Math, Pre-Internet Style

One of my graduating seniors (thanks, Kendal!) just gave me an antique math text as an end-of-the-year gift. It’s a slim little volume entitled Formulas – Cube Root – Logarithms, and it was published in 1921 by the International Textbook Company.

As I was browsing the pages, I was struck by the sheer mental labor that mathematics required back then. Imagine a world without cheap scientific calculators, let alone one without computers and the internet. For example, look at the steps outlined in this book that are necessary to derive a cube root (click on the  image to zoom in):

There are 24 pages devoted to the single task of deriving cube roots, something any $10 calculator can do in milliseconds, or you can just type it into a website like wolframalpha:

I have new appreciation for those who did so much with so little technology.


Guillevic’s Geometries

A neat little book of poetry that I ordered a few days ago arrived today: Guillevic’s Geometries. I found out about it from a post in one of my favorite math blogs, yofx. Guillevic’s poetry is playful, yet understated. Who knew simple Euclidean forms were so profound? Here’s a nice example:


I will only touch you once.

And it will only be in passing.


No use calling me back,

No use reminding.


You will have plenty of time

To rehearse and remember

This moment,


To convince yourself

We’ll never part.



The Day of The Cicadas

Every 13 years, thousands upon thousands of cicada larvae emerge from the ground, moult, and fly around for a couple of weeks while making an ungodly racket. Here’s a picture of some of the shells the “nymphs” leave behind:

13-Year Cicada Shells

Here’s a short video I shot to give you an idea of the noise they are creating in my backyard. They are big and very ugly bugs, but completely harmless.