When TED asked Hannah Fry to write a book on the mathematics of finding true love, Fry happened to be — of all places — on her honeymoon.

“[My husband and I] have been together for a really long time, so the whole newlywed thing didn’t quite apply,” she says. “But I did feel like I was in a fortunate position in that I have experienced all of the [phases] of the book — being single, going on terrible dates. I’ve gone through all of those things.”** **

And yes, she says, knowing a bit more math would have helped along the way.** **

Take the proof that begins on page 25 of her brand-new TED Book, *The Mathematics of Love*: “Who to approach at a party.” This chapter explains mathematically why people who actively approach those they find attractive at parties, bars and events fare better than people who wait for others to approach them. “I’d always be the person that sat in the corner unable to approach anyone — I was terrible at doing that,” says Fry. “If I had known, I would’ve been way better as a single person. As it was, it was just a series of failures and disasters.”** **

How did Fry, a complexity theorist, end up writing about math and love? Well, in 2012, she gave a talk at her local TEDx event at University College London. (Watch the talk: “Is life really that complex?”) Across the pond a year later, in upstate New York, a group of student planners were looking for speakers for their own TEDx event, and Fry’s talk set their hearts aflutter. They sent her an invitation to speak. As TEDxBinghamtonUniversity organizer Steve Prosperi remembers it, “To my delight, she accepted rather quickly. Normally, we ask the speaker to talk on a specific topic — but we sort of just told Hannah to propose an idea of what she would like to talk about.”

A week later, Fry shared her idea: she wanted to investigate relationships through a mathematical lens. “It’s a frivolous topic that masks a much more serious point: that math has the potential to offer an important perspective on anything,” she says. “I wanted to prove my point by picking something as far away from math as I could possibly imagine, and demonstrate that — even then — there was insight that could be gained.”** **

“I’m aware that there’s a contradiction,” she says. “I don’t expect many people to take these tips really seriously. Preparing for this talk was about getting that balance right. Making sure that the topic was interesting, but that I simultaneously was communicating the much more important message.”

As a Brit speaking in New York state, Fry tried her best to sound American. “I failed on that,” she says, laughing as she recalls using the word “minger” — British slang for “a very unattractive person” — in her talk and getting blank stares from the audience.

While Fry might have failed at sounding American, her talk was a hit. And when it was posted on the TEDx Talks YouTube channel a couple of weeks later, TED Books editor Michelle Quint spotted it, and started thinking it could become a book.

“We pretty much immediately knew we wanted her as an author,” says Quint. “She was just so instantly compelling, and her enthusiasm for math— a subject that is tough to make exciting—was completely infectious. We were taken by Hannah’s blend of wry wit and brilliance.”

Fry’s idea for the book was to boil all the information she discovered in her research into one coherent narrative. “I wanted to make it a story. I wanted to start with somebody who was single and looking for love, and then take them through being at a party or perhaps being online, and then the dating situation, and then thinking about marriage, and then actually getting married, and then managing a long-term relationship,” she says. “I wanted it to be a story so that everybody at every stage had a chapter that was relative to them at that exact point in time.”

*The Mathematics of Love* takes its readers through proofs, patterns, algorithms and equations that can help them understand the aspects of love in a new way. “I want people to enjoy reading it, and then as they leave, realize that they’ve learned something,” says Fry.** **

In the end, Fry says that while she herself can sometimes be cynical about love, the book that grew out of her TEDxBinghamtonUniversity talk is quite optimistic. “The whole way through, with all of these different bits of data which I got from all these different places, all of them say something quite nice, warm and positive,” she says. “I think this idea that you’re wandering around waiting for ‘the one,’ it’s really depressing. This book shows that if you look at it in a different way, none of that need apply.”

*Hannah Fry’s *The Mathematics of Love *is available through **Amazon**, **Barnes & Noble**, **Google Play**, **Indiebound** or **iTunes**. Her talk will be posted on TED.com on February 13, 2015.*

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Pixar films are known for their thoughtful storytelling and groundbreaking animation. One of the coolest things about these movies: the math that Pixar’s team is actually *inventing* to improve the audience experience and the look of the characters. We caught up with Pixar’s Research Lead, Tony DeRose—who gave the TED-Ed Lesson, “The math behind the movies,” about how arithmetic, trigonometry and geometry helped bring Woody and the rest of your favorite characters to life—to hear more. Bonus: we got to hear about his own progression from building model rockets to creating Oscar-winning characters.

**What got you interested in mathematics as a kid?**

I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t interested in science, but my interest in mathematics really began when I was in 7th grade. I was into building model rockets, and my 7th grade science teacher, Mr. Belknap, showed me how to use trigonometry to calculate how high the rockets went. I thought it was magical that such a thing could be done by scratching equations on paper. I’ve been hooked ever since.

**How did you end up at Pixar?**

Before joining Pixar, I was a professor at the University of Washington teaching computer science and doing research in computer graphics. There were only a few people doing computer graphics at that time, so everybody knew everybody. Ed Catmull, the president of Pixar, was part of that community, so we stayed in touch from time to time. As *Toy Story* was being completed, Ed and I started talking about the possibility of me moving to Pixar. The opportunity to help develop the technology needed to tell compelling stories using computer graphics was too good to pass up, so I did the unthinkable and left a tenured position at UW. My parents thought I was crazy, by the way, but they trusted my decision.

**Who is your favorite animated character that you have personally worked on?**

Geri from the short film *Geri’s Game*. He was the first character I worked on, and he won an Oscar. He also made a cameo appearance in *Toy Story 2* as the toy cleaner.

**What advice would you give someone who wanted to use math to make movies?**

Learn as much mathematics as you can, particularly applied math. The areas of mathematics we use most heavily today are Euclidean and affine geometry, trigonometry, linear algebra, calculus and numerical analysis. We don’t really know what the mathematical tools of tomorrow might be, so we’re counting on the next generation of employees to tell us.

**What’s your favorite part of your job?**

I love learning new things! Learning things that are well-established is fun, but my favorite part is solving problems that have never been solved before.

*This post originally ran on the TED-Ed Blog, which is dedicated to stories and insights from TED’s education initiative. More from the TED-Ed Blog:*

*5 TED-Ed Lessons that are out of this world**Colorado TED-Ed Club presents a spectacular workshop at 2014 YouthCaN Conference**Goofs, gabs, kinks & crossroads: A TEDx speaker provides tips on practicing your presentation**Celebrate Shakespeare’s birthday with some of his best insults and pickup lines*

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In New York City, it’s common to hear ten different languages just on your walk to work in the morning. For the students at Lycée Français de New York, that kind of multicultural exposure doesn’t stop at the schoolhouse doors. With a combination French-English curriculum, this PreK-12 school educates students who represent more than 50 nationalities. And when the LFNY TED-Ed Club chose a topic for their final presentation, the students were drawn to language — more specifically, the possibility of a universal one.

LFNY’s presentation, titled “Math Universe,” is a collaboration that combines individual research presentations from each member of the club into a larger final piece, which was presented by club member Pierre Hirschler. Marie De Azevedo, a senior at LFNY, explains it: “We found a wider question — which was ‘Is math the language of the universe?’ — and we broke it into multiple parts. We looked at the history of wanting to unify math as one whole system or one whole concept, and we looked at why people want this, and how it works or doesn’t work.”

When asked about his favorite discovery during his research, club member Grégoire Gindrey said, “I like the fact that there are different models in physics — relativity, Newton’s model, etc. — and we tend to think that one’s wrong and one’s right, but it actually just happens that they’re all right, but in their respective point of reference.”

The students’ daily exposure to many cultures helped give them insight into this idea. Gindrey continued, “Since we’re in a French high school, but in an American city — and especially in New York — we’re in contact with different cultures. I think we understand in some ways the notion of not having just one unified model, but different models; that helped us in our comprehension of the problem.”

Along with learning quite a bit of math, the students also honed their research and presentation skills. Gindrey says, “It was great being able to do research with others, so that if someone had a different point of view, they could always join the discussion. We could find a completely different conclusion because there were a lot of different points of view.”

Check out Lycée Français de New York’s insights on unity in math by watching their full presentation here:

This post first ran on the TED-Ed Blog. Read much more about TED’s education initiative TED-Ed »

Find out more about TED-Ed Clubs »

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Cartoonist (and former NASA roboticist) Randall Munroe illustrates the questions that keep you (or at least him) up at night. Whether that’s “What would happen if you tried to hit a baseball pitched at 90% the speed of light?” or “How much of the Earth’s currently-existing water has ever been turned into a soft drink at some point in its history?” he’s got you covered.

On the TED2014 stage, the mind behind the webcomic xkcd — which might be the only comic with a haiku made of code, the sub-title “drawn during an endless NASA lecture,” the directive “What Would Escher Do?”, or (finally!) the extra-credit question for the Turing test — explains the one question from a reader that really stumped him.

“If all digital data were stored on punch cards, how big would Google’s data warehouse be?” reader James Zetlen asked Munroe in an email message. A question Munroe couldn’t just Google, he set off on an information scavenger hunt. “I started with money,” he says, “Google has to reveal how much they spend” — and with this information, he could narrow down the answer by putting caps on things like the number of data centers Google could afford to build, and how much of the world’s hard drive market they take up.

Next, he moved to electricity. Google has released numbers on its average power use, he found, so with that, paired with information on Google’s spending, things got easier. “When you know how much they spent, and also know how much power it takes, you can use the ratio of those numbers to figure out for data centers where you don’t have that information,” he says.

He likes the mystery of working with limited information, of building a model to solve for what you don’t know with what you do. “It’s nothing more than solving a Sudoku puzzle,” he says. But it’s exciting. And satisfying. “I love calculating these kinds of things,” he says, “not because I love math for its own sake; I love that it lets you take some things you know, and by moving some symbols around, you find out something you didn’t know that’s surprising.”

Did he ever answer Zetlen’s question? Well, sort of. On xkcd, he writes: “Let’s assume Google has a storage capacity of 15 exabytes, or 15,000,000,000,000,000,000 bytes. A punch card can hold about 80 characters, and a box of cards holds 2000 cards … 15 exabytes of punch cards would be enough to cover my home region, New England, to a depth of about 4.5 kilometers. That’s three times deeper than the ice sheets that covered the region during the last advance of the glaciers.”

The mystery didn’t end there, though. He never expected to get an answer from Google, but one day, he did. They contacted him saying, “Someone here has an envelope for you.”

“It was punch cards,” he says. The cards contained codes that revealed codes that revealed equations that revealed more equations, which finally led to … “No comment.”

“I have a lot of stupid questions,” Munroe says, “and I love that math gives me the power to answer them sometimes.” So next time you have a question that you don’t know how to calculate, send it to him. We think he’ll find a way.

(And we’re still waiting for an answer about the emoticons.)

Munroe’s first book, *What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions*, will be released in September.

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Arthur Benjamin is perhaps the world’s leading mathemagician and, in today’s talk, he aims to show the creativity, beauty and wonder that is as much a part of math as logic. Arthur Benjamin: The magic of Fibonacci numbers Stepping onto the TEDGlobal 2013 stage, Benjamin takes us on a spirited tour of the Fibonacci numbers, where the patterns to be found go far beyond simply adding two consecutive numbers to get the next. Math is the science of patterns, says Benjamin, and isn’t it incredible that as we note the arithmetical significance of this sequence, that we can also see it in action all around us?

“Fibonacci numbers appear in nature surprisingly often,” says Benjamin. “The number of petals on a flower is typically a Fibonacci number. Or the number of spirals on a sunflower or a pineapple.”

Benjamin’s talk reminds us of several other TED classics. Human beings have a proclivity for patterns, and this collection of talks sheds light on how, and why, we lock into patterns and use them in countless facets of life.

Michael Shermer: The pattern behind self-deception
Michael Shermer: The pattern behind self-deceptionThe brain is wired to see patterns and this is not just the case in humans. Birds in a box, with two holes to peck, will continue the pattern of action that resulted in the delivery of a food reward, even if the food is really dispensed randomly. This is just one of the ways Michael Shermer, the director of the Skeptics Society, cleverly gives us insight into our innate “patternicity.” Often, the tendency to follow patterns can lead us to offbeat, incorrect or out-of-this-world conclusions. |

Patricia Kuhl: The linguistic genius of babies
Patricia Kuhl: The linguistic genius of babiesOur innate nature of pattern-recognizing is even evident in a baby’s ability to learn language. By “taking statistics” and finding trends in the words constantly spoken to and around them, young children identify and absorb the cultural characteristics of their native language. In this talk, Patricia Kuhl describes this fascinating — and critical — period of language acquisition. |

Beau Lotto: Optical illusions show how we see
Beau Lotto: Optical Illusions show how we seePatterns are essential in our brains’ ability to make sense of the infinite possibilities of the stimuli in our surroundings. We use guidance from neighboring clues and our own memories of past experience to fill in the blank that is the perception of the present. Beau Lotto, exposes the assumptions that the brain makes based on such patterns through the trickery of optical illusion. |

Jean-Baptiste Michel: The mathematics of history
Jean Baptiste: The mathematics of historyPatterns expose consistencies throughout human history that teach us about the past and allow us to anticipate the future. Did you know there is a mathematic equation that links the language of the King of England in the 9th century to Jay-Z? Jean-Baptiste Michel has found this equation and sees great potential in finding more intriguing trends in our time of digitized data. |

David McCandless: The beauty of data visualization
David McCandless: The beauty of data visualizationData journalist David McCandless turns complicated data sets — worldwide military spending versus worldwide charity giving, media panic over disease and disaster — into a landscape that you can explore with your eyes. Why? To make the invisible patterns of our world highly visible. |

Ron Eglash: The fractals at the heart of African designs
Ron Eglash: The fractals at the heart of African designsEthno-mathematician Ron Eglash noticed a fascinating pattern as he began to study at African villages in many different parts of the continent — that they were built on fractal geometry, with smaller structures resembling the larger structures. These fractal patterns are also visible in African art and architecture — even in popular board games and divination practices. |

And a bonus TEDx talk:

**Laurie Frick: Seeing the hidden language in art**

Identifying patterns help humans to find clarity in seemingly useless information. Laurie Frick, an engineer turned artist, collects and simplifies millions of data points of human tracking into visuals that expose trends amidst seeming background noise. Beginning with measuring her own minute-to-minute sleep patterns, in this talk from TEDxAustin, she describes a form of art that celebrates the surveillance and reveals the structure that makes the human condition more accessible.

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If you look closely at the Lideta Mercato — a shopping mall in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, designed by TED Fellow Xavier Vilalta — you will notice a unique pattern on its skin, inspired by the beautiful, bold patterns found on Ethiopian women’s dresses. But if you look closer, you will also notice something else: that the design is based on fractal geometry.

Xavier Vilalta: Architecture at home in its community In today’s talk, Vilalta shares that when he first was approached about designing this mall, his instinct was “to run away.” He hated the idea of building a big, Western-inspired mall that was generally empty because no one could afford the shops, that needed tons of energy to cool because its glass façade trapped the heat, and that took no inspiration whatsoever from Ethiopian traditions around it. In this talk, Vilalta shares how he approached this design, which is currently in the process of being built, by making the mall more like an Ethiopian open-air market with small shops. Rather than glass walls, he used concrete blocks with square cutouts to create a textile-like façade that would allow cross-ventilation.

But there is one story he didn’t tell in the talk: how he recognized that the pattern of the façade needed to follow fractal geometry. For that story, we’ll need to back up several years, to 2009.

At that time, Vilalta — who lives and works in Barcelona, Spain — had a Catalan client who wanted to build a vocational school in Ethiopia, the Melaku Center. Vilalta tells the TED Blog that, because his architecture is all about connecting buildings to the nature and culture around them, thinking about this project was a challenge. “It was the first time I was operating in an environment that was not like mine,” he said. “Trying to relate the project to the site, I had to really understand a whole new culture.”

Ron Eglash: The fractals at the heart of African designs
He began doing tons of research on design, architecture and culture in Ethiopia and nearby African countries. And he happened upon a book: Ron Eglash’s *African Fractals*. Entranced, he watched Eglash’s TED Talk, “The fractals at the heart of African design,” and kept on reading about how fractals — mathematical, recursive patterns that explain the geometry of nature, with smaller parts mirroring larger parts — also form the basis for the layout of African villages and the patterns that appear in African art.

Vilalta was fascinated.

“I found it extremely interesting, this scientific way of looking at African art and architecture. That was a whole new discovery for me,” says Vilalta. “This opened new possibilities in terms of architectural design. Thinking with fractals and geometry in designs was like a complete new world.”

Vilalta designed the Melaku Center campus — which is as big as three square blocks in Barcelona — on a fractal-based hexagonal grid, creating smaller communities within the school. Classrooms, workshops, administration buildings, a library, living spaces, dining spaces, a health care center, a supermarket and more were laid out in a scalar, circular mesh. Once the design was completed, Vilalta reached out to Eglash with an email. It struck up a working friendship that exists to this day.

Eglash tells the TED Blog, “I get a lot of inquiries, some of them pretty off the wall – hate mail from neo-Nazis, or strange declarations from mystics. Xavier’s email, on the other hand, was the kind you actually want to get.”

After a few correspondences, Eglash mentioned the TED Fellows program to Vilalta, as he had met several TED Fellows while giving his talk at TEDGlobal 2007. Eglash says, “[The Fellows] had a terrific combination of creative energy and practical skills. I knew [Xavier] would fit right in.”

At Eglash’s prompting, Vilalta decided to apply. He joined the TED Fellows class of 2011.

But Eglash’s influence didn’t stop there. Later, when Vilalta was commissioned to design a master plan for a university in Angola, he used fractal geometry again to place each building. And in the Lideta Mercato in Ethiopia, he used fractal design as a means of enclosure.

“The fractal geometry is a part of the design of the façade, it’s done with the same patterns as Ethiopian women’s dresses,” explains Vilalta. “These fractal geometries are used as something that people can relate to, as something of their own culture. But at the same time as something that has function. It’s for ventilating and lighting the building too.”

Eglash gives this new work the thumbs up.

“The Lideta Mercato design is beautiful, of course, but for me it is especially satisfying to see how [Xavier] has managed to nurture the fractal tradition from Africa into this new form, and help the next generation carry that into the future,” says Eglash. “It’s more than just aesthetics: the scaling structure provides a practical means of providing airflow and improving the building’s ecological fit.”

Sure, people walking past the building are unlikely to say, “Oh look, the façade uses fractal geometry.” But the design does strike an unconscious chord. Vilalta tells a story that illustrates this.

“This building is now getting finished, and I saw someone standing in front of the billboard there in the construction site with his wife and pointing to the billboard, and pointing to his wife, and saying, ‘Look, this is like your dress,’” he says. “For me it’s like, ‘Okay, they understood.’ The architecture needs to belong to people, you know? … When people make it theirs, that’s when it feels good.”

Watch Vilalta’s talk for more on the Lideta Mercato and on the biggest project he has ever taken on, an apartment complex called “Le Grand Tapis” in Tunis, Tunisia, which has a truly amazing park on the roof. Watch Eglash’s talk to understand much more about what fractals are and how they underpin African art, design and architecture. And in the TEDxMadrid talk below, hear more about how fractals have infused Vilalta’s work. (English speakers, just turn the closed captioning subtitles on.)

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Adam Spencer isn’t just the host of the Australian radio program *Triple J Breakfast Show*. He also has a degree in pure mathematics and, in today’s talk,
Adam Spencer: Why I fell in love with monster prime numbers
he ascends into “geek heaven” to explains his deep love of massive prime numbers, the largest of which was discovered earlier this year and is 17.5 million digits long.

So what is it about math? Spencer explains in the teaser video above why this topic should be of interest to anyone, even those who are allergic to numbers. “It’s about our incredible world and our ability to comprehend it,” he says.

With his TED Talk, Spencer is launching a YouTube channel dedicated to the hunt for monster prime numbers, to math and science breakthroughs in general, and to videos of generally cool stuff. Also on the channel — this Q&A with Spencer from TEDxSydney about his experience speaking at TED2013.

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In our three-dimensional world, all we can experience is length, width and height. Unless one of your friends is a hypercube, it’s hard to imagine just what it would look like to live beyond the 3D. Would you like it? Would you understand it? Would you even believe it was real?

In this spunky TED-Ed lesson, Alex Rosenthal and George Zaidan lead us into a mathematical playland and test the very limits of our imagination. Inspired by Edwin Abbott’s 1884 novella *Flatland*, they offer one way to conceive of a fourth, fifth or 11^{th} dimension, and challenge us to open our eyes to a world outside what we’re built to perceive.

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Mathemagician Arthur Benjamin says that there are three reasons we learn math: calculation, application and inspiration. Yes, inspiration.

Arthur Benjamin: A performance of "Mathemagic" Math is the science of patterns, and learning it teaches us not just logic but creative thinking, says Benjamin. So why, when math is beautiful and exciting, is so much of what we learn in school about preparing for tests or passing on to the next grade?

To highlight this point, Benjamin introduces us to Fibonacci numbers — a name-drop that gets loud applause on the TEDGlobal stage. The person we call Fibonacci was actually “named” Leonardo of Pisa and he pioneered much of the arithmetic we use. The Fibonacci sequence is:

1 1 2 3 5 8 13 21 34 55 …

Arthur Benjamin: Teach statistics before calculus! Each number in the sequence is the sum of the two that came before it. This sequence of numbers occurs in nature surprisingly often (like in the number of petals on a flower), and the sequence has other special properties too — if you square the sequence, remarkable patterns emerge. Benjamin shows us this spatially through a simple diagram — all the numbers in the sequence form a rectangle made of smaller squares.

“I show all this to you because, like all of mathematics, there’s a beautiful side of it that doesn’t get attention in school,” Benjamin concludes. “Mathematics is not just solving for *x*, it’s also figuring out why.”

On the Friday of the conference, Benjamin returned to the stage to perform a mathemagic trick. He pulls an attendee out of the audience and onto stage and asks her to tell him her birthday. He creates a 4×4 grid and adds the digits of her birthdate together in the top row. The sum is 41. Benjamin takes just a few seconds to fill in the rest of grid with numbers. Then, testing the audience’s arithmetic skills, he adds up each column and row. They all add up to the magic number 41. The same is even true of the diagonals on the grid … and amazingly of the center square. In fact, the corners add up to 41 too. How?

Inspiration, indeed.

*Arthur Benjamin’s talk is now available for viewing. Watch it on TED.com »
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Here, three great TED Talks about math to help you celebrate his birthday.

- Scott Rickard: The beautiful math behind the ugliest music
- Conrad Wolfram: Teaching kids real math with computers
- Robert Lang: The math and magic of origami

And below, a painting of the man himself:

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How do we negotiate when to sell a stock, whether to rat out a partner in crime, how to play a poker hand, or what to ask for when negotiating a job offer? In each of these situations, the actions of others will greatly affect our outcomes — and yet, we have no idea what they are thinking. These are the kinds of situations that game theory has helped mathematicians and economists parse for decades.

In today’s talk, given at TEDxCalTech, behavioral economist Colin Camerer surveys new research that is taking game theory to the next level — by taking fMRI and EEG scans of people’s brains as they engage in bargaining games. The idea is to see what brain circuitry is used as people make decisions, and to map out what agreement and disagreement look like in the brains of humans … and in chimpanzees, who appear to be better at these negotiations than we are.

While the seeds of game theory were planted as early as Plato, the field gained prominence in the 1940s and 1950s, thanks to the work of John von Neumann (who wrote *Theory of Games and Economic Behavior*) and John Nash (of *A Beautiful Mind* fame). Since then, eight game theorists have won the Nobel Prize in Economics. To hear about new neuroscience approaches to this classic area of study, watch Camerer’s talk. And below, read some recent several articles about how game theory can apply to our everyday lives.

- What makes a person decide to donate a kidney? As Stanford economist Alvin Roth has shown, it is largely a question of game theory and market economics. According to the October 2012 Reuters story, “Alvin Roth Transformed Kidney Donation System,” in 2004, Roth created the New England Program for Kidney Exchange, a method that used computers — and an algorithm designed by UCLA mathematician Lloyd Shapley — to pair groups of donors and create the types of kidney donation chains depicted on
*Grey’s Anatomy.*Before this system, says Reuters, there were just 19 kidney transplants from live donors in the United States. In 2011, that number rose to 443. In total, about 2000 people have received kidneys through Roth’s system. And in October of 2012, both Roth and Shapley were awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics for their work in taking “stable allocations” from an abstract concept to a reality.

. - Another real-life problem that Roth has tackled: in extremely large school systems, how can students be matched with the right school? In the
*Forbes*magazine story, “What Al Roth Did to Win the Nobel Prize in Economics,” journalist Susan Adams takes a look at how Roth leveraged the tools of game theory to tame the high school matching system in New York City, where 80,000 8th graders must be dispersed to 700 schools every year. She writes, “Before Roth got involved, the matching system was so screwed up that a third of the city’s eighth graders didn’t even participate.”

. - In their book,
*It’s Not You, It’s the Dishes**,*journalists Paula Szuchman and Jenny Anderson wonder if the daily negotiations of marriage are more like playing a game of poker than most people realize. In the article “Marriage and the Art of Game Theory,” which ran on the Daily Beast in July of 2012, Szuchman writes, “Game theory is the study of how we make decisions in strategic situations. Classic examples: the Cuban missile crisis, soccer penalty kicks, and the first scene of*The Dark Knight*. When you find yourself debating whether to wait for the bus another minute or give up and walk, you’re facing a game-theory dilemma … To cooperate or not to cooperate? To budge or stand your ground? To say ‘OK, fine’ or ‘not a chance’? These are questions married people find themselves asking with surprising frequency.”

. - Could game theory explain why so much head-butting happens in the United States Congress, especially as they approached the fiscal cliff in late 2012? (Watch Adam Davidson’s talk explaining the fiscal cliff.) In
*The Atlantic*op-ed “How Game Theory Explains Washington’s Horrible Gridlock,” Mohamed A. El-Erian applies the principles of game theory to Congress’ negotiation over the budget. He writes, “Here is the typical cycle: Responding to the ‘national call,’ the two parties’ initial narratives trend towards ‘grand bargains’ aimed at removing headwinds to growth, jobs, and prosperity. As differences prevail, this gets replaced by a ‘mini bargain,’ or one that would deliver some progress together with momentum for future success. As this also proves elusive, negotiations get quite acrimonious. If and when an 11th-hour compromise emerges, it lacks both content and momentum: The majority of meaningful decisions are postponed, and both Democrats and Republicans emerge from the experience more bitter — at each other, and also within their respective parties.” (Also see: “Game Theory Expert Analyzes Fiscal Cliff.”)

. - Of course, the economic standoff of late 2012 wasn’t fully resolved — it was in large part delayed, leading to the more recent “sequester.” In the article “The Strange Game Theory of the Sequester,”
*Pacific Standard*writer David Dayen wonders if Barack Obama is using game theory tactics in moving forward on sharp budget cuts. He writes, “Making clear the impact of forced austerity may offer the best hope for discrediting and reversing it. When faced with closures of national parks, shutdowns of government offices, delays in needed services like the disposition of federal benefits, and long lines at the airport due to a reduction in TSA personnel and air traffic controllers, the thinking goes, perhaps Congress will get moving on a less painful solution.”

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**Why you hate math: Laura Overdeck at TEDxWestVillageWomen**

When dining out, how often do you slide your check across the table and wait for someone else to figure out the tip? Laura Overdeck explores the ways a cultural aversion to math is costing Americans — especially young girls — and what we can do to take the anxiety out of mathematics. *(Filmed at **TEDxWestVillageWomen**)*

**Can you forgive a politician?: Gervase Warner at TEDxPortofSpain**

The people of Trinidad and Tobago are well-regarded all over the world, says Gervase Warner. So why is there so much crime, corruption, and fear in the country? In an impassioned talk, Warner delves into a legacy of political dysfunction and distrust that holds lessons for the citizens of all nations. *(Filmed at **TEDxPortofSpain**)*

**Think like your ancestors: Suzannah Lipscomb at TEDxSPS**

People tend to overemphasize similarities and ignore differences when comparing the present with the past, says Suzannah Lipscomb. But differences have a lot to teach us. At TEDxSPS, she examines how analyzing the habits of our ancestors might give us a greater appreciation and understanding of people today. *(Filmed at **TEDxSPS**)*

**Hey doctor, wait longer to cut the umbilical cord!: Alan Greene at TEDxBrussels**

When a baby is born, the first thing doctors do is clamp and sever the umbilical cord. But could this common practice actually harm the infant? Alan Greene warns that millions of kids might be affected by not having the opportunity to receive crucial oxygen-, iron-, and stem cell-rich blood after birth, and calls for doctors around the world to optimize the timing of umbilical cord removal. *(Filmed at** TEDxBrussels**)*

Below, find some highlights from the TEDx blog this week:

- 4 TEDx Talks to celebrate
*Curiosity*’s new discovery - Tyler DeWitt at TEDxBeaconStreet wants to make science education fun
- Chaos, squeaky toys, and deranged millionaires: 5 TEDx Talks to get you laughing
- Novelist Young-ha Kim expresses the importance of imagination at TEDxSeoul

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And while you’re at it, watch 9-year-old Chirag Singh’s adorable talk from TEDxYouth@BommerCanyon, “My passion for Pi.”

*Note: This post originally published on 3/14/2013. *

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Wolfram’s website, ComputerBasedMath.org, supports curriculums that allow teachers to focus on real-world math problems, so students can study concepts rather than calculation. As Wolfram says on the site:

“Rather than topics like solving quadratic equations or factorizing polynomials, Computer-Based Math focuses on using the power of math to solve real-world problems like, ‘Should I insure my mobile?,’ ‘How long will I live?’ or ‘What makes a beautiful shape?'”

This week, Wolfram announced its first test country: Estonia will be using the program to create a new statistics curriculum for students. Pilot testing of the curriculum in 30 classrooms will start in early 2014. From there, they plan to roll it out to all schools shortly after completing testing in September 2014.

Why adopt this program? The country’s Minister of Education and Research, Jaak Aaviksoo, says, “We want to lead the world in rethinking education in the technology-driven world.”

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*You learn something new every day. This is especially true if you watch TED-Ed lessons, which use animation to bring to life topics as varied as “Insults by Shakespeare” and “Pizza Physics.” As a holiday gift, we’re bringing you a few of the TED-Ed’s team’s favorite talks of the year. Here, a second look at the lesson How does math guide our ships at sea? from George Christoph.*

This video is a triple threat! A fascinating lesson (math with a twist), gorgeous animation and music that really taps into your pathos. Combined, the three aspects make for a truly inspiring video. Watch, and you will want to go out on an adventure!

A few more year-end TED-Ed picks:

Poet Jane Hirshfield talks through The Art of the Metaphor >>

Trevor Maber helps us Rethink thinking >>

Bill Nye sends a sundial to Mars >>

**Browse all the great video lessons on TED-Ed >>**

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Mathematics gets down to work in these talks, breathing life and logic into everyday problems. Prepare for math puzzlers both solved and unsolvable, and even some still waiting for solutions.

**Ron Eglash: The fractals at the heart of African designs**

When Ron Eglash first saw an aerial photo of an African village, he couldn’t rest until he knew — were the fractals in the layout of the village a coincidence, or were the forces of mathematics and culture colliding in unexpected ways? Here, he tells of his travels around the continent in search of an answer.

**How big is infinity?**

There are more whole numbers than there are even numbers … right? Actually, there aren’t. This TED-Ed talk makes it crystal clear why not, in a lesson on the infinite infinities and math’s unanswerable questions.

**Arthur Benjamin does “Mathemagic”**

A whole team of calculators is no match for Arthur Benjamin, as he does astounding mental math in the blink of an eye. But he’s not too worried you’ll steal his show, he says, and so he’s willing to share his secret in this mesmerizing talk.

**Scott Rickard: The beautiful math behind the ugliest music**

What makes a piece of music beautiful? Pattern and repetition, says Scott Rickard, as he sets out to create just the opposite – a piece mathematically calculated to be totally devoid of repetition. Listen if you dare.

**Margaret Wertheim: The beautiful math of coral
**The intricate forms of a coral reef can only be expressed through hyperbolic geometry — and the only way humans can model it is by crocheting! Margaret Wertheim and her crew of crotcheters engage the abstract and turn this traditional feminine handicraft into a large-scale environmental statement.

**Benoit Mandelbrot: Fractals and the art of roughness**

The world is based on roughness, explains legendary mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot. From cauliflower to the human lungs, he shows us objects that defy traditional measurements and consistently inspire curiosity and wonder.

**Michael Mitchell: A clever way to estimate enormous numbers
**Have you ever tried to guess how many pieces of candy there are in a jar? Physicist Enrico Fermi was very good at problems like these. A guide on how to make reasonable guesses on huge numbers by using the power of 10.

**Geoffrey West: The surprising math of cities and corporations
**Physicist Geoffrey West sees an urgent need for a scientific theory of cities, and he proposes we look to biology. Using the scaling principles that govern living things, he plots the way that everything – the good, the bad and the ugly – increases as cities grow.

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*Were you intrigued by “The $8 Billion iPod,” Rob Reid’s short TEDTalk about the new science of Copyright Math (TM)? We were. We needed to know more. More numbers, Rob! we said. And Rob (whose comic novel Year Zero comes out in July) sent us this treatise, a master class in creative mathematics:*

A few weeks back, I gave a short TED talk about “Copyright Math.” Since TED draws both Hollywood and Silicon Valley bigwigs, I thought it would be a great venue for raising certain rights issues that have been a sore point between the two industries for years. But January’s brawl over the proposed SOPA law was a raw and recent memory. So I decided to make my talk playful, rather than sermonizing. Everyone can laugh at silly infographics. And who DOESN’T want to deface a Leave-it-to-Beaver-like Christmas scene with pirate-and-Santa graffiti?

Since the talk was so short, I couldn’t dive deeply into the numbers and sources that I based it on (which would have shattered the whimsical tone anyway). But even my silliest numbers were derived from actual research, performed by an actual Copyright Mathematician (me, that is). So I thought I’d use this blog post to put my sources and calculations out there for anyone who’d like to nerd out on the details.

First, the Motion Picture Association’s claims of $58 billion in actual US economic losses and 373,000 lost jobs came from this press release[1] (which can also be found on Scribd[2]). These numbers originated at a think tank called the “Institute for Policy Innovation” – an organization that *Businessweek* once profiled in an article called “Op-Eds for Sale.”[3] In it, an IPI analyst freely admitted to taking payoffs from disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff[4] in exchange for writing “op-ed pieces boosting the lobbyist’s clients.” The IPI’s president supported this behavior, saying it was neither wrong nor unethical, and dismissing those who apply “a naïve purity standard” to the business of writing op-eds.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that MPAA lobbyists paid the IPI to conjure up these numbers. But whatever their genesis, they’re not easy figures to support. In a February *New York Times* piece,[5] an MPAA spokesman did his best by attributing the eye-popping $58 billion sum to “piracy’s impact on a range of tangentially related industries — florists, restaurants, trucking companies, and so on.” *Florists*? Really? Exactly how many bouquets go unsold whenever someone swipes a copy of *My Sharona*?

Ignoring improbabilities like pirated steaks and daffodils, I looked at actual employment and headcount in actual content industries, and found nothing approaching the claimed losses. There are definitely concrete and quantifiable piracy-related losses in the American music industry. The Recording Industry Association’s website has a robust and credible database[6] that details industry sales going back to 1973, which any researcher can access for a few bucks (and annoying as I’ve found the RIAA to be on certain occasions, I applaud them for making this data available). I used it to compare the industry’s revenues in 1999 (when Napster debuted) to 2010 (the most recent available data). Sales plunged from $14.6 billion down to $6.8 billion — a drop that I rounded to $8 billion in my talk. This number is broadly supported by other sources, and I find it to be entirely credible.

But this pattern just isn’t echoed in other major content industries. My movie industry figures (showing significant growth from the rise of Napster to the present day) came from a meticulously researched report by BMO Capital Markets[7] called “Perspectives on the Filmed Entertainment Industry” which is sadly not currently findable on their website (and BMO — if you’re listening, please do the world a service, and at least publish “Exhibit 9” publicly!). My TV, satellite and cable figures (showing spectacular growth during the same period) came from the same outstanding report. I didn’t have time to discuss them during my talk, but numbers from local media analysts BIA/Kelsey showed robust growth in radio[8] in the years immediately following Napster’s debut. This was followed by a brief, agonizing contraction in the 2007-09 timeframe[9], which the organization attributes wholly to the recession, rather than piracy.[10]

So where is the missing $50 billion in piracy? It’s hard to accept that it’s foregone growth in markets that have grown in line with, or (in the case of the giant TV/ satellite/ cable market) far *faster* than historic norms. So we’re left looking for a market that *has *no historic norms. Because in such a case, one can tenuously argue that but for piracy, it *might* have grown at such a blistering rate as to make $50 billion in foregone sales at least hypothetically possible. So what significant American media market literally didn’t exist at all in the ’90s?

The best I could come up with was downloadable ringtones, which were first launched in Japan and Finland in 1998, [11] and didn’t appear on these shores until later.[12] Sure, citing ringtones was a punch line. But if the MPAA can document $50 billion in other pirated media, I’d love to hear about it.

And in case you’re wondering, at 30 seconds per ringtone, and $1.39 a pop (this was the lowest price I could find for ringtones anywhere, and I figured we’d get a bargain by buying in bulk), we’re looking at 34,218 years worth of ringtones — which, laid end to end, would stretch clear back to the late Neanderthal period.[13] And for you astrophysicists, the penny is ¾ of an inch in diameter.[14] 5.8 trillion of these suckers would therefore stretch for 68,655,303 miles, which can easily connect the Long Beach Westin to Mars when we’re on a close approach.[15] And for a mere $128, we could extend that journey clear to the auditorium that contains the TED stage. Meanwhile, my agricultural crop values all came from Wikipedia.[16]

As for the MPAA’s employment numbers, I compared them to data reported by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics in its 2010-11 “Career Guide to Industries.” This put the motion picture and video industry’s total employment at 361,900 jobs.[17] The 2000-01 edition of the same guide put employment at 270,000 in 1998.[18] The 2000-01 Guide simply uses “Motion Picture Production and Distribution” as the industry descriptor, but a close reading of both Guides seems to indicate that they’re talking about the same industrial sector, so I infer that the 1998 Guide used “Motion Picture” as shorthand for the broader filmed entertainment sector.

As for music industry employment, I took the average revenue per employee at Universal Music in 2010 (roughly $852,000),[19] at EMI in 2009 ($300,000),[20] and Warner Music Group in 2008 (about $875,000).[21] This gave me an average revenue-per-employee of about $675,000 throughout the industry. Applied to the industry’s 1999 revenue, this ratio implies total employment of about 22,000 at record labels, which I doubled to account for the retail side of the business as well. This is clearly an imperfect estimate, but even if it’s off by 100% (and I’m quite certain that it’s not), it doesn’t undermine my bigger point. In any event, I combined my music industry number with the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ filmed entertainment number to get my starting-point content industry employment. I then subtracted the claimed 373,000 in job losses to infer in the (obviously playful) “negative employment” statistic.

To me, the most depressing number in the presentation is the $150,000 maximum fine that Congress designates for “willfully” pirating a single copy of a single song under the Digital Theft Deterrence and Copyright Damages Improvement Act of 1999.[22] This number is grotesquely divorced from the actual damages and harm caused by a single instance of piracy. As such, it represents a naked perversion of “The Law” — turning it from a source of justice into a bludgeon for a powerful and cynical lobby. The music industry has sued more than 30,000 US citizens under this law. Since the consequences of losing would be bankruptcy in almost all cases, the crushing majority of defendants settled without daring to challenge the industry. As a result, the maximum $150,000 per-song fine has never actually been imposed (although one student is currently fighting a verdict of over $20,000 per song,[23] and a single mom was hit with an $80,000-per-song ruling,[24] which was later reduced, but is still being debated in appeal).

In determining a given device’s maximum capacity for infringing material, I assumed an average song length of three minutes, and an encoding rate of 128 kilobits/second. I went with 128 kbps because using the AAC codec,[25] this is the rate at which music achieves “hi-fi transparency[26] — which is to say, it becomes indistinguishable from CD quality in most listening environments. This rounds very closely to 1 megabyte of data per minute of music.[27] At 32 megabytes, the Rio (1999’s Christmas hit) therefore had room for about 10 songs, which, if pirated, could represent up to $1.5MM in liabilities under US law. Today’s iPod classic, with its 160GB capacity, can hold 53,333 songs, which at $150,000 a pop is precisely $8 billion. Incidentally, Apple markets the iPod classic as having room for just 40,000 songs, but by my math, that’s selling it short. I meant to note this in the presentation, but I was running way over time by then, and spared everyone the convoluted math (so if the leap from 40,000 songs to an $8 billion liability confused anyone, I apologize — I had meant to take a quick detour through that 53,333 figure!).

FINALLY: the 75,000 jobs figure was just a joke. I think that was probably obvious.

And as for alien music liabilities … well, that happens to be *major* area of interest and research for me. But I’ll leave that for another forum.

* — Rob Reid*

[5] http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/09/technology/in-piracy-debate-deciding-if-the-sky-is-falling.html

[8] http://www.biakelsey.com/Company/Press-Releases/081202-Radio-Industry-Revenues-Continue-to-Slide-Downward-in-2008.asp

[9] http://www.biakelsey.com/Company/Press-Releases/110404-Radio-Industry-Revenues-Rose-5.4-Percent-to-$14.1B-in-2010.asp

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