Archive for the ‘math’ Category

She Blinded Me With… Math!

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

My favorite panel so far

Science as we know it is a system of acquiring knowledge based on the scientific method and an organized body of knowledge gained through such research. Then there is science!—note the exclamation mark—which generally involves the crazy misadventures of mad scientists and inventors as they battle those destructive forces which uncontrolled experimentation has wrought and explore the lost corners of the natural world encountering beings and places beyond imagination. Works that might be adorned with this label include Matt Fraction’s The Five Fists of Science and Phil Foglio’s Girl Genius series.

Perhaps feeling that there was a void to be filled (or not), Sydney Padua has created a series of comics about Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage that could perhaps be described as—math!

The comic strips are largely fiction; in the comic Lovelace and Babbage use the power of the difference engine to solve problems and fight evil , but in reality Lovelace died young and Babbage never built his calculating machines. However, each crazy misadventure is informed by actual facts and research, and there is the occasional strip based in reality, like Ada Lovelace—The Origin and this guest column for BBC TechLab, with snippets of dialog and other information taken from their original writings.

Sydney Padua is an animator, which shows in the expressiveness of his work. The Lovelace and Babbage stuff is being kept on a separate site from her main portfolio, which is probably a wise choice, as there is quite a bit of it. In addition to the main comics, the site is stuffed in every nook and cranny with sketches, designs, single-panel cartoons, and lots and lots of historical information.

Attack of the Killer Trinomials

Tuesday, September 7th, 2010

Continuing our coverage of all things Gene Yang (we brought you his Christian comics and his thoughts on The Last Airbender previously), I present to you some math. Factoring, to be exact.

Lots of comic book creators have day jobs to assist in paying for their craft; Gene Yang is no exception. He’s worked as a math teacher and technical advisor for multiple Catholic high schools in the California area since 1998. So, what do you do to marry these two passions into one package? You make lessons in the form of comics, of course. Gene created an entire website, Factoring with Mr. Yang and Mosley the Alien as part of his final project for a Master’s Degree in Education. The site is split into five lessons, with a bunch of examples thrown in to try and make factoring as simple as possible.

The lessons start small and work their way up, introducing Prime Factoring (reducing the factors of a number down to their prime numbers), Greatest Common Factors (the largest number you can factor into two different numbers), and the dreaded trinomials. Trinomials still give me nightmares as they were one of the few parts of algebra that took me a while to grasp, but the comics do a good job of explaining them anyway. As for the website itself, it is easy to navigate, has handy buttons to skip forward and backward in large chunks or one by one, and is devoid of flashy, over-the-top graphics. Whether you’re a teacher looking to assign a website to your kids, or if you’re a high schooler that needs help with your homework, I’d give Gene’s site a go. Then, let me know if you find a real-life scenario where algebra is needed; my high-school self is still trying to figure that one out.

Advanced Encryption Standard: A Play in Four Parts

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

The Advanced Encryption Standard is one of those things that is almost omnipresent on the Internet, but most people don’t know it exists—much less how it works. Jeff Moser seeks to rectify that in creating A Stick Figure Guide to the Advanced Encryption Standard, which is exactly what it says it is: a comic using stick figure art to explain AES as simply as possible.

Of course, “simply” is a relative term, which is why Moser has separated his guide into four parts, so that a reader can bail out whenever it gets too intense for them. I have to admit that this was me:

The math can get a bit thick at the end, which might not be a problem for someone currently engaged in studying mathematics or programming, but flies over the head of people like me, who haven’t had cause to use algebra, calculus, or anything more complicated than basic math past college. That’s not a problem with the comic, as the primary audience is people interested in programming or cryptography. For them it will probably be just fine, presented in a format easier on the eyes than lines of dry text documentation.