Greetings From The Math Factor

(We sent this out as an email, if we have your address, but in many cases it was blocked as mathspam)

========== Greetings From the Math Factor ==========
========== ==========

We love hearing from our listeners, and enjoy the great ideas and comments you send us! They really help make the podcast a success!

Sometimes though, we can be a little distracted and don’t always get around to answering our emails. (We really are polite and pleasant people, I promise.)

So this note is partly to send you all some mathfun, partly to apologize for our multiform slackitude, and partly to let you know what we’re up to!

Please keep letting us know what’s you’re thinking; and link to our site and tell others!

(If you want to get off our email list, just let us know; but easiest for all concerned if you’d just hit ‘delete’ instead)

==== Mathfun ====

Anyone who has asked for a packet of mathfun in, oh, the last eight months, has been left hanging for a while now. (See the Long Apology below) I know. It’s a long time to wait, especially for something _so_ amazing and _so_ life-enhancing. But we haven’t forgotten you and are about to send out oodles and oodles of delightful fun to those that need it!

In the meantime, the Math Factor has prepared a special online grab-bag of Mixed-Quality Mathfun for our loyal correspondents.

1) An amazing pencil sculpture kit!! Yes, at last, this is now available to the world! Obtain thirty pencils, twelve rubber bands, some tape, and print out _three_copies_ of this sheet, preferably onto cardstock. Read the instructions carefully. Do NOT poke out an eye.

If you are handy with a table saw, it is quite entertaining to enlarge the pattern, cut it out of plywood, and use bamboo instead of pencils! (as heard in episode BG. Bamboopalooza, Sept 2006)

2) A shameless plug, but this certainly qualifies as online mathfun. Lots more will be added in coming months. If anyone out there can help turn this wackiness into real products I’d like to hear about it.

3) A frustratingly difficult flash game, Don’t Drop The Ball, has sunk like a stone, earning a total of $1.57 from Mochiads; nonetheless it does reward a zen-like patience, and my son’s friend Abe assures me the game can be completed.
This wasn’t originally a game at all— Flash is a great platform for making lightweight demonstrations and I hope to produce much more of this in the future.

==== The Long Apology ====

You know what, I just deleted it. Very long and very tedious to read. And the tears were damaging the keyboard. Just know that we are trying our best. We can only hope our occasional lack of attentiveness or internet fumbling is part of our charm.

(The “What, did you guys just quit without saying goodbye” emails really help spur us into action!)

==== What is Coming Up In The Next Few Months ====

First off we are very excited about our incredible backlog of really good interviews. John H. Conway will show us his astounding tricks for doing mental arithmetic! More puzzles from Shasha and Winkler! And a great trousers puzzle from Ed Burger of Williams College! Plus, on top of all of that, we will be diving into the mind-bending waters of Gödel’s theorem and the nature of computability. We’re also going to set up a math booth at the local farmer’s market. That should be pretty strange. And a couple more surprises we’re still negotiating.

For any listeners nearby (say, in the Western Hemisphere) we have some very very interesting events planned at the Botanical Gardens of the Ozarks, here in Fayetteville later in the spring. On April 13, we will be building a very large performance space out of woven slats of wood; vines and other plants will grow up onto it. We will have a Night Circus there on June 22, and a harvest celebration on Oct 10. We will burn the whole thing down on the winter’s solstice.

Keep sending us your great ideas for stuff for the show; they really add a lot.

==== MATH FACTOR F.A.Q. ====

** Is it true that the Math Factor is planning to replace Chaim with a specially trained rhesus monkey?

The Math Factor is continually reviewing its options for improving its programming. It is certainly too soon to discuss specific personnel changes.

** Do you really tape the show on Sunday mornings?

The Math Factor is usually the last thing on Kyle and Chaim’s minds Sunday a.m. Sometimes we tape a couple of months worth of segments all in one session, and sometimes we tape one segment at a time, each week.

But we always like to pretend we have nothing better to do than come in to the studio at 9 am Sunday. If you listen carefully, you can tell Kyle has many clever verbal tricks like “Sure is interesting weather” etc.

** How many listeners does the Math Factor have?

About 6000 on the radio; who knows how many on the web? Tell your friends and link to the site! We are aiming at 100% world saturation— 6.3 billion listeners and counting.

** What will you do after you get to episode ZZ?

You mean ‘if’ don’t you. We’re hoping to have invented some extra letters at the end of the alphabet by then.

** How frequently do new episodes of the Math Factor come out?

We thought we’d trained you not to wonder. Enjoy the surprise.

** How did you get started?

You will have to discuss that with our parents.

** No, really.

In 2003, another math prof thought it would be good publicity for the dept to put a weekly puzzle on a university-wide listserve. Chaim was drafted to put together witty and engaging, tightly crafted conundra; these caught Kyle’s attention and the Math Factor was born. What amuses us is that this was so completely accidental.

** Where do you get your ideas/Where do you get your material?

Chaim enjoys talking about math; he’s a bit of a bore really, at parties, at sporting events, on the shooting range. But there’s no shortage of things he’s been dying to discuss. He’s not really much of a puzzler though (this is one of the great ironies of the Math Factor!) We’ve been steadily mining various puzzle literature; the work of Martin Gardner, by the way, is really extraordinary. But this is the nature of performance– take a chestnut and make it your own. We’ve also had many terrific ideas from listeners; these really add a lot to the show. And of course the interviews are great fun.

** How do you know you’re right/Do you ever make mistakes/Have you ever misled us deliberately?

We are always right. We never make mistakes. Yes we have misled you deliberately on occasion.

One of the great things about the website has been having a place to make corrections. We don’t think we’ve really totally screwed up (at least not more than once or twice) It’s easy to misspeak though.

** What’s next in your relentless march towards world domination?

We’ll just have to watch and see!


Thanks again for listening, happy new year, and tell your friends!



  1. vbot said,

    February 3, 2008 at 2:46 am

    How many levels does the ‘don’t drop the ball’ game have? does it go up to 14/14?!

  2. strauss said,

    February 3, 2008 at 8:18 am

    Just 10…

    Incidentally, it’s really eating at me that the Math Factor might replace me with a trained rhesus monkey. In my honest, objective opinion I really do think I can do the better job. (Wasn’t at all pleased to learn about this from the press-release) At least it’s trained.

    Sorry for griping.

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