the mathematician

resolutionblue  asked:

in the ks it says you were a part of a museum installation? tell us about that!

I’ll gladly elaborate! This is kind of an interesting bit of TJ lore haha. 

There’s a modern art museum in St. Louis called the Pulitzer, and I was involved in their exhibit called Kota: Digital Excavations in African Art. Kota are ancient African reliquary figures created to watch over and protect the sacred physical remains of ancestors. There are about ~2000 of them still in existence, and what is known about them is very limited. A mathematician named Frederick Cloth came up with an algorithm to collect and sort the data that is known about the Kota that have been preserved. 

Back in 2015, when I was still working with Rampant Interactive, I was the lead programmer on a project to create an interactive digital component to the exhibit involving Unity3D, a huge 50-inch touchscreen, and four projectors to shine images on all four walls of the exhibit room. The aim of the installation was to tie the physical objects together with the data that is known about the reliquary figures. Viewers of the exhibit can use the touch screen to visualize the data, compare and contrast the Kota, and draw their own conclusions about the correlations between the Kota’s distinct physical appearance and the data collected about them. 

I’m actually in this pic to the center left. This was when I was first starting to grow out my locks haha.

Look at baby me, it’s hard to believe this was 2 years ago! Anyways, you can read more about my involvement with the project here; and you can see my post with more pictures of the project here

I loved working on this project because things like this really help bridge the gap between contemporary art and videogames, and I think museums should work with game developers a lot more often. 

Thank you for asking about this, it was great to reminisce! 

Yesterday I went to dinner to catch up with my buddy from the math department, and he told me this story about how he ran the city marathon in 2 hours, 59 minutes. That’s an amazing time. He was 19th out of thousands. 

He was doing pretty well for the first half, but then his ankle started to hurt. He slowed down for a bit, but then this girl he passed before passed him, and he started overthinking whether or not it was awkward to pass the same person multiple times, and, like, what if they small-talked about it? He decided it was better to pass her and stay ahead, so he picked up the pace. A few miles later, he fell in with two dude-bros who started talking to him. Not pleased to find himself in the company of dude-bros, he pulled ahead once again. This continued for a while; every time he got closed to a group of other marathoners, his social anxiety kicked in and he ran faster because he felt nervous being near people. 

TL;DR A mathematician ran an record marathon to avoid making small-talk with randos. He introverted his way into qualifying for the Boston marathon. 

Meet the real women behind Hidden Figures.

In the early days of the Space Race, Dorothy Vaughan headed the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics’ (NACA) West Area Computing unit. It was an important but segregated unit of mostly female mathematicians doing aerospace calculations by hand. When NACA became NASA in 1958, the Analysis and Computation Division desegregated and Vaughan became a sought-after expert on FORTRAN  – a programming language used on IBM mainframes.

Vaughan is one of the women whose work inspired the film Hidden Figures — a true story of three African American mathematicians who helped NASA launch the first Americans into space.


Feeling inspired? See how coding might figure into your life. Uncover more about Dorothy Vaughan →

Survivorship Bias

I have posted about survivorship bias and how it affects your career choices: how a Hollywood actor giving the classic “follow your dreams and never give up” line is bad advice and is pure survivorship bias at work.

When I read up on the wikipedia page, I encountered an interesting story:

During WWII the US  Air Force wanted to minimize bomber losses to enemy fire. The Center for Naval Analyses ran a research on where bombers tend to get hit with the explicit aim of enforcing the parts of the airframe that is most likely to receive incoming fire. This is what they came up with:


So, they said: the red dots are where bombers are most likely to be hit, so put some more armor on those parts to make the bombers more resilient. That looked like a logical conclusion, until Abraham Wald - a mathematician - started asking questions: 

- how did you obtain that data?
- well, we looked at every bomber returning from a raid, marked the damages on the airframe on a sheet and collected the sheets from all allied air bases over months. What you see is the result of hundreds of those sheets.
- and your conclusion?
- well, the red dots are where the bombers were hit. So let’s enforce those parts because they are most exposed to enemy fire. 
- no. the red dots are where a bomber can take a hit and return. The bombers that took a hit to the ailerons, the engines or the cockpit never made it home. That’s why they are absent in your data. The blank spots are exactly where you have to enforce the airframe, so those bombers can return.

This is survivorship bias. You only see a subset of the outcomes. The ones that made it far enough to be visible. Look out for absence of data. Sometimes they tell a story of their own.

BTW: You can see the result of this research today. This is the exact reason the A-10 has the pilot sitting in a titanium armor bathtub and has it’s engines placed high and shielded.

A stranger: hi nice to meet you

Me: pigeons are one of the oldest domesticated animals, the grey birds you see in cities are birds that we’ve domesticated and abandoned so they’re feral. Pigeons are wonderful companions both in pairs and as single pets and bond closely to their caretaker, their gentle demeanor, low noise, and easy care makes them an excellent choice for a pet bird. In fact, I am married to a pigeon, by that she I mean she is bonded to me. Pigeons mate for life! They’re so loyal. They’re actually very intelligent and comparable to crows or five year old humans! Pigeons are crazy good mathematicians and great at pattern recognition they’re able to-

A stranger: what the fuck

23 Things You Didn’t Know About Astrology

Z O D I A C G U I D E  / /  I G

1. You have more than one sign.

2. Your moon sign is the sign that speaks to your emotions.

3. Your rising, or ascendant, sign represents identity, the first impression you make on others, and your outer personality.

4. Your sun sign is what motivates you from the heart and deep within.

5. Generally speaking, the compatibility of signs with one another is influenced by the elements of nature: fire, earth, air, and water.

6. Born in between signs? You might be a cusp.

7. The degrees of a sign don’t mean what you think it does.

8. Signs don’t influence your physical appearance - but they can describe it.

9. Mercury retrograde can actually be good!

10. Mercury retrograde does not actually mean the planets move back.

11. Mercury is not the only planet to have retrograde periods.

12. No, mercury retrograde is not going to ruin your life.

13. During the Reagan Administration, there was a White House astrologist.

14. If you really want an accurate reading of your birth chart, you should know your birthplace and time of birth.

15. Catholic popes used to believe in astrology.

16. According to Marchesella, everyone has some degree of all 12 signs, all the planets, and all the 12 houses of the horoscope in operation.

17. Shakespeare is known to have created some of his characters around their astrological signs.

18. British Intelligence Agency MI5 hired astrologist Louis de Wohl during WWII as a mouthpiece for wartime propaganda.

19. In Japan, people treat blood types like horoscopes and believe that personality types are tied to blood type.

20. Gerolamo Cardano, an Italian mathematician whose research lead to the invention of the combination lock, was imprisoned in 1570 for casting the horoscope of Jesus Christ.

21. The most common astrological sign in the U.S. is Scorpio (9.6 percent of U.S. population), and the least common sign is Aquarius (6.3 percent).

22. Benjamin Franklin was an astrology enthusiast.

23. Some people believe there are 12 people on a jury because of the 12 astrological houses.

Katherine Johnson (b. 1918) is a physicist and mathematician who has made crucial contributions to several NASA missions, assuring their success with her highly accurate calculations. She worked with NASA for several decades, and helped advance the rights of both African-Americans and women.

She initially worked as a human computer, and later as an aerospace technologist. She calculated trajectories for missions such as the 1961 Mercury mission or the 1969 Apollo 11 flight. She was portrayed by Taraji P. Henson in the 2016 film Hidden Figures.

THE CLASSICAL ELEMENTS IN WICCA

Elements—they are the building blocks of the entire universe. No, I’m not talking about the scientific elements, such as is found on the periodic chart. Sure, they are the building blocks for the physical universe. But I’m referring to the spiritual or classical Elements—they are the metaphysical building blocks.

Mention of Air, Earth, Fire, Water, and Aether (Spirit) are something Wiccans will come across time and again. Regardless of how big or small a role the Elements play in your personal spiritual path, they’re something you should learn to understand.

BIG “E”AND LITTLE “e”

Sometimes I write ‘Element’, and sometimes ‘elements’. Sometimes I capitalize Air (Earth, Fire, etc.), and sometimes I don’t. There’s actually a reason for it.

Remember the Periodic Table of the Elements from chemistry class? There are 118 known elements and all matter breaks down to these most basic components. When speaking of scientific elements, I use the little “e”.

In ancient Greece, the concept of the Elements (the classical/spiritual ones) was born. They did not have the technology to see atoms and molecules, so they thought everything was made up of some combination of Air, Earth, Fire, Water and Aether.

Fast forward a couple dozen centuries– now we know that air, earth, fire, water and aether are compounds– a mixture of smaller elements on the periodic table. For example, water is a compound of hydrogen and oxygen.

This is the reason for the distinction. The Elements (capital E) refer to the spiritual/classical Elements of our religion—those forces that we honor. The elements (lowercase e) refers to the actual scientific elements on the periodic table.

THERE’S MORE TO ELEMENTS THAN COMPOUNDS

We all know the Elements are Air, Earth, Fire, Water, and Aether. Sometimes people confuse this with earth, air, fire, water and ether. Note my use of capitalization here, because it’s very significant.

The Elements—Air, Earth, Fire, and Water—are not the same thing as wind, dirt, flames, and H20. These compounds are meaningful representations of the Elements of course, but the compounds themselves are not Elements. The Elements (capital ‘E’) are so much more than the compounds for which they are named.

THE ELEMENTAL CONNECTION

The Elements represent all things, and connect all things. Look at the diagram above; you can see the vertical axis contains the masculine Elements (Air and Fire). The horizontal Axis contains the feminine Elements (Water and Earth). The circle is where the Elements meet, as if at a crossroads. The circle surrounds and connects the four Elements, just as Aether (Spirit) is the unifying and balancing factor that runs through everything in the universe—the soul, the divine, it’s what gives life and meaning to all things.Notice how they are equivalent in length and well balanced. When you go around the circle, you get the polarity alternating the masculine and feminine Elements, the projective and receptive, the positive and negative: Kind of like an electric charge (energy!).You might even envision it as a compass, with each Element at one of the cardinal directions. You can even set up the primary altar tools as in some traditions in that same format: the athame is a symbol of Air, the pentacle a symbol of Earth, the wand a symbol of Fire, and the cup a symbol of Water.

CORRESPONDENCES—JUST THE START

Notice in the diagram above in the innermost circle we have our compass and our male/female axis. Beyond that we have correspondences to the directions, time of day, time of the year/season, the sabbats—even the life cycle itself. You get a taste right there at how the Elements correspond to everything; and everything corresponds to one or more of the Elements.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, really, as Elements also correspond to zodiac signs, tarot cards, runes, herbs, gemstones, deities, personality traits, occupations, body functions, activities, etc….the cycles and connections are endless.

IN RELATION TO THE PENTAGRAM

Each pentagram point represents an element. This is why the pentacle is the ultimate symbol of balance—each equal point, all intertwined with each other—balance is a key tenet in Wicca. Wiccans usually wear a pentacle point-up. We move from the point at top (Aether) the intangible, to the semi-intangible realm (Fire and Air) to the tangible realm (Water and Earth). I say usually because some Wiccan trads also occasionally use the pentagram point down. When the pentagram is point up, it stands for Spirit (Aether) ascending over matter. When it’s point down, it represents Spirit descending into matter. As you can see, the Elements are a rich, diverse, and complex system of symbols and energies that effect our world, our minds, and our spiritual practices. Take advantage of their potential by learning to work in harmony with them.

THE ELEMENTS IN DEPTH

Please keep in mind that correspondences can vary from tradition to tradition, from person to person. Though there are more similarities than differences, never take any list of Elemental correspondences as written law. 

THE ELEMENT OF AIR:

(Figure above shows alchemical symbol for Air)

  • Gender: Masculine
  • Charge: Positive
  • Energy: Active
  • Qualities: abstract; ethereal
  • Aspects: analytical thought; rational mind; travel; communication

AIR ATTRIBUTES:

  • Positivewitty, intelligent, communicative, inquisitive, inventive, literary, social, idealist, clarity of thought, rational, technical, scientific, logical
  • Negativealoof, cold, dispassionate, eccentric, scattered, unfocused, ambivalent, indecisive, deceptive, untrustworthy.

AIR ALIGNED WITH:

  • Day of the Week: Wednesday
  • Direction: North
  • Locations: Mountain tops, sky, clouds
  • Sabbats: Samhain, Yule
  • Time of day: Night
  • Time of Life: Death through Rebirth
  • Time of the year: Winter
  • Wind: Boreas
  • Witch’s Pyramid: To Know

AIR RULING OVER:

  • Body parts: brains, nervous system, lungs
  • Bodily functions: breathing, thinking, speaking, singing, coughing, whistling, belching, flatulating
  • Colors: yellow, white, sky blue, midnight blue, shades of gray
  • Incense: sandalwood, storax, mastic
  • Instruments: woodwinds, bagpipes
  • Careers: accounting, acting, advertising, executive, astronaut, computer programmer or technician, con artist, gambling, judge, lawyer, mathematician, public speaker, sales, most kinds of sciences, singing, teaching, writing.
  • Sense: Smell

AIR CORRESPONDING TO: 

  • Herbs: Acacia, almond, anise, benzoin, bergamot, bistort, bittersweet, borage, bromeliad, broom, caraway, chicory, citron, clover, dandelion, elecampane, endive, eyebright, fenugreek, goat’s rue, hazel, hops, houseleek, lavender, lily, linden, mace, male fern, maple, marjoram, mastic, meadowsweet, mint, mistletoe, palm, papyrus, parsley, pine, pistachio, rice, sage, saffron, slippery elm, wormwood
  • Metals: mercury, aluminum
  • Minerals & Gems: agates, aventurine, amethyst, jasper, mica, pumice
  • Runes: ANSUZ, RAIDO, EIWAZ, ALGIZ, TIR, MANNAZ
  • Tarot: Suit of swords, knights, The Fool, The Magician, The Lovers, The Hermit, Hanged Man, Justice, The Star
  • Wiccan tools: knives (athame, bolline)/swords, censer, incense
  • Zodiac: Gemini: (mutable); Libra (cardinal); Aquarius (fixed)

AIR ASSOCIATED WITH: 

  • Animals: birds, flying insects, spiders, bats, foxes, primates
  • Elemental Beings: Sylphs, fairies, djinn
  • Gods: Allah, Amergin, Anu, Apollo, Ascepius, Baal, Buddha, Ganesha, Hermes, Jupiter, Mercury, Odin, Thoth, Tyr, Uranus, YHWH, Zeus
  • Goddesses: Arachne, Arianrhod, Athena, Ishtar, Juno, Ma’at, Minerva, Mnemosyne, Morrigan, Muses, Mt, Neith, Nike, Nuit, Sarasvati
  • Mythical Creatures: Gryphons, Harpies, Hippogrifs, Pegasus, Sphinx

INVOKING AND BANISHING AIR


THE ELEMENT OF EARTH

(Figure above shows alchemical symbol for Earth) 

  • Gender: female
  • Charge: negative (-)
  • Energy: passive
  • Qualities: physical matter; solid; heavy; cold
  • Aspects: tangible world; fertility; growth; productivity

EARTH ATTRIBUTES:

  • Positive: ambitious, dependable, diligent, earthy, industrious, practical, pragmatic, reliable, responsible, stable, steady, thorough
  • Negative: critical, dull, inhibited, materialistic, obstinate, possessive, slow, stubborn, unforgiving

EARTH ALIGNED WITH:

  • Day of the Week: Thursday, Saturday
  • Direction: East
  • Locations: caverns, plains, canyons, the underworld
  • Sabbats: Imbolc, Ostara
  • Time of day: Morning
  • Time of Life: Youth
  • Time of the year: Spring
  • Wind: Euros
  • Witch’s Pyramid: To Will

EARTH RULING OVER:

  • Body parts: physical self, bones
  • Bodily functions: eating, defecation
  • Colors: green, brown, black, earth tones
  • Incense: patchouli, musk
  • Instruments: drums, percussion
  • Occupations: armed forces, banking and finances, carpentry, construction, child care, cooking and food service, clerical and administrative work, dancing, gardening, house keeping/home making, hunting, janitors, jewelers, mechanics, stone masons, wood workers.
  • Sense: touch

EARTH CORRESPONDING TO:

  • Herbs: alfalfa, barley, corn, cotton, cypress, fern, fumitory, honeysuckle, magnolia, mugwort, oats, peas, oleander, patchouli, potato primrose, quince, rhubarb, rye, sagebrush, sorrel, tulip, vervain, vetivert, wheat
  • Metals: lead
  • Minerals & gems: green agates, moss agates, alum, green calcite, coal, emerald, jasper, jet, salt, malachite, olivine, peridot, black tourmaline, green tourmaline, turquoise
  • Runes: URUZ, GIFU, BEORK, ING, OTHAL, JERA
  • Tarot: Suit of Pentacles (coins), Paiges, Empress, Heirophant, Wheel of Fortune, The Devil, The World
  • Wiccan tools: Pentacle, consecrated salt
  • Zodiac: Taurus (fixed); Virgo (mutable); Capricorn (cardinal)

EARTH ASSOCIATED WITH:

  • Animals: most mammals (few exceptions: big cats and horses/Fire; primates and foxes/Air; aquatic mammals/Water); most insects without wings (exception: fire ants/fire); earthworms.
  • Elemental Beings: Gnomes, elves, leprechauns
  • Gods: Adonis, Anubis, Cernunnos, Dagda, Dionysus, Green Man, Hades, Herne, Janus, Osiris, Pan, Pluto
  • Goddesses: Anu, Cerridewen, Ceres, Demeter, Gaia, Fauna, Frigga,Hecate, Nepthys, Ostara, Persephone, Prithivi, Rhea
  • Mythical Creatures: big foot, chupacabra, giants, jackalope, unicorn, werewolves, wraiths

THE ELEMENT OF FIRE

(Figure above shows alchemical symbol for Fire)

  • Gender: Masculine
  • Charge: Positive
  • Energy: Active
  • Qualities: energetic; transformative; purifying
  • Aspects: passion; will; courage

FIRE ATTRIBUTES:

  • Positive: action-oriented, courageous, eager, enthusiastic, exciting, impulsive, independent, optimistic, quick, spontaneous, tenacious, vivacious
  • Negative: angry, abrupt, consuming, domineering, egocentric, excessive, hot-tempered, impatient, overbearing, overwhelming

FIRE ALIGNED WITH:

  • Day of the Week: Sunday, Tuesday
  • Direction: South
  • Locations: deserts, volcanoes
  • Sabbats: Beltane, Litha
  • Time of day: Midday (true noon)
  • Time of Life: young adulthood
  • Time of the year: Summer
  • Wind: Notus
  • Witch’s Pyramid: To Dare

FIRE RULING OVER:

  • Body parts: genitals, heart, intestines, liver, stomach
  • Bodily functions: digestion, sex, metabolism, regurgitation, smoking
  • Colors: red, orange, gold
  • Incense: cinnamon, dragon’s blood
  • Instruments: brass instruments
  • Occupations: alchemists, assassins, athletes, electricians, firefighters, fire dancers, lion tamers, martial artists, nuclear physicists, pyro technicians, smiths, warriors, welders

FIRE CORRESPONDING TO:

  • Herbs: allspice, basil, bloodroot, cactus, carnation, bay, capsicum, cinnamon, clove, cinquefoil, copal, coriander, cumin, curry, dill, dragon’s blood, fennel, flax, frankincense, galangal, ginger, ginseng, High John the Conqueror, holly, hyssop, juniper, lime, marigold, nutmeg, orange, pennyroyal, pomegranate, rosemary, saffron, sunflower, St. John’s wort, tobacco, Venus flytrap
  • Metals: gold, brass, steel, iron
  • Minerals: red agates, amber, apache tear, asbestos, bloodstone, carnelian, citrine, quartz, obsidian, onyx, sand, rhodochrosite, tiger‘s eye, tourmaline, zircon
  • Runes: Fehu, Thurisaz, Kenaz, Nied, Sigel, Dagaz
  • Tarot: Suit of Wands; all kings; the Emperor; Strength; Temperance; the Tower; the Sun; Judgement
  • Wiccan tools: wand; staff; candles; any fires
  • Zodiac: Aries(cardinal); Leo (fixed); Sagittarius (mutable)

FIRE ASSOCIATED WITH:

  • Animals: lions, felines, fireflies, glow worms, horses, rams, lizards, fire ants
  • Elemental Beings: salamanders
  • Gods: Annu, Ares, Balor, Baldor, Belanos, Frey, Hephaestus, Horus, Loki, Lucifer, Lugh, Marduk, Mars, Ra, Set, Shiva, Sol, Thor, Vulcan
  • Goddesses: Amerterasu, Amat, Atlanta, Bast, Brigit, Eris, Freya, Hestia, Kali, Lilith, Nemisis, Pele, Selket, Shatki, Sunna, Vesta
  • Mythical Creatures: chimeras, dragons, phoenix

INVOKING AND BANISHING FIRE

THE ELEMENT OF WATER


(Figure above shows alchemical symbol for Water)

  • Gender: Feminine
  • Charge: Negative (-)
  • Energy: Passive
  • Qualities: receptive, fluid, creative
  • Aspects: formless, deep, cleansing

WATER ATTRIBUTES:

  • Positive: beautiful, compassionate, creative, deep, flexible, intuitive, mysterious, resourceful, receptive, sensitive, sensual, understanding
  • Negative: ambivalent, complex, deceptive, emotional, moody, over-sensitive, passive-aggressive, selfish, vain, wishy-washy

WATER ALIGNED WITH: 

  • Day of the Week: Monday, Friday
  • Direction: West
  • Locations: any body of water, seashore/beaches
  • Sabbats: Lughnasadh, Mabon
  • Time of day: Twilight/Sunset
  • Time of Life: maturity
  • Time of the year: Autumn
  • Wind: Zepher
  • Witch’s Pyramid: To be silent

WATER RULING OVER:

  • Body parts: bodily fluids—blood, saliva, semen, urine, etc.; the womb
  • Bodily functions: drinking, lactating, menstruating, perspiring, secretion, urination
  • Colors: blue, silver, aquamarine
  • Incense: cypress, lotus, myrrh
  • Instruments: string instruments
  • Occupations: bartender, brewer, cosmetologist, pet, dishwasher, diver, dowser, fishing, hematologists, ice skaters, laundry workers, life guards, marine biologists, naval careers, oceanographers, painters, psychics, sailors, swimmers, surfers
  • Sense: Taste

WATER CORRESPONDING TO: 

  • Herbs: African violet, apple, avocado, belladonna, blackberry, boneset, cabbage, cardamom, catnip, chamomile, chickweed, dittany of Crete, daisy, cucumber, daffodil, gardina, heather, hibiscus, jasmine, myrrh, poppy, rose, sandalwood, thyme, valerian, vanilla, willow, yarrow
  • Metals: silver
  • Minerals: blue lace agate, aquamarine, azurite, beryl, coral, geodes, jade, lapis lazuli, moonstone, pearl, sapphire, sodolite, tourmaline
  • Runes: Wunjo, Ehwaz, Hagall, Isa, Phedro, Lagaz
  • Tarot: Suit of Cups; all Queens; High Priestess; Death; The Moon; The Chariot
  • Wiccan tools: cup; cauldron; bowls
  • Zodiac: Cancer (cardinal); Scorpio (fixed); Picses (mutable)

WATER ASSOCIATED WITH: 

  • Animals: fish, scorpions, serpents, waterfowl, water mammals, creatures who dwell/live in water
  • Elemental Beings: Undines
  • Gods: Aegir, Charon, Cthulhu, Nun, Dagon, Eros, Hurican, Lyr, Neptune, Nereus, Oceanus, Poseidon, Triton
  • Goddesses: Amphitrite, Aphrodite, Astarte, Heket, Isis, Kwan Yin, Lady of the Lake, Mary, Melusine, Psyche, Styx, Tefnut, Thetis, Venus
  • Mythical Creatures: hippocampus, kraken, leviathan, merfolk, nerids, selkies, sirens, waterhorse, any sea monsters

INVOKING AND BANISHING WATER

FINDING YOUR ELEMENT IN WICCA

Keep reading

aries
sparkling, startling intuitive or 
ravaged fighter

taurus
floodlight of illumination or 
tormented desire 

gemini
infuser of opposing worlds or 
chaotically confused 

cancer 
wielder of the creative source or 
frightened, defensive battler 

leo
creatively divine exhibitionist or 
held hostage by ego

virgo 
pristine heavenly mathematician or 
hyper critical solitary

libra 
temple of unity and acceptance or 
hollow, empty dependant 

scorpio 
deep soul doctor, healer of spiritual wounds or 
overly tempted by death

sagittarius
cultivated and divinely intimate philosopher or 
skeptical sedative 

capricorn 
resilient soldier of god, co-creator with the divine or 
sorrowful victim 

aquarius 
raiser of conscious spiritual seas or 
mentally defeated solitary

pisces 
healer from the source itself or 
confined, confused escapist 

Pi Guides the Way

It may be irrational but pi plays an important role in the everyday work of scientists at NASA. 

What Is Pi ?

Pi is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. It is also an irrational number, meaning its decimal representation never ends and it never repeats. Pi has been calculated to more than one trillion digits, 

Why March 14?

March 14 marks the yearly celebration of the mathematical constant pi. More than just a number for mathematicians, pi has all sorts of applications in the real world, including on our missions. And as a holiday that encourages more than a little creativity – whether it’s making pi-themed pies or reciting from memory as many of the never-ending decimals of pi as possible (the record is 70,030 digits).

While 3.14 is often a precise enough approximation, hence the celebration occurring on March 14, or 3/14 (when written in standard U.S.  month/day format), the first known celebration occurred in 1988, and in 2009, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution designating March 14 as Pi Day and encouraging teachers and students to celebrate the day with activities that teach students about pi.

5 Ways We Use Pi at NASA

Below are some ways scientists and engineers used pi.

Keeping Spacecraft Chugging Along

Propulsion engineers use pi to determine the volume and surface area of propellant tanks. It’s how they size tanks and determine liquid propellant volume to keep spacecraft going and making new discoveries. 

Getting New Perspectives on Saturn

A technique called pi transfer uses the gravity of Titan’s moon, Titan, to alter the orbit of the Cassini spacecraft so it can obtain different perspectives of the ringed planet.

Learning the Composition of Asteroids

Using pi and the asteroid’s mass, scientists can calculate the density of an asteroid and learn what it’s made of–ice, iron, rock, etc.

Measuring Craters

knowing the circumference, diameter and surface area of a crater can tell scientists a lot about the asteroid or meteor that may have carved it out.

Determining the Size of Exoplanets

Exoplanets are planets that orbit suns other than our own and scientists use pi to search for them. The first step is determining how much the light curve of a planet’s sun dims when a suspected planets passes in front of it.

Want to learn more about Pi? Visit us on Pinterest at: https://www.pinterest.com/nasa/pi-day/

Make sure to follow us on Tumblr for your regular dose of space: http://nasa.tumblr.com

8 Formidable Facts About Bees

Let’s hear it for the bees! (Let’s give the bees a ha-aa-aa-aaand!)

Spring is (supposedly) on its way, so we want to send a little love and appreciation to all the bees out there, making our everyday possible. Join us in celebrating these 8 reasons to celebrate our tiny, but mighty friends.

1. Bees make our surroundings beeee-autiful. In addition to pollinating our crops, bees are responsible for pollinating all of the things that make spring sing. And they’re no novices - they’ve been producing honey from flowering trees (fruit trees, nut trees, and bee-yond) for 10-20 million years! From the TED-Ed Lesson The case of the vanishing honeybees - Emma Bryce

2. Bees are social insects. Honey bees live together in large, well-organized family groups and engage in a variety of complex tasks not practiced by solitary insects. Communication, complex nest construction, environmental control, defense, and division of the labor are just some of the behaviors that honey bees have developed to exist successfully in social colonies. And they are not the least bit lazy: one single bee colony can pollinate 300 million flowers each day. From the TED-Ed Lesson The case of the vanishing honeybees - Emma Bryce

3. Bees are above words. They communicate through ‘dance’ and pheromones. By performing what’s referred to as the ‘waggle dance’, bees can share information about the direction and distance to patches of flowers yielding nectar and pollen, to water sources, or to new nest-site locations. From the TED-Ed Lesson Why do honeybees love hexagons? - Zack Patterson and Andy Peterson

4. Bees make great wingmen. Bees are very busy little matchmakers. The bees’ side of the whole “birds and the bees” business is to help plants find mates and reproduce. Today, around 170,000 plant species receive pollination services from more than 200,000 pollinator species, a good many of which are bees! In return, flowering plants are an abundant and diverse food source for pollinators. For instance, fossil records suggest that bees may have evolved from wasps that gave up hunting after they acquired a taste for nectar. From the TED-Ed Lesson How bees help plants have sex - Fernanda S. Valdovinos

5.Bees put food on our tables. Bees pollinate our crops on an industrial scale, generating over one-third of U.S. food production. Their work alone has contributed an estimated $15-20 billion of value to the U.S. agricultural business. From the TED-Ed Lesson The case of the vanishing honeybees - Emma Bryce

6. Bees can totally pack up a car better than you. Honeybees are some of nature’s finest mathematicians. Not only can they calculate angles and comprehend the roundness of the earth, these smart insects build and live in one of the most mathematically efficient architectural designs around: the beehive. Charles Darwin himself wrote that the honeycomb is a masterpiece of engineering. It is “absolutely perfect in economizing labor and wax.” From the TED-Ed Lesson Why do honeybees love hexagons? - Zack Patterson and Andy Peterson

7. Bees are hooked on coffee, too. When bees pollinate coffee plants, they consume low doses of caffeine from the coffee flower nectar, which means that bees are **BUZZZZZING** from a caffeine high just like us, AND helping us to get our coffee fix on the daily! From the TED-Ed Lesson The case of the vanishing honeybees - Emma Bryce

8. Honeybees are disappearing at astonishing rates. Not to be a **buzzkill**, but here’s a not-so-fun fact. In the past decade, the U.S. honeybee population has been decreasing at an alarming and unprecedented rate. Bee mortality rates in commercial production have more than doubled in the last decade, and in 2015, 40% of bee colonies were reported lost in just a single year. There are a variety of factors causing Colony Collapse Disorder, and scientists everywhere are working to prevent further loss of bees. Keep reading to see how you can help. From the TED-Ed Lesson The case of the vanishing honeybees - Emma Bryce

Love bees as much as we do? Well, let’s give the bees a hand, for real! Plant some bee-friendly flowers this spring and remember, when bees have access to good nutrition, we have access to good nutrition through their pollination services