# Category: Blog

• Cricket has a bit of a reputation for being hard to understand, but it’s actually a simpler game than the most popular North American sports.

Here’s everything you need to know to enjoy a cricket match in 600 words or less.

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• A while ago I arbitrarily decided that I needed a favourite three-digit number (don’t ask) and ended up choosing 216. It’s a nice cube number — 6×6×6 — and can also be expressed as a sum of three smaller cubes:

6^3 = 5^3 + 4^3 + 3^3
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• The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom calls your attention to the sky… but there’s more weird stuff up there than just the floating islands.

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• I recently went for a walk in təmtəmíxʷtən (Belcarra), and when I got to… wait, what’s that weird derelict building in the distance?

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• I’m on a quest to explore the creeks and waterways of Vancouver, Burnaby, and New Westminster. First, I need to understand how the topography of my neighbourhood determines the flow of water and the formation of streams.

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• Shawn Mendes’ song “Lost in Japan” has had me geographically confused since I first heard it covered by Scary Pockets. If you haven’t listened to the lyrics, the song is about a person who is thinking about their crush and the possibility of taking a last-minute flight to Japan to see them.

The question I can’t get off my mind is: where is the song supposed to be taking place?

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• The length distribution of tweets has shifted in response to raised character limits, but it’s still the case that a disproportionate number of tweets use all the characters they’re given.

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• Pokémon Gold and Silver‘s roaming legendary beasts move randomly from route to route instead of sticking to a fixed habitat. By analyzing their behaviour using the math of random walks on graphs, I can finally answer a question that’s bugged me since childhood: what’s the best strategy to find a roaming Pokémon as quickly as possible?

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• Brick pavements and tatami mats are traditionally laid out so that no four meet at a single point to form a ┼ shape. Only a few ┼-free patterns can be made using 1×1 and 1×2 tiles, but the addition of 2×2 tiles provides a lot more creative flexibility.

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• May you live in interesting times” is typically claimed to be a Chinese expression, but it actually originated with the British. Joseph Chamberlain — Neville’s dad — used the phrase “interesting times” frequently in speeches:

I think that you will all agree that we are living in most interesting times. I never remember myself a time in which our history was so full, in which day by day brought us new objects of interest, and, let me say also, new objects for anxiety.

Joseph Chamberlain

Joseph’s other son Austen was the first to claim it originated as a Chinese saying. Quote Investigator theorizes that Austen, in conversation with his diplomat colleagues, learned about a Chinese proverb that expresses apprehension about living in what his father would call “interesting times” and assumed that was the source of Joseph’s phrase. But the wording of the real proverb is entirely different:

寧為太平犬，莫作亂離人

Better to be a dog in days of peace, than a human in times of chaos.

Feng Menglong
• A disproportionate number of my tweets are exactly 140 characters. I don’t know whether that means I’m really good at Twitter or really bad. Sometimes it’s the result of a too-long idea being meticulously edited down to size; sometimes it’s purely chance. Either way, I find 140-character tweets oddly satisfying — and based on a large dataset of tweets, it looks like I’m not the only one.

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• One of the most recognizable features of Japanese architecture is the matted flooring. The individual mats, called tatami, are made from rice straw and have a standard size1 and 1×2 rectangular shape. Tatami flooring has been widespread in Japan since the 17th and 18th centuries, but it took three hundred years before mathematicians got their hands on it.

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• In 1852, then-student Francis Guthrie wondered any if possible map required more than four colours. By the end of the century, Guthrie and his fellow colonists had drawn a map on Africa that needed five.

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• A little while ago, I did some sleuthing to find out the Erdős number of Brian May, astrophysicist and guitarist from Queen. My travels led me to Timeblimp, who threw together three measures of professional collaboration to make a rather fun parlour game. Assuming that the people in your parlour are three kinds of nerds and enjoy long and complicated internet scavenger hunts. Which I am and I do.

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• Pokémon Gold and Silver introduced the roaming legendary beasts: three one-of-a-kind Pokémon that move from route to route instead of sticking to a fixed habitat. Catching a roaming Pokémon amounts to winning a graph pursuit game — so what can we learn about it from the latest mathematical results?

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• Dr Robb Fry, one of my professors from my Thompson Rivers University days, passed away earlier this year at far too young an age. Robb was a real character, a great teacher, and a lot of fun to know.

I took my second course in linear algebra with Robb, and it was one of the most entertaining courses of my first two years. While visiting my parents over the holidays, I dug out my course notes — the only full set of notes I ever took in undergrad — so I could share some memorable episodes from my time with him.

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• My most recent talk in UVic’s discrete math seminar presented three poetic proofs by Adrian Bondy… and three actual poems summarizing the ideas in each one.

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• If you’ve heard of Erdős numbers, Erdős-Bacon numbers, and the fact that Queen lead guitarist Brian May has a PhD, you may have wondered whether Brian May has a well-defined Erdős number.

As a matter of fact, he does! I traced down a collaboration path of length seven through a 1972 paper he published in Nature.

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• Based on corpus data, over half of the words in a typical page of English text has four or fewer letters, with the average word length being slightly less than five.

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• According to an old piece of email forwarding-spam, it’s easy to read text even if you scramble all but the first and last letters in each word. But the truth is a bit more complicated.