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 Garth Sundem Garth Sundem is a Science, Math and general Geek Culture writer, TED speaker, and author of books including Brain Trust: 93 Top Scientists Dish the Lab-Tested Secrets of Surfing, Dating, Dieting... Read More » Blogroll

Jul 09 2009 | comment(s)

Even though you're already the mathematical Wizard of Oz, you can still benefit from the Wow factor of hoisting a new curtain of number tricks to impress your friends and intimidate your enemies.

Here, dear geek, are three nifty mind widgets to make mates want you and peers want to be you.

Multiply up to 20x20
1. For example, take 17x13
3. Imagine a box, encompassing the 17 and the 3
4. Add these to make 20
5. Add a zero to this, to make it 200
6. Multiply the 7 and the 3 to get 21

Multiply any two-digit number by 11
1. For example, take 79

# Bar Bets You Can Win (Installment I)

Jul 03 2009 | comment(s)

House of Straw
Use six straws to create the classic house shape (a rectangular body with two straws forming the roof, all laying flat on the table). Bet that you can make four equal triangles by moving only three straws. Try it! To all but the most creatively freethinking, this is impossible. The trick is to go 3D—pick up the three straws that make the bottom and sides of the rectangle and replace them so that one end of each straw is rooted in a corner of the triangle with all three moved straws touching above the center of the original triangle, like a tent or teepee—four, equal triangles, each the size of the original roof.

Paper Match

# Bar Bets You Can Win (Installment II)

Jul 02 2009 | comment(s)

True Math Genius
This trick will bring a smile to the face of even the most hardened math geek. First, lay matches on a table to form the equation I + II + III = IIII (crossed matches make the plus signs and parallel matches make the equals sign). Challenge your opponent to make this statement true by moving only one match and without messing with the sum after the equals sign. The trick is to pick up one match from the II, and lay it across the middle match in the III, making the full equation read:
I + I + I + I =IIII.

Two Glasses II

# Special Relativity Makes My Brain Hurt

Jun 25 2009 | comment(s)

Newton’s apple fell from the tree and after thumping the scientist on the head, fell benignly to the ground. If the same apple fell toward Einstein (and happened to have a little added atomic oomph), it could, according to special relativity, become infinitely massive, flattening not only the unfortunate Einstein as he sat bodhisattva-like beneath the tree, but also the Earth itself.

This doesn’t mean Newton was wrong—only, that his theories apply more accurately to things traveling at speeds that don’t approach the speed of light (from slow-moving atomic particles to city transit busses). The crucial postulate of Einstein’s theory is the idea that the speed of light is measured to be exactly the same no matter the motion of the observer.

# The Great Geek Off 5.0

Jun 22 2009 | comment(s)

Do you have what it takes to be Scientific Blogging's alpha geek? Well it’s time put your geek where your mouth is…IF YOU CAN!

But first a warning: yes, you could Google for these answers, but then, deep down, you’ll know you’re a bad person. Then again, you might win a free Geeks’ Guide to World Domination. So you’ll have to balance total loss of self worth with free geek schwag. It’s up to you.