math

Knotty Circumstance: How That Shoelace Study Went Viral

The study that would become a media sensation started innocently enough. It was about ten years ago, when a 4-year-old naively asked her father, “Why do shoelaces come untied?” and said father, who happens to be Oliver M. O’Reilly, a professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, couldn’t come up with a good explanation, even after watching myriad YouTube tutorials. “It seemed like a great mechanics problem and no one had solved it.”

From the Fall 2017 Bugged issue of California.

Strength in Numbers: Inside the Berkeley Institute Where Math Geeks Rule

Ever see the TV game show Let’s Make a Deal? Contestants are given a choice of three doors and told that behind one of them is a shiny new sports car. If they pick door No. 1, the host may open door No. 2 to reveal that there’s nothing behind it. Then he asks if they want to stick with door No. 1 or switch to door No. 3. What’s the best move?

Not Adding Up: Math Lecturer Behind Viral Email Set to Lose His UC Berkeley Job

Alexander Coward—the charismatic UC Berkeley math lecturer whose 2013 emailed justification for teaching during a university employees strike went viral—now says he’s about to be fired by the university, despite stellar reviews from his students. 

The university’s response: Personnel matters are confidential, and lecturers such as Coward receive no guarantee that their contracts will be renewed.

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