Happy Super Pi Day: 3.14.15

Today is “Pi Day,” the 14th day of the 3rd month (3.14).  Not only that, it is “Super Pi Day,” with the rest of the date giving the next two numbers: 3.14.15.  Pi is the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter.  Though circles are everywhere, their numeric ratios can never be exact.  The mysterious number represented by the Greek letter π has been proven to be an “irrational number,” one which has an infinite number of non-repeating decimals.  And, yet, the ratio has to be used in all kinds of common calculations, from figuring the area of a circle to analyzing subatomic and astronomical phenomena.

After the jump, an excerpt and a link to an essay on π and pi day by Cornell mathematicisn Tara S. Holm.  Do go to the link for an account of the history of our knowledge of the concept, including a government attempt to regularize it at 3.2 by passing a law.  My favorite part is how Prof. Holm is celebrating the day:  Getting her family together at 9:26 and 53 seconds (the next five numbers) and eating a piece of pie. [Read more...]

Why we have eyelashes

Scientists have discovered why we, as well as all mammals, have eyelashes. [Read more...]

What else Turing did

The movie The Imitation Game focused on how mathematician Alan Turing broke the German “Enigma” code, a major contribution to the Allied victory in World War II.   Those interested in artificial intelligence talk about the “Turing test,” the goal of making it impossible to tell whether a machine or a human being is responding to questions.  But  Turing’s most enduring contribution is not known so much.  He wrote a paper about 0′s and 1′s and computable numbers that basically invented the concept of software. [Read more...]

Magic, science, & religion

Charles Lane discusses the big dietary reversal on cholesterol, in the course of which he recounts a hilarious scene in Woody Allen’s movie Sleeper and cites anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski on the way people tend to confuse science with religion (they put their faith in it) and magic (it can do anything), making it really disorienting when science changes.  Go to the link for the joke, but I quote the anthropology part after the jump.
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Anti-science liberals

Democrats are reviving the notion that “conservatives are anti-science!”  But what about the anti-science stance of liberals when it comes to abortion, genetically-modified foods, fracking, and environmental apocalypse?  And did you know that far more Democrats than Republicans believe in astrology, flying saucers, fortune telling, and New Age medicine?  David Harsanyi and Ian Tuttle both make that case, after the jump. [Read more...]

Marijuana without the high

Lots of people have been hailing the medical uses of marijuana, leading a number of states to legalize the drug if you have a prescription.  Now Israeli researchers (Israel being the world’s leader in research into medical marijuana) has developed a strain that gives the medical benefits without that unfortunate side effect of the “high.”

Do you think this product will catch on in medical marijuana circles?  I say, NO, are you kidding?  Except, perhaps, as a medicine for children that doctors might prescribe, I’m pretty sure that the high is what users find so thereapeutic. [Read more...]