My colleague Robert Allison recently blogged about using the diameter of Texas as a unit of measurement. The largest distance across Texas is about 801 miles, so Robert wanted to find the set of all points such that the distance from the point to Texas is less than or equal

## Tag: **Math**

Back in high school, you probably learned to find the intersection of two lines in the plane. The intersection requires solving a system of two linear equations. There are three cases: (1) the lines intersect in a unique point, (2) the lines are parallel and do not intersect, or (3)

This article uses graphical techniques to visualize one of my favorite geometric objects: the surface of a three-dimensional torus. Along the way, this article demonstrates techniques that are useful for visualizing more mundane 3-D point clouds that arise in statistical data analysis. Define points on a torus A torus is

Last week I blogged about how to draw the Cantor function in SAS. The Cantor function is used in mathematics as a pathological example of a function that is constant almost everywhere yet somehow manages to "climb upwards," thus earning the nickname "the devil's staircase." The Cantor function has three

A moving average (also called a rolling average) is a statistical technique that is used to smooth a time series. Moving averages are used in finance, economics, and quality control. You can overlay a moving average curve on a time series to visualize how each value compares to a rolling

Recently I blogged about how to compute a weighted mean and showed that you can use a weighted mean to compute the center of mass for a system of N point masses in the plane. That led me to think about a related problem: computing the center of mass (called

Lo how a rose e'er blooming From tender stem hath sprung As I write this blog post, a radio station is playing Chrismas music. One of my favorite Christmas songs is the old German hymn that many of us know as "Lo, How a Rose E're Blooming." I was humming

In my article about finding an initial guess for root-finding algorithms, I stated that Newton's root-finding method "might not converge or might converge to a root that is far away from the root that you wanted to find." A reader wanted more information about that statement. I have previously shown

"Daddy, help! Help me! Come quick!" I heard my daughter's screams from the upstairs bathroom and bounded up the stairs two at a time. Was she hurt? Bleeding? Was the toilet overflowing? When I arrived in the doorway, she pointed at the wall and at the floor. The wall was

Equations that involve trigonometric functions can have infinitely many solutions. For example, the solution to the equation tan(θ)=1 is θ = π/4 + kπ, where k is any integer. In order to obtain a unique solution to the equation, we define the "arc" functions: inverse trigonometric functions that return a

Last week I was chatting with some mathematicians and I mentioned the blog post that I wrote last year on the distribution of Pythagorean triples. In my previous article, I showed that there is an algorithm that uses matrix multiplication to generate every primitive Pythagorean triple by starting with the

Pascal's triangle is the name given to the triangular array of binomial coefficients. The nth row is the set of coefficients in the expansion of the binomial expression (1 + x)n. Complicated stuff, right? Well, yes and no. Pascal's triangle is known to many school children who have never heard of polynomials

When I studied high school geometry, I noticed that many homework problems involved right triangles whose side lengths were integers. The canonical example is the 3-4-5 right triangle, which has legs of length 3 and 4 and a hypotenuse of length 5. The triple (3, 4, 5) is called a

Although I currently work as a statistician, my original training was in mathematics. In many mathematical fields there is a result that is so profound that it earns the name "The Fundamental Theorem of [Topic Area]." A fundamental theorem is a deep (often surprising) result that connects two or more

Prime numbers are strange beasts. They exhibit properties of both randomness and regularity. Recently I watched an excellent nine-minute video on the Numberphile video blog that shows that if you write the natural numbers in a spiral pattern (called the Ulam spiral), then there are certain lines in the pattern

My daughter's middle school math class recently reviewed how to compute the greatest common factor (GCF) and the least common multiple (LCM) of a set of integers. (The GCF is sometimes called the greatest common divisor, or GCD.) Both algorithms require factoring integers into a product of primes. While helping

Birds migrate south in the fall. Squirrels gather nuts. Humans also have behavioral rituals in the autumn. I change the batteries in my smoke detectors, I switch my clocks back to daylight standard time, and I turn the mattress on my bed. The first two are relatively easy. There's even

Today is the birthday of Bernhard Riemann, a German mathematician who made fundamental contributions to the fields of geometry, analysis, and number theory. Riemann is definitely on my list of the greatest mathematicians of all time, and his conjecture about the distribution of prime numbers is one of the great