Tuesday, January 27, 2009

uservoice


Who knows best about what's good and bad about the present and potential future of mathskool.com? You, the users!

That's why I just added a link from the top of the mathskool.com headers to our own uservoice page. This is a very nice user feedback system for collecting and discussing ideas and bug reports. Every time you have an idea, type it into uservoice, and they automatically search for similar ideas. This way you avoid duplicate ideas, and you can vote in the main thread representing your idea. As the mathskool web builder, I can also provide plenty of feedback on these ideas - marking things as planned, started, completed, or not going to implement in some cases. It's a nice interface, and I'm glad I can give users a very friendly way to express their thoughts on the site.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

one in a million?

This article:

http://www.kansascity.com/450/story/996042.html

recently claimed that the odds of the same pick-3 lottery ticket happening two days in a row - which did happen this past Monday and Tuesday - are one-in-a-million, so that it was a rather surprising occurrence. The choices allow ten numbers in each of three places, and order matters. So there are 1000 choices of ticket. But that means, whatever yesterday's winning numbers were, the odds they're the same today is 1 in a 1000, not 1 in a million. We'd actually expect this to happen about once in three years - not such a wild coincidence after all.

The fact that this article was published at all is a little scary to me. This is very basic probability theory - even if math is a journalist's weak point, I would imagine you could double-check such a key fact with someone else who knew their stuff. In an ideal world, responsible members of the media would have at least a better intuition for something like this.

Of course, I'm not so worried about trivial inaccuracies in novelty news, so much as I am about a general lack of educated reporting - the kind of thing that has lead many folks (at least in the US) to doubt the legitimacy or human-influence on global warming, for example. This is an area on which the scientific community has been in virtual consensus for many years, contrary to the impression you might receive from certain media outlets. Any good disseminator of knowledge cites their sources, so I'll back that up with a quote from the Doran/Zimmerman 2009 report on scientific opinion of global warming:
It seems that the debate on the authenticity of global warming and the role played by human activity is largely nonexistent among those who understand the nuances and scientific basis of long-term climate processes.
If you're curious, there's more on this wikipedia page.

Monday, January 12, 2009

math is the best!

A recent article by a career expert at careercast.com ranks mathematician as the best overall job. Cool.

I sometimes forget how much nicer it is to be a mathematician / programmer than some of the lower-ranked alternatives, such as taxi driver or lumberjack.

Unfortunately, I'm not sure this article could effectively change a lot of young students' minds about how much they like math. If you ask a kid if they'd rather do some math or take a chainsaw to a tree, I think most would choose the chainsaw. It seems to reduce to the more profound problem of making life choices in the context of youth - your first glimpses of the various options (such as careers) can be fleeting and misleading, and the school culture of your peers adds pressure to base decisions on status more than intrinsic merit.

Here's a Wall-Street Journal article about the jobs rankings:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123119236117055127.html

Thursday, January 1, 2009

launched!

I'm very happy to announce that the alpha version of mathskool has just launched! When you go directly to mathskool.com, you'll now see the main page.

The "alpha version" means we're still in early testing, and several big features - such as search - are still in the works.

I'm sure there are a few bugs already, and new ideas coming in, so I'll soon be adding a uservoice.com link to help users file bug reports and feature requests.

This blog will continue to catalog new features and other mathskooly news - available as always at mathskool.com/blog.

Now go check out the site!