Christmas is a time for giving, celebrating, family and magic. But did you know it’s also a time for equations? Department store Debenhams has decided to honour this recent Christmas tradition by tasking at least two members of Sheffield University’s undergraduate maths society to come up with formulae for ‘a perfectly decorated Christmas tree‘, picked up by The Sun, The Metro and others.
Previous festive howlers include ‘the formula for the perfect family Christmas‘ (sponsored by The Children’s Society to promote a book) and a prior stab at ‘the equation for the ideal Christmas tree‘ (sponsored by B&Q), which are just nonsensical strings of abbreviations. However, unlike those examples of naff-ematics, the Sheffield tree-decorating equations make enough sense for me to take a critical, overly-serious look at them on their own merits, and show how you might begin to come up with something more rational.
There may be no Nobel in mathematics, but that needn’t stop mathematicians winning one: Lloyd Shapley has just won the Nobel prize for economics, for the theory of stable allocations and the practice of market design.
Lloyd Shapley described himself in an Associated Press interview:
“I consider myself a mathematician and the award is for economics. I never, never in my life took a course in economics.”
But if you don’t take his word for it, look on over at his entry on the Mathematics Genealogy Project, and you’ll find his thesis is on “Additive and Non-Additive Set Functions”.
The Nobel prize website has some details on the theory of stable allocations and market design, but an old AMS feature column gives a gentler mathematical introduction, via the elegant graph theory of Hall’s Marriage theorem.
My partner and I are trying to buy a house. We both work in different places, and neither of us enjoys commuting. How could we decide where to live?
Thank you for your intriguing and entirely imaginary letter. The short and not terribly useful answer would be: