I wasn’t going to say anything about Mickey Rooney dying …

… because I figured everyone knew who Mickey Rooney was, so why even bother?

And then I saw this:


And this is why I don’t watch television news anymore. I can see maybe one person confusing Mickey Rooney (famed child actor and legendary movie star who died April 6, 2014) with Andy Rooney (famed old curmudgeon and irritating television guy who died Nov. 4, 2011). … No, strike that. I can’t see anyone confusing either of them.

This is Mickey Rooney:

This is Andy Rooney:

Jeez. I know who Lady Gaga and Ella Fitzgerald are.

But one thing for sure. Andy Rooney unlike his television brethren, knew who Mickey Rooney was.

This math argument just doesn’t add up

There’s a reason why this video pissed me off, but I’m not a math scholar and couldn’t explain it. Just the basic premise that if you add all positive numbers beginning with one, you’ll get a negative number is absurd.

The answer is infinity. Has to be. What bothered me is the guy pulled a trick by immediately going from 1+2+3+4+5+ …. = -1/12, and saying:

Rather than use these … let’s just think of this series.

No! Stop! That’s intentionally deceptive. If you’re making a case that 1+2+3+4+5+… = -1/12, use the numbers! Don’t use symbols. Using a different series is a red herring!

Well, that’s what I want to say. But as I said earlier, I’m not a math scholar, so I don’t have any defense for my argument because I don’t have the expertise.

Thank goodness for Mathbabe:

I’m not going to just vent about the cultural context, though, I’m going to mention what the actual mathematical object of study was in this video. Namely, it’s an argument that “prove” that we have the following identity:

“1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + … = -1/12.”

Wait, how can that be? Isn’t the left hand side positive and the right hand side negative?!

This mathematical argument is familiar to me – in fact it is very much along the lines of stuff we sometimes cover at the math summer program HCSSiM I teach at sometimes (see my notes from 2012 here). But in the case of HCSSiM, we do it quite differently. Specifically, we use it as a demonstration of flawed mathematical thinking. Then we take note and make sure we’re more careful in the future.

I feel better. Read Cathy O’Neal’s (Mathbabe’s) post here for the full counterargument. The headline: If it’s hocus pocus then it’s not math.

Facebook and too much information

One thing I’ve noticed in the news for a while is that when anyone does anything particularly weird, crazy or murderous, some reporter somewhere finds that person’s Facebook profile and gets all kinds of juicy details.

Because a lot of people spell out their whole lives on Facebook.

There’s even an insurance commercial that talks about how burglars use Facebook to determine when someone is leaving their house vacant for a significant amount of time:

And the thing about Facebook is that it seems to be impossible to remove things from it. Back in the days when I had to hire people for a living, I’d occasionally do a Google search on them and find their life histories on their Facebook pages. (Yeah, dude, that photo of you with no shirt on and in the hat that holds two beer cans that have straws leading to your mouth is really going to impress your future employer.) I tell younger family members to watch what they post.

So wouldn’t it be nice to have the ability to erase your Facebook profile? (From Slate):


Wow. That seems like a lot of work!