### Wha?! 1+2+3...+N = -1/12

Update: People who know math deeply (i.e. not me) hate this video. Those people have spoken, loudly. Thx math people! Side note: Summing the number of planets in the Galaxy will never yield -1/12, so my research is safe...

Via Phil Plait on Slate.com, a little bit of mathematical hokus pokus:

EB said…
It's good for readers to see the follow up post by Phil Plait, as well as some other critiques offering more nuance to this video. It is slightly misleading now, particularly the "proof" and the ending discussion. See http://bit.ly/KCq4xG

In any sense, this result needs serious qualification. In a nutshell, 1-1+1-1+1-1+.... is not convergent, and you therefore need to discuss analytic continuation and the Riemann zeta function.

Ed Copeland offers more details in the longer video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E-d9mgo8FGk&feature=youtu.be

It's slightly disappointing how this material is presented here, which is surprising, as usually Brady Haran's stuff with the faculty at Nottingham is so good. This video seems to push the "Math is cray and totz weird!!!1!" notion without providing vital caveats and explanations.

### On the Height of J.J. Barea

Dallas Mavericks point guard J.J. Barea standing between two very tall people (from: Picassa user photoasisphoto).

Congrats to the Dallas Mavericks, who beat the Miami Heat tonight in game six to win the NBA championship.

Okay, with that out of the way, just how tall is the busy-footed Maverick point guard J.J. Barea? He's listed as 6-foot on NBA.com, but no one, not even the sports casters, believes that he can possibly be that tall. He looks like a super-fast Hobbit out there. But could that just be relative scaling, with him standing next to a bunch of extremely tall people? People on Yahoo! Answers think so---I know because I've been Google searching "J.J. Barea Height" for the past 15 minutes.

So I decided to find a photo and settle the issue once and for all.

I then used the basketball as my metric. Wikipedia states that an NBA basketball is 29.5 inches in circumfe…

### The Long Con

Hiding in Plain Sight

ESPN has a series of sports documentaries called 30 For 30. One of my favorites is called Broke which is about how professional athletes often make tens of millions of dollars in their careers yet retire with nothing. One of the major "leaks" turns out to be con artists, who lure athletes into elaborate real estate schemes or business ventures. This naturally raises the question: In a tightly-knit social structure that is a sports team, how can con artists operate so effectively and extensively? The answer is quite simple: very few people taken in by con artists ever tell anyone what happened. Thus, con artists can operate out in the open with little fear of consequences because they are shielded by the collective silence of their victims.
I can empathize with this. I've lost money in two different con schemes. One was when I was in college, and I received a phone call that I had won an all-expenses-paid trip to the Bahamas. All I needed to do was p…

### Questions for Those Seeking Freedom

I recently gave a "diversity talk" at a large public university, and I reiterated a point that I've been making whenever I get an opportunity. Namely, I believe there are two primary ways one can enact social justice activism. One is to recognize that injustices occur along various axes such as gender, race and physical ability, and then stake out a position on a perceived high ground from which you identify the Bad People who are responsible for those injustices. People taking this approach are the ones who seem to always have a story to share about a racist uncle on Facebook, or a sexist dude at work, or the person who made an insensitive remark in a meeting. While it is important to identify these types of actions and those who are prone to do them, if your activism ends at naming these actions and people, then I don't see how you can accomplish much. This is because the problematic actions of individuals are not inherent to those people. Rather they are symptomat…