## Posts tagged ‘book’

### 2 Good 2 Be True

I was eating a bowl of shepherd’s pie at the Irish pub in our neighborhood. A man walks up to my table and asks, “What’s your favorite number?”

“Uh, 153,” I respond.

“And 153 × 2 is 306,” he says, then hurriedly scurries away.

He approaches another table, asks another patron for her favorite number, and again multiplies it by 2. He does this over and over, popping from table to table, annoying customer after customer. Eventually, the manager notices this eccentric behavior and approaches the man.

“Sir,” says the manager, “You can’t keep interrupting people’s dinners by asking them for a number and then multiplying by 2.”

“What can I say,” he responds. “I love Dublin!”

A little while later, the gentleman at the table next to me says to his companion, “I know a sure-fire way to double your money.”

This piqued my interest, so I leaned over to eavesdrop on his advice.

“Fold it in half,” he said.

Dismayed that you’ve read this far and have only heard two terrible jokes? Well, buck up, because your fortune is about to change. I can’t help you double your money, but I can help you get twice as much for it.

Perhaps you’ve been wanting a copy of **Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks**, but just haven’t pulled the trigger yet. Well, now’s the time. Robert D. Reed Publishers is offering a BOGO special for MJ4MF, so now you can buy a copy for yourself at regular price and get another for the special math geek in your life **at no charge**!

**http://rdrpublishers.com/blogs/news/yes-math-is-fun**

And check this out.

- If you buy 2 copies, you’ll get 2 additional copies absolutely free!
- If you buy 3 copies, you’ll get 3 more at no cost!
- Buy 4 copies, and 8 copies will be delivered to your door!
- And if you buy 50 copies? Why, you’ll have 100 copies arrive to your home, office, or post office box for the exact same price!
- If you want
*n*copies, you’ll only pay for*n*/2 of them!

Folks, this is a linear relationship that you’d be foolish to ignore!

### Demitri Martin and Me

As I was watching *If I* by Demetri Martin, I realized something.

I

loveDemitri Martin, because IamDemetri Martin.

Not literally, of course. I didn’t inhabit his body and take over his soul. (Would if I could!) Nor is this blog a ruse that appears to be written by Patrick Vennebush when it is, in fact, written by Demitri Martin. I just mean that he and I are about as similar as two people can be without entering the world from the same womb. Check out this list:

Demitri Martin |
Patrick Vennebush |

He’s weird. (In a good way.) | I’m weird. (No disclaimer.) |

He did Mensa puzzles as a kid. | I did Mensa puzzles as a kid. |

He uses convoluted mnemonics to remember numbers. | I use convoluted mnemonics to remember numbers. |

He uses drawings and visual aids during stand-up performances. (See below.) | I use drawings and visual aids during math presentations. (See below.) |

He was influenced by Steven Wright, Emo Philips, Eddie Izzard, and Mitch Hedberg. | I watched every Steven Wright performance on cable television when I was a teenager; my favorite joke is from Emo Philips; I own every Eddie Izzard CD; and one of my great regrets is that I never saw Mitch Hedberg perform live. |

He was slated to play Paul de Podesta in Moneyball but was replaced by Jonah Hill. |
I wasn’t in Moneyball, either. |

He was born in a prime number year (1973). | I was born in a prime number year (1971). |

He won a Perrier Comedy Award. | I sometimes drink Perrier while watching Comedy Central. |

He once attended class wearing a gorilla suit. | I had no fashion sense in college. |

He is extremely allergic to nuts. | I’m not allergic to them, but I really don’t like crazy people. |

One of Demetri’s drawings:

Oh, sure, I could list hundreds of other similarities between Demitri and me, but I think the list above is enough to see that the coincidence is uncanny. I mean, we practically live parallel lives.

Demetri used to sneak Mensa puzzle books — not muscle mags or girlie mags — into school to read during class. One of the puzzles purportedly from his *Mensa Presents Mighty Mindbusters* book:

If a crab-and-a-half weigh a pound-and-a-half, but the half-crab weighs as much again as the whole crab, what do half the whole crab and the whole of the half-crab weigh?

He said that solving problems from those books was validating.

When I got one right, I’d be like, “Yes! I

amsmart! These other idiots don’t know how much the crabs weigh.” But I do. Because I just spent Saturday working it out.

I solved puzzles like this, too. I don’t know if they made me feel smart, but I enjoyed the way I felt when I figured out a particularly tough one.

From the way he describes it, such puzzles may have had the same effect on both of us.

Whatever the reason, I spent a lot of time as a kid doing these puzzle books. And it came to shape the way I see the world. So now, as an adult, I see the world in those terms. For example, to me a phone number is always a sentence or an equation. Like my friend Becky…

He goes on to say that he remembers Becky’s phone number using a convoluted, mathematical mnemonic:

That is, he converts the first three digits into an expression that is equal to an expression formed by the last four digits. He concludes that it’s “much simpler,” but it’s unclear how.

Now that’s some crazy, messed-up sh*t.

And I’d probably think it even weirder… if I didn’t do it, too.

One night many years ago, my roommate Adam asked for the number of the local pizza shop. I replied, “3^{3}, 1^{3}, 20^{3},” because that’s how I saw it. Adam looked at me like I was nuts, and he was probably onto something.

My friend AJ’s street address is 6236, which I remember as 6^{2} = 36.

My street address growing up was 1331, which I associated with the third row of Pascal’s triangle. (It also happens to be 11^{3}, but I didn’t know that at the time.)

I chose the four digits of my PIN because… no, wait, that wouldn’t be prudent.

My co-worker Julia’s extension is 2691. I used to remember this as 2 + 6 = 9 – 1, until I recognized a more elegant geometric mnemonic: the sequence 2, 6, 9, 1 forms an isosceles trapezoid on my office phone’s keypad — or it would, were the buttons equally spaced.

I can’t explain why I do this. Perhaps, as Demetri says, it’s the influence of all those puzzle books. Or maybe it’s just that the mental conversion to an equation gives the number meaning, making it more memorable. Or perhaps it’s that I’m wired to see the world through a mathematical lens, despite not wearing glasses.

Larry McCleary, author of *The Brain Trust Program,* claims that numbers are difficult to remember because “most of us don’t have any emotional attachment to particular numbers.” Mr. McCleary, I’d like you to meet my friend Demetri…

Demitri and I are both into anagrams.

Even when I walk down the street, things look a little different. The signs… the letters dance around. It becomes a little puzzle for me. So, say MOBIL, the gas station — that becomes LIMBO. STARBUCKS becomes RACKS BUST. CAR PHONE WAREHOUSE… AH, ONE SOUR CRAP — WHEE!”

Yeah, I do that, too…

My first car was a CHEVROLET IMPALA, which transforms to COMPARATIVE HELL. Our neighbor’s son is CARSON, whom I jokingly call ACORNS. And I can’t see a STOP sign without also thinking of OPTS, POST, POTS, and TOPS.

If you’re reading this, you likely have some things in common with Demetri, too. **What number mnemonics do you use, or what anagrams to do you see?**

### How Dumb Are You?

I recently purchased the book *How Smart Are You? Test Your IQ *for the same reason that I always purchase books like this — often, there are one or two gems buried amid a pile of mundane, mind-numbing questions.

Having just finished the last quiz, here’s all you need to know about this book:

- I found it on the discount table at Barnes and Noble.
- There is a picture of a wise, all-knowing owl on the front cover. (Ooh, an owl! I feel smart already!)
- The tag line on the cover reads, “Calculate Your IQ in Minutes,” yet the Introduction states, “Your scores will not reflect your actual intelligence.”

When it comes to measuring your IQ using this book, the following scale will be more effective than anything you’ll find between the covers:

Did You Buy this Book? |
IQ Score |

Bought | < 75 |

Didn’t | > 125 |

The book contains 50 quizzes with 10 questions each. Each question is worth 16.5 points, so your IQ is found by multiplying the number correct on a given quiz by 16.5.

**I hate to deliver the bad news. **

**The results of your IQ test have come back negative.**

Sadly, there were no gems among the 500 questions in the book. (Honestly, I found it more difficult to calculate my score than to answer most of the questions.) Yet there were quite a few duds. And that’s where we’ll start today’s story.

One question asked the reader to identify the next number in the series:

5, 13, 21, 29, 37, 44, …

You may notice that 5 **+ 8** = 13, 13 **+ 8** = 21, and 21 **+ 8** = 29, so you might think that the rule is “add 8.” But 37 **+ 8** ≠ 44, so the pattern fails. You don’t even need to check the addition, though; since the first term is odd and the common difference is even, all terms must be odd. The number 44 should have stuck out like a sore thumb to any editor worth his salt. Yet that did not stop the author from listing 44 + 8 = 52 as the correct answer.

Similarly, another problem asked:

A high school has 40 students in its senior class. Forty percent of the seniors are taking physics, 30 percent are taking chemistry, and

10 percent are taking neither. How many seniors are takingneitherphysics or chemistry? (Ed. note: emphasis added.)

You might first think that 4 students are taking neither physics nor chemistry (nevermind that the problem used *or* instead of *nor*), since the problem says that 10% are taking neither, and 10% of 40 is 4. Upon seeing the correct answer listed as 16 students, you might then think, “What the f**k?” And that would be a justifiable reaction. I suspect that this was meant to be one of those questions where the numbers in the three groups adds to more than 100%, so the overlap becomes important, but this problem is an epic fail as presented.

**Some people should have to pass an IQ test
to drive or reproduce. Fail the test,
you get birth control and a bus pass. **

A little later, on a quiz titled “Unscramble the Letters I,” readers were directed to unscramble the letters

delif

to create an English word or name.

The Internet Anagram Server says that there are three: *field*, *filed*, *flied*. Finding one of them without the Internet seems like a reasonable challenge. But within the book, the problem is presented as a **multiple-choice question**:Oh, my. Anyone smart enough to read a book would see immediately that *fled* doesn’t have enough letters, *flies* has an *s* instead of the requisite *d*, and *delight* has too many letters. How many people have been misled by this quiz, scoring a 165 and then thinking that they were Harvard material?

My favorite in this section, though, was the scrambled-letter collection

lydarceptt

which I immediately recognized to be *pterodactyl*, but then thought, “No, wait, there’s no *o*.” Yet *pterodactyl* was the only reasonable option among the four answer choices (*Pericles*, *lethargic*, *pterodactyl*, and *pictogram*), so I ignored the omission and collected another perfect score of 165. (Yay, me!)

As I said above, there were no gems, but I’ll end with the only problem in the entire book that I even mildly enjoyed:

A car traveled 281 miles in 4 hours and 41 minutes. What was the car’s average speed in miles per hour?

This one was also presented as a multiple-choice question, but it’s more fun to solve without the options. Have at it.

### I’m Playing Baaas-Ket-Baaall

I recently had a meeting at the National Basketball Association (NBA) offices in New York City. I had gotten very excited about this meeting, thinking maybe I’d bump into Lebron or Kobe or Shaq or Dr. J or Jerry West or David Stern. (It *could* happen, ya know. Not so long ago, I bumped into Brooke Shields while attending a meeting for MoMath. All things are possible in NYC.)

But irony of ironies… when I arrived, I met no one famous; rather, one of the NBA staffers wanted to meet *me* because * Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks* is his mom’s coffee table book. She’s a retired chemical-cum-mechanical engineer, so geeky jokes are her ilk.

Three engineers are arguing about God’s profession.

The first says, “God has to be a mechanical engineer. Look at the design of the joints and muscles.”

“No, no,” said the second. “Look at the central nervous system. All that wiring? Surely, God is an electrical engineer.”

“I think you’re both wrong,” said the third. “He’s got to be a civil engineer. Who else would put a waste management facility in the middle of a recreation area?”

Now, I know that this story likely sounds like an elaborate set-up.

Yo momma is so dorky, she reads

Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks.

Well, it’s not. All of this is true.

The wonderful young man who wanted to meet me was Daniel Feinberg. I asked about his mother’s favorite joke from *Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks*, and he told me it was this one (which is sometimes known as the Pizza Theorem):

Via email, Daniel told me:

It’s funny, because she [Daniel’s mom] hadn’t taken a look at the book in some time, and when I asked her for her favorite joke, she got sucked into reading the entire thing — again.

Now *that’s* a nice compliment.

Daniel isn’t an engineer or even a math guy. He loves golf, though, and his favorite joke from *Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks* is:

A pastor, a doctor, and a mathematician were stuck behind a slow foursome while playing golf. The greenskeeper noticed their frustration and explained to them, “The slow group ahead of you is a bunch of blind firemen. They lost their sight saving our clubhouse from a fire last year, so we always let them play for free.”

The pastor responded, “That’s terrible! I’ll say a prayer for them.”

The doctor said, “I’ll contact my ophthalmologist friends and see if there isn’t something that can be done.”

And the mathematician asked, “Why can’t these guys play at night?”

Incidentally, Joshua Ferris included this same joke in his book *To Rise Again at a Decent Hour*, though the main character tells it with a priest, a minister, and a rabbi. Go figure.

I’d like to thank Daniel and his mom for their continued support. Hearing that MJ4MF made even one person smile is enough to think that it was worth writing.

Before you go, here are some basketball-related math jokes. Or maybe they’re math-related basketball jokes. Whatever. Enjoy.

What do basketball players call the last occurrence of the function that gives the greatest integer less than or equal to

x?

The Final Floor.What do athletes playing basketball and students taking a math test have in common?

They both dribble.What’s the difference between the Knicks and a dollar bill?

You can get four quarters from a dollar bill.

Okay, maybe that last one isn’t very mathy, so here’s a mathy quote from basketball commentator and former coach Doug Collins:

Any time Detroit scores more than 100 points and holds the other team below 100 points, they almost always win.

Almost?

### Results of **Hold On… How Many Copies?** Contest

As predicted, I did not meet my self-imposed deadline of posting the winner of the *Hold On… How Many Copies?* contest on Saturday. But I think you’ll agree I have a good excuse. When I woke at my in-laws on Saturday morning, my wife and kids surprised me with the pronouncement that we’d be spending the day at the Museum of Mathematics in New York City. (A post about that coming soon. It was awesome!) But after a full day of mathematical thinking and a late dinner, I didn’t have the energy to post results last night.

So, sue me.

But without further adieu, I can now announce the winner. Not before some data analysis, though.

The ten responses were:

{21, 137, 301, 333, 392, 429, 453, 595, 1637, 3142}

With a range of **3,121** and an average of **744**, there was quite a spread to the data.

I certainly love the optimism of the respondent who predicted that 3,142 copies were sold! But with Q1 = 390 and Q3 = 559, the responses of 1,637 and 3,142 would both be considered outliers. Indeed, the actual number was lower than either of those guesses, but you won’t hear me complain about selling **634 copies** of *Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks* from Dec 15 to Dec 21!

**The winner guessed 595 copies.** Well done! He or she will be contacted via email or can contact me directly at patrick@mathjokes4mathyfolks.com.

For what it’s worth, I would not have won my own contest. Knowing that sales vs. rank is generally exponential but also knowing that sales decline during the third week of December, I used a purely linear regression to generate a guess of 473 copies. This would have resulted in a third-place finish. Oh, well. I take solace knowing that a third-place finish is far superior to where I would have placed if I had sponsored a marathon instead.

So, thanks to everyone who bought a copy of the book last week. Wow! Who would’ve thought sales would still be that brisk five years after publication! For that matter, thanks to everyone who’s ever bought a book. This has been an incredible ride!

Thanks, also, to those of you who entered the contest. Sorry if you didn’t win, but I hope you had fun playing.

**Happy holidays!**

### Hold On… *How Many* Copies?

How many copies of *Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks* do you think sold last week?

Make Your Prediction Here (Google Form) |

Why would you want to make a prediction? Well, lots of reasons…

- Like the author (and readers) of this blog, you’re a math geek.
- You swoon at the sight of data.
- You’ve never met a puzzle you didn’t like.
- You want to show the world how awesome you are.
**You’d like to win a signed copy of***Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks*, some cool MJ4MF stickers, and a surprise gift, all shipped to you in exclusive MJ4MF packaging!- All of the above.

If you’re reading this blog, then you surely love being alive in the Age of Big Data. I love it, too, and I devour any data that I can get my hands on.

Amazon feeds my desire by providing two valuable pieces of data about * Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks*. First, they provide the

**sales rank**for the book, which is updated hourly. Second, they provide

**weekly sales data**. The downside to this latter stat is the delay in its release — they provide data for Monday-Sunday, but it isn’t released until the following Friday. The upside is that big dorks like me use the time from Monday through Thursday to make predictions.

The chart below shows the average sales rank and weekly sales for Nov 24 through Dec 14. (The “average sales rank” is the average of the sales ranks for the seven days each week. Although it’s updated hourly, I don’t have the time to check it that frequently, so I rely on Author Central, which reports the sales rank at the end of each day.) It also shows the average sales rank (but not sales) for last week, Dec 15‑21.

Week |
Amazon Sales Rank(Weekly Average) |
WeeklySales |

Nov 24-30 |
4,742 | 114 |

Dec 1-7 |
3,437 | 279 |

Dec 8-14 |
2,390 | 435 |

Dec 15-21 |
2,063 | ? |

**The question: How many copies of MJ4MF were sold last week?**

Oh, sure… I could just wait until Friday to find out — but what fun would that be?

Instead, I constructed several mathematical models, and then I tweaked them to predict how many books were sold. The tweaks were based on some things I’ve learned over the past couple of years:

- Holiday sales are most vigorous in the first two weeks of December. They slow down a bit in the third week. Consequently, a sales rank of 1,655 on Dec 1 does not equal a sales rank of 1,655 on Dec 21.
- The long-term trend is not linear. In fact, this graph from Foner Books shows that it’s logarithmic.

Which brings us to the contest. Go to the Google form and **enter your prediction and email address**. (The email is only so I can contact you if you win.) **Closest guess to the actual number of sales will win the grand prize.** In the event of a tie, a winner will be randomly selected (or if I’m feeling generous, maybe there will be multiple winners… it’s hard to predict my disposition on any given day).

So, what are you waiting for? Open Excel or SPSS or your stat software of choice, muddle through a few regressions, and submit your entry!

**Winners will be announced on Saturday, December 27, 2014.** The exact time will depend on what time I roll out of bed, what activities my wife and kids propose for the day, and my particular disposition on Saturday. On second thought… safest if you check back on Sunday.

Good luck!

*Calculus for Tan Gents*, and Other Unwritten Math Books

Usually, my sons are my best audience.

Several nights ago, as we were having dinner with a neighbor and his kids, we started talking about cherries. (I have no idea why.) But not willing to let an opportunity slip away, I offered, “I have a friend named Merah (pronounced *mare-ruh*) who works in an ice cream shop, and her job is to place cherries on top of sundaes.”

My neighbor looked at me funny. Then he saw where I was going. “Is her last name *Sheeno*?” he asked.

“It sure is! Merah Sheeno!”

Nothing. Not even the slightest hint of recognition from the boys or from either of my neighbors’ kids.

But I was not deterred. “And she has a brother named Whatduzz.”

Everyone looked at me blankly.

“Whatduzz Sheeno! Get it? ‘What does she know?””

My neighbor nearly fell off his chair. “Oh, that’s good!” he said. “I hadn’t heard that one before.”

“That’s because I just made it up, Hunter.”

“No wonder your sons say you’re the funniest man they know!”

It’s true. That’s what my sons *usually* say. But not that night. That night, they just thought I was weird.

Someday, I hope to use my ability to make up funny names to write a bestseller under a pseudonym. (At this point, putting my *real name* on a book would surely lead to negative sales.) Some of my ideas are:

, by Lois Carmen Denominator*Putting the Pieces Together**Step by Step*, by Al Gorithm*The Longest Side*, by Hy Potenuse*Much Ado About Nothing*, by Zee Row*Big Wheels Keep On Turning*, by Cy Cloyd*Calculus for Tan Gents*, by Anne T. Derivative*Nothing to See Here*, by M. T. Set*Mirror, Mirror*, by Reif Lection*Below the Line*, by Dee Nominator*Can’t Tell Up from Down*, by Vin Q. Lum*Pushing My Buttons*, by Cal Culator*Petal to the Metal*, by Rose Curve*I Lost My Parrot*, by Polly Gon*Three Dimensions*, by Polly Hedron*What My x Got in the Break-Up*, by Al Jabra*Less Than That*, by Lisa Perbound*Local Extremes*, by Max Imum and Minnie Mum*Out In Front*, by Lee Ding Coefficient

If some of those names look familiar, you may have seen them in Mathy Names. Thanks to Jim Maher, who contributed some of the names in a comment.