Category Archives: Math

Q: Quaternions and Octonions: what?

Physicist: The most straightforward way to stumble across quaternions is to sit around thinking about complex numbers, where we have “i” which is the square root of -1 and stands for “imaginary number”.  If you have i, then you have … Continue reading

Posted in -- By the Physicist, Logic, Math | 5 Comments

Q: How do I know my windmill is on straight?

The original question was: I got quite the challenge from my father in law. The problem is well defined, but I’m having difficulties finding a meaningful answer. The reason why he asked me is because I’m an engineering student and … Continue reading

Posted in -- By the Physicist, Engineering, Equations, Geometry, Math | 2 Comments

Q: How good is the Enigma code system compared to today’s publicly available cryptography systems?

Physicist: Freaking terrible. The Enigma machine used a “rolling substitution cypher” which means that it was essentially a (much more) complicated version of “A=1, B=2, C=3, …”.  The problem with substitution cyphers is that if parts of several messages are … Continue reading

Posted in -- By the Physicist, Computer Science, Math, Number Theory, Paranoia | 6 Comments

Q: When “drawing straws” is it better to be first or last?

Physicist: As long as the person who cut the straws: 1) takes the last remaining straw and 2) has a decent poker face (or doesn’t know which is which), then it’s completely fair.  If they have a bad poker face, … Continue reading

Posted in -- By the Physicist, Math, Probability | 4 Comments

Q: Can a human being survive in the fourth dimension?

Physicist: Nopers.  But to understand why, it’s important to know what a dimension is. When someone says “we live in the third dimension” what they should really say (to be overly-precise) is “the universe we inhabit has three spacial dimensions”.  … Continue reading

Posted in -- By the Physicist, Math, Paranoia, Physics | 20 Comments

Q: Why radians?

Physicist: Because calculus. When you first start doing trigonometry the choice between radians, degrees, turns, or hexacontades is a matter of personal preference.  Most people use degrees because most other people use degrees (and other people seem pretty on the … Continue reading

Posted in -- By the Physicist, Conventions, Geometry, Math | 3 Comments