100 thoughts on “Matt Parker: “The Greatest Maths Mistakes” | Talks at Google

  1. First advertising audible and then complaining about Adsense not giving enough money. Absolute mad lad.

  2. Sometimes your probe will lithobreak. Unfortunately, unless it is a lander, your probe typically will not survive. But, hey, at least it made it to space.

  3. Re Q&A the elephant and cocaine. In recent years someplace in Science News, briefly mentioned within a larger article, there was an incident reported of early researchers involving an elephant and LSD. I wonder if the cocaine story is a folk tale morph. The story I read was some researchers…how loose that word is sometimes…were trying to see how the LSD affected an elephant. They did a linear calculation of animal mass vs dosage. The math was technically correct, but without any understanding of what they were doing. The elephant got a huge dose of LSD and after a delay, gave a very loud snort, and keeled over and died.

  4. Looking at all the cranes in the background, I'm thinking, "London will be a great city once they get it finished!"

  5. 30:45 – There's a more acute example than the 'millennium bug':

    Loudspeaker driver manufacturers would rubber-stamp each of their drivers with the year and month of manufacture. They encoded the year using ONE digit! One couldn't tell if a certain speaker was made in 1955 or 1965!

  6. Matt Parker has taken to the gesticulations of a clever market-trader and the prancings of a mediocre dancer

  7. 17:56 Matt finishes his intro and starts talking about the Fucking subject: when wrong "maths" causes a problem.

  8. Why didn't the mint stick to the WINNING design? Was the minter like one of those DJs who mangles good songs because he "has to express himself creatively".

  9. Stars shining through the moon. Yeah, have you seen the number of kids books where the illustrator just can NOT get a rainbow right? I can (just) understand if they miss indigo, but having a rainbow with only 5 colours, or colours out of order is just careless.

  10. Great talk however I would like to take issue with the title ‘maths mistakes’; most of these feel a lot more like software testing mistakes than maths mistakes. I speak as someone who studied maths and later became a test manager for a number of companies. In the past I also worked for the European Space Agency on the Meteosat project and have vivid memories of a live stream of a Meteosat launch when the satellite itself failed and wondering if I would still have a job. On leaving ESA I was also test manager on a project to provide a tracking system for Ariane 5 which would blow the rocket up if it went off course (it was a replacement system for the one that blew up the specific Ariane 5 rocket in your talk). Examples of testing failures I used to quote (although I can’t remember the original source now) were, the Hoover free flight offer where they hadn’t correctly assessed the value of their offer and were inundated with claims, a soft drink promotion with too many winning cans, and a Y2K problem (which actually triggered before 2000) where a stock control system read a date in 2000 as out of date, sent the supposedly out of date stock for destruction and reordered new stock ad infinitum.

  11. The content is interesting, but it's really difficult to follow the presentation due to all the interjected commentary on the presentation itself and the excessive wording in general. I think it would be better with about half the words.

  12. When he said you could see stars through the moon I zoomed in on the white portion and tried so hard to see stars through it like it was transparent LOL

  13. Just wanna say that the Audible version isn't available in the US till next year, clearly hugely maths mistake there.

  14. 12:41 there is also a star right next to Ernie's pyjamas, in front of a hill, dangerously close to Earth. Nobody noticed?

  15. 12:41 there is also a star right next to Ernie's pyjamas, in front of a hill, dangerously close to Earth. Nobody noticed?

  16. Its true that parents will often be the biggest factor in a students education. Not to ignore, the student and teacher. What many ignore is the students access to food, healthcare, extraciricular activities and a stable home.

  17. Shhht. Shut up and tell nobody about the end of Unix time. It's kind of my secret pension fund.
    You can hire me in 203x to fix your old C code.

  18. The title of this video should be “Six minutes of momologue about the life story of some guy and then you quit disappointed by not learning anything about math”.

  19. The improper use of "maths" is as bad as a street moron saying "X-cape." Or the more recent "X-tablishment."

  20. I kind of always knew I was too smart to hang out with everyone I met in school, and I just realized I spent an hour watching a programming and maths talk, completely enthralled. 🙂

  21. Paid money to license an image of three cogs meshed for the NAFTA image? Meshed gears is an image which shows synchronicity. The gears don't have to be shown in a viable configuration when they are clearly not being represented as mounted. Everyone who has worked with cogs has laid them on the table meshed.

  22. The Texas license plate…it is the "Lone Star" State…since there is one star in the moon circle…
    maybe it's an inside joke?

  23. I can't give a reference to it, but there was once a motor torpedo boat on exercise, probably 30 years ago, testing a new kind of torpedo. They got the torpedo armed and lined up, and at that moment, the test was called off, and the boat turned around to go home – then blew up. Lives were lost. In the final analysis, the torpedo had a fail-safe mechanism in it, that would cause the torpedo to self-destruct it went off course in the water and turned around to face a friendly boat. It was still armed, and the turn-around sensor had done its job.

  24. May I make a request for your next talk or video? Either pass the person speaking in the audience a mike, or perhaps you could repeat the person's answer, since your mike seemed to be working fine. Thank you.

  25. @10:20 Still wouldn't work if the teeth ratios aren't right. Hey, no less pedantic then the even/odd issue.                                    @22:57 A 64 bit word is not neccessarily a larger value then a 32 bit word. It could be the same value with a higher degree of resolution.

  26. 7:14 Morons forgot Administrators, the cog that allow funding & other support for the teaching process. (PTSA)

  27. It was the F-15 That flipped at the equator. Luckily the error was found in simulation, because it flipped back "wrong side up" so fast that it would have broken the pilot's neck had it been in a real aircraft.

  28. If there is anything that we need more of at schools, then it is light-hearted and enthusiastic math teachers.
    A lot of them just stand there and look all super-serious and never smile or laugh, which really triggers me sometimes.

  29. This audience seemed like it had a poor sense of humor. Lots of missed jokes. My personal favorite was "the first of n Iraq wars"

  30. Millenium bug … it's not only using two units for "year". It's about setting the year field to "99" for marking data entries to delete, too. The reason behind is that on a following sorting process (done by batch processing) the data is sorted at the end of file making the deletion easy. A typical way of data handling in COBOL programmed main frame applications in times where memory space was expensive, saving three bytes, two in the year field, one for an extra field of marking "deletion".
    Btw: In Europe they dealt with that mostly while reprogramming their applications due to the double currency introduction of the EURO.

  31. I would love to see you go over what was wrong with the math they used to say stuff as they will never break the sound barrier, that the earth atmosphere was going to catch fire if they explode the atom bomb.

  32. Dude, you say that the contractor got the unita wrong. You say that they fueled the aircraft in pounds not kilos, twice.

    Perhaps the American government could bring America up to speed with the twentieth century so we can remove some of these errors. 🙏

  33. @17:45 "Pushing against" a gyroscope will only allow you to change your orientation, it can't change the trajectory. Wikipedia: "Specifically, software that calculated the total impulse produced by thruster firings produced results in pound-force seconds. The trajectory calculation software then used these results–expected to be in newton seconds (incorrect by a factor of 4.45)–to update the predicted position of the spacecraft."

  34. I've seen footage on Youtube of stars being seen through the Moon. Hidden in plain sight, maybe? The is not what NASA says it is

  35. Great last question. I wish we'd know if Google's postmortem of mistakes blames the human (as like medicine) or blames the system (as like aviation)?

    Good point that if blame the people then never learn from the mistake. As the system is the issue.

  36. Why do speakers on ted, you tube generally waffle, "my wifes friend etc" …stick to the fucking subject..succinctly

  37. Matt, can you explain non-interger exponents of negative numbers? E.g. -2^2 = 4; -2^3 = -8; -2^2.5 = ? My calculator says it’s an error, but surely it’s evaluable (right?).

  38. Matt, I'm not happy about that circle around the moon on the number plate, you've been a bit too left-wardly generous with the centre and the radius is too long. You'll have to redo it.

  39. That's marvelous.

    There's one other famous airline mistake, & nobody died. They called her "the Gimli Glider". Air Canada had just bought their first A300s, & a flight out of Toronto loaded the usual amount of fuel–only somebody (the Captain?) used pounds instead of kilos, which the aircraft readout used, & they ended up with only half as much fuel as they needed…& the aircraft came down on a drag strip (formerly an airstrip) in Gimli, Manitoba.

    The only other case I can think of where there wasn't enough fuel aboard was the La Mia wreck that killed the soccer team–& that was because the crew were flying on an illegally-low fuel load & expecting they could make it.

  40. With that lovely picture of St Pancras railway station in the background, I could mention the time, about 50 years ago, when that railway system was decimated and almost destroyed by bad maths. Specifically, by creative accounting. It wasn't just a single mistake, but a systematic series of errors, each to the railway system's detriment. Many even believe, and not without reason, that it was deliberate sabotage.

    Around 1960, British Railways was indeed in a bit of a pickle. WW2 had practically bankrupted the Big Four companies, forcing them to be nationalised, and the subsequent 15 years had been marked by several badly mismanaged investment programs – first, a large order of new steam locomotives to replace the worn-out engines from war service, then a crash dieselisation program when someone realised how much steam engines cost to run in an economy in which wages were high, skilled labour scarce, and all the good coal was being exported to service a crippling national debt. There were now dozens of diesel locomotive types in service, many of them hopelessly unreliable and complicated to service, alongside all of the existing steam loco types of which the final examples were still being built!

    The Government were keen to rein in the waste, so they commissioned some "outside industry experts" to report on how to make the railways pay for themselves. It just so happened that these experts came from the road and petrochemical industries, so were hardly neutral observers.

    The ensuing report correctly identified that much of the railways' costs stemmed from low-traffic branch lines which were not very efficiently run. There were some stations which had not sold a single ticket in months or years, yet still employed a stationmaster, a booking clerk, a porter, a signalman or crossing keeper, and even someone to run the tea room. Steam engines were fired up each morning, and kept in steam all day, to haul one or two nearly empty carriages up and down the line a few times, and maybe a few wagons for a change. Signalboxes and crossing houses were manned by highly trained staff, two or three shifts a day, merely to let this meagre traffic through in safety.

    It must have seemed like a very simple equation. If sum(costs) > sum(receipts) then close(line).

    They did not think to check, however, what happened on a bank holiday weekend. Excursion trains would then descend on these sleepy branch lines like locusts, their tickets having been sold in major stations elsewhere and thus not appearing in local accounting books. On many lines there was also heavy seasonal freight traffic, as farmers sent their crops or herds to market. The dense network had also proved its resilience against war damage, as any closure forced by an air raid could be bypassed on some alternative line. That was why this expensive infrastructure had been maintained in place, even though it went unused so much of the time.

    But the beancounters missed all of this. The maths seemed simple, so they believed they had it right.

    Nobody even bothered to check whether some of the cost overheads could be reduced, through relatively modest investments like replacing the steam trains with some of the new DMUs, while still keeping the valuable railway service in place. If the staffing at some stations was excessive, make do with fewer staff, augmented seasonally by roving assistants if required. Rig up signalboxes so that they could be left unmanned if traffic was light, and install automatic crossings to replace the swing gates and their keepers. Institute containerised freight to avoid the cost of shunting whole wagons into trains. Obvious solutions to a railwayman directed to look into these things – but the men in charge were not railwaymen, and those solutions would only complicate the equations.

    As a result, there are no more trains to the formerly popular beaches of the North Devon & Cornwall coast. Main and secondary lines, sorely needed today, were closed despite protests, and new lines must now be built to replace them. Much of the railways' utility to passengers and freight traffic alike, that of being able to get from anywhere to anywhere by a singe mode of transportation, was forever lost, accelerating the move to the roads and driving up the death rate accordingly.

    All because of bad maths.

  41. Funny I'm working for this company who is making and installing this axle counter. Thales if somebody is intrested. If somebody is intressted in more information I'll see what I can do.

  42. Did anyone ever publish the deal where some guy tried to assign PI an invalid value? I think that it happened in Illinois??

  43. Christopher Columbus thought the world was smaller than everyone else and that there was just water between Europe and Asia. He thought it was so small in fact, that he barely had enough supplies to get across the Atlantic. Not sure how true this is, but it would be a good jumping off point for a larger point.

  44. What about the math error at the Savannah River nuclear plant that was regularly cracking the pressure vessels. Everyone kept checking the materials used, and engineering practices, but no one verified the actual operating pressures of the vessels, and it turns out that they ran for 40 years at 115% power levels because some engineer had a slide-rule error during its initial construction documentation.

  45. NO NO NO! Those aren't stars shining through the moon. They're the sun glinting off reflective deposits on the moon's surface!

  46. For the F-22 story that's 100 percent true, the navigation system failed at the dateline. As for the windows boot up sound I didn't hear that part of the story but I doubt it's true because all of the computers in the F-22 are custom built and run custom operating systems. I worked on testing a system for the F-22 and I briefly worked with a guy that worked on a team that tested the navigation code. What happened was that they had done simulated flight around Lockheed's center in Texas and verified that the navigation system worked. However, the equation they used in the system led to a divide by 0 error at the date line. So now when they simulate flights they cover crossing the date line, flying over the poles, flying around the pole so you cross all the time zones quickly.

  47. the greatest math mistake is the belief that a larger object of the same shape has a greater volume to surface area ratio . trust me if the shape is the same the volume to surface area ratio is the same NO MATTER THE SIZE .

  48. The ship that lost its power systems was a Ticonderoga class guided missile cruiser, USS Yorktown. "On 21 September 1997, while on maneuvers off the coast of Cape Charles, Virginia, a crew member entered a zero into a database field causing an attempted division by zero in the ship's Remote Data Base Manager, resulting in a buffer overflow which brought down all the machines on the network, causing the ship's propulsion system to fail." The Mars Climate Orbiter was pound force seconds verses Newton seconds. The Ariane 5 error was not mistaking one thing for another, it was an out of range conversion which caused an exception which the self satisfied software folks had decided could only result from a hardware fault, so not their problem to survive. From the official report: "The internal SRI* software exception was caused during execution of a data conversion from 64-bit floating point to 16-bit signed integer value. The floating point number which was converted had a value greater than what could be represented by a 16-bit signed integer." Accuracy matters.

  49. It doesn't take very long before you understand that Parker is a terrible public speaker. Start counting the "so"s in his talk. Awful. Of course, this is Google, meaning had he dared to once utter "orange man bad," he would have been wildly accepted by the dunderehead kids in the audience.

  50. Sorry you hate parents so much, particularly since teachers are doing "such" a great job. Couldn't finish this, but I tried. It's sad that people look up to you, since we need stronger families – not people openly mocking parents to students.

  51. "…up and down flappy movement…" ROFL

    Not that it matters, but that was a case of Pilot-Induced Oscillation, if I remember correctly. Unsure what about the aircraft caused it to be as bad as it was.

  52. The moon stuff really bothers me. In children's books I often see crescent moons portrayed with the illuminated part on the left side where the book says, "it's time for bed". What? Do you let your child stay up until almost dawn? I know movies are supposed to be fun and you can suspend disbelief, but earlier this year, I took my kids to see The Kid Who Would Be King and they portrayed a total solar eclipse while it was a full moon. That was just a bit too much for me.

  53. kilogram kilobyte kilohertz kilowatt kiloparsec kilonewton kilojoule kilonova kilovolt kilometre — not kalamaduh

  54. There is a story about a flight navigation system that was designed to use certain constants when the plane was flying below the speed of sound and another set when the plane was flying above the speed of sound. I worked fine until the airspeed was measured as precisely the speed of sound. Luckily a hard reset restored proper operation.

  55. 12:25 stars shining through the moon. The earliest example I know is in Coleridge's Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner, where there is a crescent moon with "one bright star within the nether tip"

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