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Posts Tagged ‘Barbara Billingsley

“Although the world looks messy and chaotic, if you translate it into the world of numbers and shapes, patterns emerge and you start to understand why things are the way they are”*…

50 Sour Patch Kids (eXtreme brand)

Or in any case, you have some illuminating fun. Tim Urban decided to use Sour Patch Kids to explore scale…

This helps illustrate just how huge a number a trillion is. A trillion is important because it’s the largest number that comes up in day-to-day life. We come across a trillion mainly when it comes to the government and money, and it’s such a large number, a stack of a trillion tightly-packed Sour Patch Kids would cover a football field and be as high as a 30-story building.

Now we enter the realm of numbers that are normally impossible to conceptualize. Luckily, we have my idiotic Sour Patch Kids method to help.

Taking 1,000 of the football stadium-size trillion box above and arranging them in a 10 x 10 x 10 box with dimensions 1km x 1km x 1.5km, we now have 1 quadrillion Sour Patch Kids, covering most of Downtown Manhattan. A quadrillion is a thousand trillion, or a million billion, and written out, it’s 1,000,000,000,000,000.

For reference, I put the Empire State Building and the world’s tallest building, Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, next to the box.

If you’re wondering, experts say that there are somewhere between one and ten quadrillion ants on Earth…

See all of the steps, illustrated, all the way to one nonillion, or 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 Sour Patch Kids (which stretches about half the distance between the Earth and the moon, 384,400 km) at “What Does a Quadrillion Sour Patch Kids Look Like?“– part the “upsettingly large numbers” subset of the “Pointless Calculation” theme running through Wait But Why, from @waitbutwhy (Tim Urban).

Marcus du Sautoy

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As we count up, we might send motherly birthday greetings to Barbara Billingsley; she was born on this date in 1915. A film, television, voice, and stage actress, she is probably best remembered as June Cleaver in Leave it to Beaver (though her turn as “Jive Lady” in Airplane! is surely equally memorable).

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“Nature uses only the longest threads to weave her patterns, so that each small piece of her fabric reveals the organization of the entire tapestry”*…

Clouds are not spheres, mountains are not cones, coastlines are not circles, and bark is not smooth, nor does lightning travel in a straight line.
—Benoit Mandelbrot, The Fractal Geometry of Nature

Benoit Mandelbrot, Sterling Professor of Mathematics at Yale and the father of fractal geometry, died last Thursday at age 85.  As Heinz-Otto Peitgen, professor of mathematics and biomedical sciences at the University of Bremen, observed, “if we talk about impact inside mathematics, and applications in the sciences, he is one of the most important figures of the last 50 years.”

“I decided to go into fields where mathematicians would never go because the problems were badly stated,” Dr. Mandelbrot once said. “I have played a strange role…”  Indeed, one hopes that Mandelbrot had the consolation of his own fascination as he contemplated the diffusion pattern of the pancreatic cancer that killed him.

At TED2010, mathematics legend Benoit Mandelbrot develops a theme he first discussed at TED in 1984 — the extreme complexity of roughness, and the way that fractal math can find order within patterns that seem unknowably complicated.

* Richard Feynman

In other sad news, Barbara Billingsley, the avatar of American motherhood in her role as Mrs. Cleaver on Leave it to Beaver, passed away on Saturday.

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As we marvel at patterns nested within themselves, we might recall that it was on this date in in 1962 that In 1962, Dr. James D. Watson, Dr. Francis Crick, and Dr. Maurice Wilkins won the Nobel Prize for Medicine and Physiology for their work in determining the double-helix molecular structure of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid).

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