Posts tagged ‘polar bear’

Southpaw Summations

Left HandAugust 13 is Left Handers Day.

It’s interesting to me that left-handers chose the 13th as a day to honor themselves, since the number 13 is often associated with a lack of luck. After all, the word sinister, which implies that something evil or harmful is about to happen, derives from the Latin word sinistra, which means lefthanded. It comes from the Latin word sinus, referring to the pocket on a toga that always appeared on the left side.

My brother-in-law has a shirt that says:

Everyone is born right-handed.
Only the strongest can overcome it.

“Interesting theory,” I said.

“It’s only one of two possible theories,” he informed me. “The other is that everyone is born left-handed, but only the strongest can maintain it.”

Most sources say that about 10% of the population is left-handed, and most statistics show that there are more left-handed females than left-handed males.

Interestingly, some studies have found that left-handedness is higher in math teachers than in the general population. In particular, a statistically significant difference was found for male math teachers. It’s also the case that left-handed students score higher in math on the SAT.

It has been suggested that those without a language bias in the left hemisphere of the brain, who are left-handed at a higher rate than the general population, would have an advantage in mathematical ability. For this reason, one researcher said that there is not a higher than normal occurrence of left-handers among the mathematically gifted, but rather that there is a lower than normal occurrence of right-handers.

This reminds me of a famous syllogism:

  • Ten percent of all car thieves are left-handed.
  • All polar bears are left-handed.
  • If your car is stolen, there’s a 10 percent chance it was taken by a polar bear.

Given this information about mathematical ability, it stands to reason that polar bears may have a penchant for both grand larceny and integral calculus.

August 13, 2012 at 2:43 pm Leave a comment

Math for Figger Filbert*

A well-known problem:

A man walks 1 mile south, 1 mile east, and 1 mile north. He arrives at the same place where he started, and then he sees a bear. What color is the bear?

The answer, of course, is white. It’s a polar bear. These three moves will let a person return to the same place if he starts at the North Pole. (The person could also return to the same place if he starts at an infinite number of points near the South Pole, too. He could start at a point so that when he walks 1 mile south, he is at a point such that the east-west circle on which he is standing has a circumference of 1 mile. Then, he can walk 1 mile east to return to the same spot. Finally, he can walk 1 mile north, and he’s back where he started. Then again, he could also start at a point so that he can walk 1 mile south to a point where the circumference of the east-west circle is 1/2 mile, do that loop twice, then walk 1 mile north. Or find points where the circumference is 1/3 mile, 1/4 mile, 1/5 mile, etc. You get the idea. However, since there are no bears in Antarctica, the answer to my original question is still correct.)

Two points about this:

  1. In answer to the question, “Are there polar bears in Antarctica?” there is only one correct answer: Only if they are bipolar.
  2. I really don’t care to receive silly comments about how a bear trapper could capture a grizzly and take him to Antarctica, or how a brown bear might mistakenly meander north to the Arctic Circle.

Here is a similar question:

A man runs 90 feet, turns left, runs another 90 feet, turns left, runs another 90 feet, and turns left. He is now headed home, and two men with masks are waiting for him. Who are they?

If you don’t know the answer to this riddle, remember that today is the first day of the World Series. My prediction? The Rangers will win easily. It’s not really a fair fight. I mean, members of the Lone Star State’s law enforcement agency with opposable thumbs and automatic weaponry versus defenseless birds? Seriously, if the Rangers don’t win, then we need to seriously reconsider the theory of natural selection.

If you watch the first game of the World Series tonight, remember to enjoy the game. Please don’t get caught up trying to figure out if it converges or diverges.

Bear Playing Baseball

Here are a few baseball-related math puzzles:

  1. A baseball player has four at-bats in a game. At three different times during the game, his batting averages for the entire season (rounded to three decimal places) have no digits in common. What was his average at the end of the game?
  2. During a little league game, the visiting team scored 1 run per inning, and the home team scored 2 runs per inning. What is the final score of this seven-inning game?
  3. During the first half of the season, Derek batted .100, but his average was .300 during the second half of the season. Similarly, Alex batted .200 the first half of the season and .400 the second half of the season. Both players ended up with the same number of total at-bats, yet Derek had a higher batting average for the entire season. How is this possible?

* Figger Filbert is a term for baseball fans who are obsessed with statistics. Such fans are easily identified; they will make statements like, “Did you know that Albert Pujols is batting .275 when facing married pitchers in suburban ballparks that only sell popcorn on the mezzanine level?” It’s a synonym for number nut.

October 19, 2011 at 8:05 pm 3 comments

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The Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks blog is an online extension to the book Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks. The blog contains jokes submitted by readers, new jokes discovered by the author, details about speaking appearances and workshops, and other random bits of information that might be interesting to the strange folks who like math jokes.

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