Monday, February 1, 2010

For St. Bridget’s Day

Filed under: General,Geometry — m759 @ 12:25 PM

"But wait, there's more!"
Stanley Fish, NY Times Jan. 28

From the editors at The New York Times who, left to their own devices, would produce yet another generation of leftist morons who don't know the difference between education and entertainment–

A new Times column starts today–


The quality of the column's logo speaks for itself. It pictures a cone with dashed lines indicating height and base radius, but unlabeled except for a large italic x to the right of the cone. This enigmatic variable may indicate the cone's height or slant height– or, possibly, its surface area or volume.

Instead of the column's opening load of crap about numbers and Sesame Street, a discussion of its logo might be helpful.

The cone plays a major role in the historical development of mathematics.

Some background from an online edition of Euclid

"Euclid proved in proposition XII.10 that the cone with the same base and height as a cylinder was one third of the cylinder, but he could not find the ratio of a sphere to the circumscribed cylinder. In the century after Euclid, Archimedes solved this problem as well as the much more difficult problem of the surface area of a sphere."

For Archimedes and the surface area of a sphere, see (for instance) a discussion by Kevin Brown. For more material on Archimedes, see "Archimedes: Volume of a Sphere," by Doug Faires (2001)– Archimedes' heuristic argument from mechanics that involves the volume of a cone– and Archimedes' more rigorous approach in The Works of Archimedes, edited by T. L. Heath (1897).

The work of Euclid and Archimedes on volumes was, of course, long before the discovery of calculus.  For a helpful discussion of cone volumes involving high-school-level calculus, see, for instance,  the following–


The Times editors apparently feel that
few of their readers are capable of
such high-school-level sophistication.

For some other geometric illustrations
perhaps more appealing than the Times's


dunce cap, see the symbol of
  today's saint– a Bridget Cross
and a web page on
visualized quaternions.

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