At this time of year, lame and/or groan-worthy jokes come to the fore, and are completely acceptable, and in some cases encouraged, provided they’re preceded by a bang noise and read out from a tiny piece of paper.
Rummaging around on my computer today, I found a set of mathematical Christmas cracker jokes I wrote for a party thrown for a group of mathematicians a couple of years ago, where I hacked apart a set of crackers and replaced the toys with tiny slide rules, the paper hats with ones cut into fractal curves along the top, and the existing terrible jokes with terrible mathematical ones. I thought I’d share them with you all, since they’re more likely to be appreciated by maths fans.
People all over the world are today increasingly worried about the foretold end of the world, predicted by the ending of the current cycle of the Gregorian calendar. The calendar, which so far has been running for a period of around 355 days, will come to an end on 31st December, at which point experts  predict that the world will end, caused by mysterious gravitational alignments of planets, geomagnetic reversals and the cataclysmic collision with Earth of the fictional planet Nibiru.
While no evidence of any of these forthcoming events has yet been observed by scientists, and in fact many of them are contradicted by simple astronomical observations, sales of apocalypse survival shelters have increased (such as these fine ones from Atlas Survival Shelters; other brands are available), as have ticket sales to ‘Apocalypse Parties’, where people will celebrate the world’s ending by getting drunk, primarily to numb themselves against any possible catastrophic explosions or destruction. Musician Jools Holland is apparently planning an apocalyptic Hootenanny on 31st December, at which celebrities and musicians will come together to party and fear for their lives in a boozy huddle at the stroke of midnight.
We spoke to an unnamed Mayan, who said, “It’s a shame the world will be ending in 11 days from now, as our Mesoamerican Long Count calendar has just entered a new B’ak’tun, which to us symbolises a fresh start and new life – for us, the end of the calendar will be an opportunity for a huge celebration. It’s such a pity that after that, we’ll only have another 11 days of existence.”
In the wake of a flurry of tetrices being constructed in schools all over the country (see this post about fractal Christmas tree worksheets, and this post featuring photos of completed trees), we’ve also been sent a video of a school group constructing an ambitious and impressive fractal structure, using envelopes cleverly folded into tetrahedra. The video is below, and features (eventually) a level 5 Sierpinski Tetrahedron, made from 1024 envelopes!
Via teacher Tim Dolan on Twitter.
Having posted about Matt Parker’s Fractal Christmas Tree last week, we’ve had quite a few photos of completed trees sent in! Here’s a Tony Hart gallery-style roundup of them.
Andrew Hicks, a professor at Drexel University, has invented a new type of curved mirror which shows the reflection without inverting it left-right, as normal plane mirrors do. Although this effect can be achieved by placing two mirrors at right angles and looking at them both along the 45 degree bisector (as anyone who’ve ever stayed on a canal boat or similarly small bathroom which uses a double-mirror in the corner will attest – it’s mildly disconcerting), this new invention is a single curved piece of glass. Apparently, some maths is involved: Hicks has “design[ed] computer algorithms to cleverly manipulate the angles of curved mirror surfaces so distortions in the reflection are precisely controlled”.
The University of Manchester is holding another cryptography competition (as featured in this news post earlier this week). We spoke to Charles Walkden, one of the competition’s organisers, about the project.
Stand-up Mathematician and all-round maths lover Matt Parker has been busy again, and he’s made a set of free worksheets for teachers (and, of course, interested non-teachers) to assemble paper nets of 3D fractals, including a Menger sponge and Sierpinski tetrahedron (which I’ve just learned is also called a tetrix).
There’s also a sheet for making a delightfully festive/mathematical fractal Christmas tree, with a Menger sponge base, Sierpinski branches and a Koch Snowflake star on top. Presumably those interested can make Mandelbulb ornaments and Cantor Set tinsel to hang on it. Don’t ask me how that would work.
The worksheets can be downloaded from Matt’s Think Maths website.
Anyone who successfully builds the whole thing: send us a photo and we’ll post it here. Jokes about fractals taking a while to cut out/paint in the comments.