*re: Stand-Up, Relatively Prime, and Aliens?*

MM: How did you get interested in mathematics? What kinds of mathematics are you into?

SH: My enjoyment of mathematics goes back farther than I can remember. When I was a child my father would pose to me arithmetic challenges, two digit by two digit multiplication, three digit by two digit division, and the like, and I would solve them in my head. Actually my mental arithmetic skills have greatly declined since I was a child. Then as I grew older I actually lost a decent amount of my mathematical inclination, I still did well in the classes, but they brought me little joy, I was planning on doing political science or software engineering when I grew up. There then came a moment, which I wrote about at Second-Rate Minds, where I realized that when I got bored I started solving mathematical equations that made me realize that I was going to study mathematics.

While attending university for mathematics I found that my favorite areas of mathematics were very discrete. Continuous mathematics and I never clicked in the way that combinatorics, graph theory, and finite state machines and I did. Then as my studies progressed it became clear that those were the classes where I most enjoyed the class work, my thesis was graph theoretic as well, I wanted to know about every area of mathematics. Not necessarily how to achieve results in every area, but I wanted to know the history, application, and importance of every area. Then I wanted to talk about it. More than anything, I just wanted to talk about mathematics.

MM: What is the inspiration behind Relatively Prime?

SH: I had been creating mathematical podcasts for years. I had an irreverent panel show that tackled a new mathematical topic every show called Combinations and Permutations, an interview show called Strongly Connected Components, and a weekly news show called Math/Maths. Really that should be enough for any one person. It was not for me. My main problem is that I listen to way too many podcasts and radio shows. When you fill your head every day with things like Radio Lab, This American Life, 99% Invisible, Snap Judgment, The Memory Palace, Love+Radio, On the Media, Planet Money, and Bullseye you want to live up to the standards that they set. All of my shows were just things that I hammered out in my spare time, I wanted to do a show that had actual production values and used some of the tricks and techniques that I heard my heroes on other shows use. Oh, and no one had done anything like those shows for mathematics and I knew that I wanted to hear a show like that and I assumed that meant that other would too.

MM: What are your goals and hopes for the show?

SH: I wanted people to listen. That is really the only goal I have ever had for any of my shows. This time its seems that I may have actually succeeded. I knew that the show was not doing too badly given the site view statistics, but when I went onto iTunes and checked the top shows in the Science and Medicine category and found Relatively Prime sitting at number 4, well I was rather shocked. Not as much as when I found out it was ranked 89 in all of iTunes US. The next day I found out that I was also in the top 10 list for Science in the UK and Canada. I look forward to seeing what my numbers will be after I release the second episode.

Almost forgot, I am also hoping that this podcast may help me get a job, or bring in funding to make the work that I do online into an actual career. Any help with that would be greatly appreciated.

MM: What was the most exciting/unexpected/eye-opening thing you learned while making Relatively Prime?

SH: I learned that there are frogs that live in ditches in Quebec, and they are very tasty pan friend. I learned this while on a 78 hour Greyhound bus trip from Baltimore, Maryland to Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Also, rather unsurprisingly, I learned that super-long bus trips are soul trying experiences.

MM: How did you choose the topics you’re covering in Relatively Prime?

SH: I had never tried anything as ambitious as Relatively Prime, so I stayed near topics that were already close to my heart. Some were stories that I had heard about and always loved, but felt that no one had covered to the extent that I wanted. Others were based more off knowing that a person would tell a good story, or give a good interview, and just asking for some of their time. I had planned out around nine topics before I conducted a single interview. I think five of those topics actually ended up being made. Sometimes I just could not get the interviews that I needed, others the material just was not compelling enough to make an entire show, and one time I did an interview that was only supposed to be part of a larger show, one I had already interviewed people for, and the interview was so good that it became a show in and of itself.

A good example would be the first episode, The Toolbox. It was one of the first topics that came to my head, I remember thinking it, “It would be cool if I created a toolkit of modern mathematics for the coming apocalypse.” So I started thinking about what areas of mathematics I think would be important in the future, and immediately game theory and risk came to my head. I knew risk would be a great topic since I could get David Spiegelhalter and Matt Parker, both of whom I had interviewed previously. Game Theory was trickier until I ran across a review of a new book entitled “Game Theory and the Humanities”, and I immediately started to work to get and interview with its author, Steven Brams. The third topic eluded me for a while, until I remembered that my friend Edmund Harriss had helped expand Vinay Gupta’s hexayurt project. Geometrically designed post-disaster housing seemed like a mathematical tool that anyone could use in their toolbox.

What do you think your next podcast will be about? Do you do your podcasts in different languages for kids in different countries?

What do you do in your spare time? roughly what are your podcasts about?