Category Archives: Math

Q: Is there such a thing as half a derivative?

The original question was: Another one of those questions of the type “does this make sense”.  You have first derivatives and second derivatives.  f'(x), f”(x) or sometimes dy/dx and d^2y/dx^2. Is there any sensible definition of a something like a “half” … Continue reading

Posted in -- By the Physicist, Conventions, Equations, Math | 13 Comments

Q: After the heat death of the universe will anything ever happen again?

Physicist: If you wait forever, then you might see something happen.  But the more practical answer is: no. The universe does a lot of stuff (for example, whatever you did today), but literally everything that ever happens increases entropy.  In … Continue reading

Posted in -- By the Physicist, Entropy/Information, Physics | 8 Comments

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 | 3 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 | 9 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