Saturday, April 4, 2015

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Among the challenges for anyone attempting haute vulgarisation in the exact sciences, is the following phenomenon, epigrammatically summed-up by Stephen Hawking:

“Every equation  halves the number of readers.”

Now, helpfully supplies realtime stats;  so we shall test that proposition experimentally.

This post has been up for twenty minutes now, and … lessee … by the meter, it is presently enjoying roughly a million pageviews, based upon the subject-line alone.  (Were we to add an actual photograph, it would probably crash the server.)

Let us then add one equation, and re-sample:

2 + 2 = 4

[Update, twenty minutes later]  Well, even that proved too much for most:  viewership has plummeted by half.
(Rather a simple repellent, that;  like the storefronts that play classical music to shoo away the teenagers.)

Let’s try again, with something more substantial:

Einstein field equation

Whoa -- overkill!  That one knocked out all but a hardy hundred-thousand!

Okay, let’s dial it back:

Fresnel formula

Aww, c’mon, gang, that’s just trig!  But ninety-percent of Web-surfers to this page have just dropped out, leaving a bare thousand.
Probably just a statistical fluke.   Let’s try again:


D-d-dang!  Hawking if anything put it too mildly.   Now there are only a sturdy hundred viewing this page.
Well, those formulae were all from physics (Hawking's field).   Let’s try again, with one from number-theory:

Riemann zeta function

Alright, end of experiment.   At this moment, there are only a bare ten readers viewing this page.

But these are the readers we want!


For many mathy goodies, click here:

[Update]  Advice to onanists:
Do not indulge that private vice.  It can lead to insanity, and it grows hair on your palms.

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