Iconoclastic (Snarky) Math -- Vi Hart

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Several of you mentioned Vi Hart as a positive influence, and I was delighted to hear that. When I discovered Vi Hart, 10-12 years ago, I was in a position to invite her to campus. So I contacted her. She was "just a kid", fresh out of college, and I was inviting her to give our big fall lecture (the Sehnert Lecture). I'd seen her "Doodling in Math: Sick Number Games" video, and was amazed, and sharing her work with everyone who would listen (and even some who wanted me to go away!:).

I suggested some possible dates for a visit, and told her that we'd be able to pay all her expenses and give her a $1000 honorarium. I thought that I was giving this kid a real opportunity -- a prestigious talk, a wad of cash, and we'd bring her in and have a lot of fun on campus. Vi responded that her price was $5000.

So I laughed, and emailed back, saying that I guessed we'd be inviting someone else. But I couldn't resist asking her what explained the five grand. No one that we'd ever invited wanted that kind of money for a talk (and we've had some very prestigious mathematicians over the years). She replied that she didn't like to travel; but that 5K would be enough to overcome her resistance...:)

Anyway, I'd never hold that against her; I've always loved her work. So here are four of her videos; for those of you who already know her, you may wonder at my choices -- never fear, I'll give you the opportunity to suggest your own favorites; those of you who don't yet know Vi, I hope that you'll be favorably impressed.

  1. Anti-Pi Rant, 3/14/14: There was one video I felt obliged to include this week, especially: this week features -Day! Yes, that's right: 3-14. Vi seems to put out a -Day video every year, but I really liked this "anti--Day" video.
  2. Doodling in Math: Sick Number Games. This was the first Vi Hart video I ever saw, and I was hooked. I mention each of these characters (Ulam, Pascal, Sirpinski) in my Math for Liberal Arts classes, but here was someone who could bring those ideas to life. But more than that, she taught me that Pascal's triangle is floating in a sea of zeros. She makes me look at things in new ways, and it's wonderful.
  3. Mobius Music Box. Vi Hart is not only a great mathematician (her father, by the way, is George Hart -- a REALLY famous mathematician); she is also a wonderful musician, as you will see here (and in the next video). Her ideas are transformational. Who would have thought of this, but Vi Hart? I bought one of these music box machines, and usually, when we have a chance to meet in person, I play some of my musical compositions using the music box (including my own Morbius music).
  4. Binary Hand Dance. This video is simply joyful, and teaches a bit about binary while slathering it with fun.

If you can't get enough, you may want to watch Vi Hart: Actually, Math is Awesome: the lecture that we could have had for $5000....:)


In each case, please first give your impressions of the video; then address the associated questions (or not! But I hope that you will...).

What's your favorite irrational number, and why? (okay, your favorite doesn't have to be irrational; it could even be complex!)

Anti-Pi Rant, 3/14/14

What did you doodle when you were in school (math-related preferred, but other doodles allowed!).

Doodling in Math: Sick Number Games

Can you think of any interesting applications of Mobius bands? (or some other unusual mathematical object?)

Mobius Music Box

(You can't answer "infinite strips of bacon!" That's my answer....)

There are 10 kinds of people in the world: those who understand binary, and those who don't. Do you?

Binary Hand Dance

Find another Vi Hart video to share!


Question 1 Response

Question 2 Response

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Question 4 Response