On April 19th, Jiroeman Kimura celebrated his 116th birthday. He was – and still is – the world’s oldest person, and the world’s longest living man – ever. (As far as researchers know, that is. There could be a man who has lived longer that the public doesn’t know about.) The world’s longest living woman was Jeanne Calment, who lived to be 122 and a half!
Most people don’t live that long, and, obviously, only one person can hold the title of “Oldest Person in the World” at any given time. So, you may be wondering… how often is there a new oldest person in the world? (Take a few guesses, if you like. I’ll give you the answer soon!)
Some mathematicians were wondering this, too, and they went about answering their question in the way they know best: by sharing their question with other mathematicians around the world! In April, a mathematician who calls himself Gugg, asked this question on the website Mathematics Stack Exchange, a free question-and-answer site that people studying math can use to share their ideas with each other. Math Stack Exchange says that it’s for “people studying math at any level.” If you browse around, you’ll see mathematicians asking for help on all kinds of questions, such as this tricky algebra problem and this problem about finding all the ways to combine coins to get a certain amount of money. Here’s an entry from a student asking for help on trigonometry homework. You might need some specialized math knowledge to understand some of the questions, but there’s often one that’s both interesting and understandable on the list.
Anyway, Gugg asked on Math Stack Exchange, “How often does the oldest person in the world die?” and the community of mathematicians around the world got to work! Several mathematicians gave ways to calculate how often a new person becomes the oldest person in the world. You can read about how they worked it out on Math Stack Exchange, if you like, or on the Smithsonian blog – it’s a good example of how people use math to model things that happen in the world. Oh, and, in case you were wondering, a new person becomes the world’s oldest about every 0.65 years. (Is that around what you expected? It was definitely more often than I expected!)
Next, check out this graph! Yes, that’s a graph – there is a single function that you can make so that when you graph it, you get that. Crazy – and beautiful! This was posted by a New York City math teacher named Michael Pershan to a site called Daily Desmos, and he challenges you to figure out how to make it! (He challenged me, too. I worked on this for days.)
Michael made this graph using an awesome free, online graphing program called Desmos. Michael and many other people regularly post graphing challenges on Daily Desmos. Some of them are very difficult (like the one shown above), but some are definitely solvable without causing significant amounts of pain. They’re marked with levels “Basic” and “Advanced.” (See if you can spot contributions from a familiar Math Munch face…)
Here are more that I think are particularly beautiful. If you’re feeling more creative than puzzle-solvey, try making a cool graph of your own! You can submit a graphing challenge of your own to Daily Desmos.
If you’ve got the creative bug, you could also check out a new MArTH tool that we just found called Escher Web Sketch. This tool was designed by three Swiss mathematicians, and it helps you to make intricate tessellations with interesting symmetries – like the ones made by the mathematical artist M. C. Escher. If you like Symmetry Artist and Kali, you’ll love this applet.
Be healthy and happy! Enjoy graphing and sketching! And, bon appetit!