mathematics
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enScience Sings the Blues
http://www.scienceandentertainmentexchange.org/blog/science-sings-blues
<div class="field field-name-body field-type-text-with-summary field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even" property="content:encoded"><p> When you hum to music from the radio, you probably aren’t thinking of mathematics. Equations aren’t forming in your mind and you aren’t solving for x as the tunes hit your ears. But according to <a href="http://www.mscs.dal.ca/~brown/" target="_blank">Jason I. Brown</a>, professor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at Dalhousie University, human physiology, for some reason, is particularly suited to discovering the mathematics inherently in music. “Our bodies, our ears, and our minds are built to recognize the mathematics that lies here,” he said during his Distinctive Voices @ The Beckman Center talk on May 25, 2011.</p>
<p>“Music is inherently encoded in mathematics and physics,” said Brown, though he asserts that few musicians are open to talking about the mathematics of their music. “I call it the ‘Tommy Lee syndrome’ where what you want to do as a musician is to appear as unschooled as you as possible can. I think this is a detriment to musicians because, in my opinion, music uses more mathematics when they do their music than practically any other profession – including accountants.”</p>
<p>Joni Mitchell, for instance, uses a mathematical sequence of numbers to keep track of her special guitar tunings. Most people remember the notes of the strings but with over 80 different guitar tunings, Mitchell has a lot to keep track of. She remembers the bottom string and how many semi-tones the next string is up from the next string. “There’s a mathematical component to how she thinks about her music,” said Brown.</p>
<p>During his talk, which you can watch below or by clicking <a href="http://www.youtube.com/DistinctiveVoicesBC#p/u/0/1ldjgjIyvzc" target="_blank">here</a>, Brown discusses how trigonometry is inherent in music (pure tones are sines and cosines), the mathematics of blues, and his <a href="http://jasonibrown.com/pdfs/n-oct04-harddayjib.pdf" target="_blank">research</a> of the famous opening chord from the Beatles song, “A Hard Day’s Night.” Not only did Brown discover the Beatles were out of tune during the recording but using a mathematical technique known as the Fourier transform, he discovered a piano in the mix. The piano and guitar chords blend together almost seamlessly – it’s almost impossible to recognize the piano by ear. “Only the mathematics will tell you that,” said Brown.</p>
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</div></div></div><div class="field field-name-field-taxonomy field-type-taxonomy-term-reference field-label-above clearfix"><h3 class="field-label">Tags: </h3><ul class="links"><li class="taxonomy-term-reference-0"><a href="/blog-tags/science" typeof="skos:Concept" property="rdfs:label skos:prefLabel">science of</a></li><li class="taxonomy-term-reference-1"><a href="/blog-tags/mathematics" typeof="skos:Concept" property="rdfs:label skos:prefLabel">mathematics</a></li><li class="taxonomy-term-reference-2"><a href="/blog-tags/music" typeof="skos:Concept" property="rdfs:label skos:prefLabel">music</a></li></ul></div>Thu, 07 Jul 2011 20:42:55 +0000host224 at http://www.scienceandentertainmentexchange.orghttp://www.scienceandentertainmentexchange.org/blog/science-sings-blues#commentsGirls Just Want to Have Sums: Mathematically-Gifted Women in Television/Film
http://www.scienceandentertainmentexchange.org/blog/girls-just-want-have-sums-mathematically-gifted-women-televisionfilm
<div class="field field-name-body field-type-text-with-summary field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even" property="content:encoded"><p class="p1">Girls just want to have sums. Or is it fun? Actually, why can’t it be both? Stereotypes plague math – difficult, boring - and <a href="http://www.iwaswondering.org/"><span class="s1">girls who love math</span></a> – they don’t exist. But several female television and film characters are defying both stereotypes.</p>
<p class="p1">One of the most recognizable characters is Lisa Simpson from the long-running <em>The Simpsons</em>. In fact, the intellectually-gifted second grader’s interest in math inspired a 2006 episode titled “Girls Just Want to Have Sums.” In the episode, Lisa’s school is segmented into two separate schools – one for boys and one for girls – after a sexist comment by Principal Skinner. Lisa’s initial enjoyment of the girls’ school quickly vanishes during her first period math class. Instead of asking the class to calculate math problems, the teacher asks the girls about feelings and smells – “How do numbers make you <em>feel</em>? What does a plus sign <em>smell</em> like? Is the number 7 odd, or just different?” – and refuses to teach math as “something to be attacked, something to be ‘figured out’” as that’s how men view math. Unable to live without her favorite subject, Lisa disguises herself as a boy named “Jake Boyman” in order to attend the boys’ school. She later wins an award for her outstanding performance in math and unveils her identity at the awards ceremony, announcing “I'm glad I'm a girl, and I'm glad I'm good at math!”</p>
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<p class="p1">Another recognizable math-loving character is Cady Heron from the 2003 film <em>Mean Girls</em>. While Lisa Simpson pretended to be a boy for her love of math, Cady pretends to be bad at math for her love of a boy. Not only is Cady gifted in math but she genuinely enjoys the subject. She likes that it’s “the same in every country.” But to get the attention of her crush, she pretends to be bad at math and asks him to tutor her, even though he could probably use some tutoring from her. As her grades in math decline, her popularity and social status rises. Later, she’s forced to join the North Shore Mathletes as extra credit to raise her failing grade, rediscovers her love of math as she competes in the Mathlete Championship and even wins the her crush’s heart by being her regular, math-loving self.</p>
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<p class="p1">Not only does math play important roles in plot development for these two characters, it plays a role in character development. Lisa Simpson and Cady Heron are not characters defined by math skills; they are well-rounded characters with other aspirations and dreams. Loving math is simply one aspect of their personalities, and even though they both experience conflict in pursuing math, their interest in math eventually wins out.</p>
<p class="p1">Lisa and Cady also aren’t alone as math-loving girl characters. Below is a brief list of female math superstars from television and film:</p>
<ul class="ul1"><li class="li2"><em>Proof (2005): </em>Catherine (played by Gwyneth Paltrow) is the daughter of a brilliant mathematician. The character must prove her work in mathematics, a proof of a theorem, as no one believes it’s her own work.</li>
<li class="li2"><em>Ice Princess (2005): </em>17-year-old Casey Carlyle (played by Michelle Trachtenberg) is a physics “geek” pursuing a scholarship to Harvard University. She decides to practice ice skating as a summer project and finds she can apply physics to the sport.</li>
<li class="li2"><em>Futurama (1999 – 2003, 2008 – present): </em>A physics graduate student for most of the series, Amy Wong (voiced by Lauren Tom) earns her PhD. in Applied Physics from Mars University in the sixth season.</li>
<li class="li2"><em>Angel (1999 – 2004): </em>Winifred “Fred” Burkle (played by Amy Acker) is a physicist<em> </em>and part of the Angel Investigations team. Her knowledge of physics and mathematics are an asset to the team. In the episode “Supersymmetry,” Fred publishes an article on superstring theory.</li>
<li class="li2"><em>NUMB3RS (2005 – 2010):</em><span class="s1"><strong> </strong></span>Amita Ramanujan (played by Navi Rawat) is a mathematician and professor at the California Institute of Science. She uses her expertise as a consultant for the FBI.</li>
</ul><p class="p1">So tell us, what’s your favorite portrayal of a gifted female mathematician?</p>
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</div></div></div><div class="field field-name-field-taxonomy field-type-taxonomy-term-reference field-label-above clearfix"><h3 class="field-label">Tags: </h3><ul class="links"><li class="taxonomy-term-reference-0"><a href="/blog-tags/mathematics" typeof="skos:Concept" property="rdfs:label skos:prefLabel">mathematics</a></li><li class="taxonomy-term-reference-1"><a href="/blog-tags/film" typeof="skos:Concept" property="rdfs:label skos:prefLabel">film</a></li><li class="taxonomy-term-reference-2"><a href="/blog-tags/tv" typeof="skos:Concept" property="rdfs:label skos:prefLabel">TV</a></li><li class="taxonomy-term-reference-3"><a href="/blog-tags/science-communication" typeof="skos:Concept" property="rdfs:label skos:prefLabel">science communication</a></li></ul></div>Thu, 06 Jan 2011 06:00:00 +0000host103 at http://www.scienceandentertainmentexchange.orghttp://www.scienceandentertainmentexchange.org/blog/girls-just-want-have-sums-mathematically-gifted-women-televisionfilm#commentsSmashing the Stereotypes
http://www.scienceandentertainmentexchange.org/blog/smashing-stereotypes
<div class="field field-name-body field-type-text-with-summary field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even" property="content:encoded"><p>There is a scene that takes place at a math tournament in the 2004 film <em>Mean Girls</em> wherein each team must pick the weakest member from the other team to compete in a tie-breaking “sudden death” round. The boys on one team don’t even need to mull it over: they automatically pick the token female on the opposing team – because everyone knows girls aren’t as good as boys at math. Right?</p>
<p>Wrong. A new report on “Gender, Culture and Mathematics Performance,” concludes that there is no innate difference in the mathematical ability of girls and boys. Authored by Janet Hyde and Janet Mertz of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, the report appeared in June in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Hyde and Mertz’s latest report builds on their 2008 study that appeared in Science, which examined the SAT results and math scores of 7 million students and found that the girls matched the performance of the boys from second grade all the way through to the eleventh grade.</p>
<p>Granted, there were a few minor gender disparities, but Hyde and Mertz argue that these are not due to biological differences, but to socio-cultural factors. They point to the World Economic Forum’s measure of gender equality in various countries as evidence. “In countries where there is little or no measured gap between boys and girls in math performance, those are the countries with the greatest gender equality,” said Mertz. “That leads us to believe any math gender gap is cultural, not biological.” </p>
<p>This prejudice against women in math and science dates back thousands of years and still pervades popular culture. History gives us the occasional rare exception to the rule. In 18th-century France, Emilie du Chatelet defied her father’s protests to pursue her interest in math and science. Fifty years later, Sophie Germain studied math in secret under the bedclothes at night, and masqueraded as a male student at the Ecole Polytechnique in Paris, eventually developing Germain primes – prime numbers where, if you double them and add 1, the answer is another prime number. Victorian England had Mary Somerville, another self-taught mathematician who defied the cultural stereotypes of her age. Her passion for math was so strong, she was revising a paper the day before she died at 92.</p>
<p>Such figures are often dismissed as anomalies, which is why we need more researchers like Hyde and Mertz to collect more and more data on this topic. And it’s why we need skilled communicators to spread the word and erode all those lingering negative assumptions. “There is a persistent stereotype that girls and women are just not as good at math as boys and men,” Hyde said. “The data we have indicate that’s just not true. I really think it’s important to get that word out and to chip away at that myth.” </p>
<p>That’s where Hollywood can help, bringing its consummate skill at communicating with mass audiences via an entertaining medium. People are inspired by what they see on the screen, and the images they see invariably color their perceptions. In the United States, for instance, skill in mathematics isn’t highly valued: both boys and girls who are good at math are labeled “nerds,” whereas in other cultures, proficiency with numbers is an admirable quality. The hit TV show Numb3rs counters that stereotype every week, by providing real-world contexts to demonstrate its tagline: “We all use math every day.”</p>
<p>Mean Girls perfectly captures those cultural factors – like peer pressure and social stereotypes – that traditionally have impeded the performance of girls in mathematics. Homeschooled in Africa for most of her early life by her anthropologist parents, Cady (played by Lindsay Lohan) didn’t absorb the subliminal message that women can’t do math – at least until she begins attending a regular high school. Then the inevitable peer pressure kicks in. She is urged by her peers not to join the high school math team, despite the fact that she has a gift for numbers. “It’s social suicide!” she is told. Within a few weeks, she is pretending to be bad at math to win over the cute boy in her calculus class.</p>
<p>But Hollywood gives us a happy ending. Cady embraces her gift for calculus, and also gets to be homecoming queen, proving that a girl can be pretty, popular, very smart, and even snag the cutest boy in school, just by being true to herself. It’s a message more young girls need to hear. Mean Girls is one tiny yet critical blow in the ongoing effort to shatter those lingering stereotypes. One day there won’t just be a token girl on high school math squads, there will be several, and they will match their male classmates in skill. That’s the kind of revolutionary long-term change that can happen when science and Hollywood combine forces.</p>
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</div></div></div><div class="field field-name-field-taxonomy field-type-taxonomy-term-reference field-label-above clearfix"><h3 class="field-label">Tags: </h3><ul class="links"><li class="taxonomy-term-reference-0"><a href="/blog-tags/women-science" typeof="skos:Concept" property="rdfs:label skos:prefLabel">women in science</a></li><li class="taxonomy-term-reference-1"><a href="/blog-tags/mathematics" typeof="skos:Concept" property="rdfs:label skos:prefLabel">mathematics</a></li><li class="taxonomy-term-reference-2"><a href="/blog-tags/calculus" typeof="skos:Concept" property="rdfs:label skos:prefLabel">calculus</a></li><li class="taxonomy-term-reference-3"><a href="/blog-tags/science-communication" typeof="skos:Concept" property="rdfs:label skos:prefLabel">science communication</a></li></ul></div>Wed, 01 Jul 2009 05:00:00 +0000host165 at http://www.scienceandentertainmentexchange.orghttp://www.scienceandentertainmentexchange.org/blog/smashing-stereotypes#comments