible by 2.

Divisible by five:If the number ends in 0 or 5, it is divisible by 5.

Divisible by ten:If the number ends in 0, it is divisible by 10.

Divisible by nine: If you add all the digits in a number together and that new number is divisible by 9, then it is also divisible by 9.

Example #1: 189 -> 1 + 8 + 9 = 18, 18 is divisible by 9, so 189 is also divisible by 9
Example #2: 137781 -> 1 + 3 + 7 + 7 + 8 + 1 = 27, 27 is divisible by 9, so 137781 is also divisible by 9
(Note: If adding six numbers together in your head seems difficult, look for my next post on number-grouping tricks. Soon, adding six numbe…