Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Sudokid - Sudoku for Kids

Sudokid is a kid’s version of Sudoku. Sudokid is very simple: Sudoku with shapes, instead of numbers. Sudokid comes with 75 Unique Game Cards- 25 at each difficulty level (easy, medium, and hard). Be careful adults, you may get addicted too...

It’s designed and developed by the Quirky community. The idea is that the product requires 300 commitments to buy before it goes into production and is made (priced at $14.99). So far 27 have been pre-sold. You’re not charged until the threshold is met.

I hope they make it, the idea is great. If you are interested, check the details here

[via Josh Spear]

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Wife Carrying World Championships 2009

Finland put an end to Estonia's 11-year reign and took gold and bronze on Saturday at the annual Wife-Carrying World Championships held in Sonkajärvi, central Finland.

Wife carrying (Finnish eukonkanto) is a sport in which male competitors race while each carrying a female team mate. The objective is for the male to carry the female through a special obstacle track in the fastest time. The winner gets the weight of the carried wife in beer.

Several types of carry may be practised: piggyback, fireman's carry (over the shoulder), or Estonian-style (the wife hangs upside-down with her legs around the husband's shoulders, holding onto his waist). More info and the rules you can find here

The idea of the Wife Carrying Competition is Sonkajärvi’s own and it has roots in the local history. In the late 1800’s there was a brigand called Rosvo-Ronkainen,and according to the legend he had accepted in this troops only those men who proved their worth on a challenging track. In those days, it was also common to steal women from the neighbouring villages.

In the team competition three men in the team carry the wife in turns. At the exchange point the carrier has to drink the official "wife carrying drink" before continuing the race. The winners and the team with best costumes are awarded.

In the sprint competition the length of the track is 100 meters, and the surface of the track is partially sand and partially gravel. The track has a water obstacle, about one meter deep. The contestants run the qualification round with 5 to 10 couples at a time and the first three of each heat continue in the next round until there are just three couples left to compete in the final.

For the public there is a cheerleaders’ competition. Four to six persons form a group that takes part in the competition but they may have backers of their own with similar humour in the audience.

Here are the results for the best and also for the best foreign teams. Altogether there were participants from 13 countries.

1. Taisto Miettinen and Kristiina Haapanen (Finland)
2. Alar Voogia ja Kristi Viltrop (Estonia)
6. Ri Fahnestock and Sarah Silverberg (Exeter, USA)
7. Anthony Partridge and Cath Whalan (Australia)
8. John O’shea and Aoife Desmond (Caherdaniel Castlecove, Ireland)
20. Mike Koy and Gillian Kirby (Hallerup, Denmark)
21. James Chester ja Erika Chester (Anscbach, Germany)
22. Christopher Hill and Nanko Minami (Palmyra, USA / Osaka, Japan)
27. David Dobogai and Jitka Dobogai (USA / Czech Rebublic)

If you get interested in the sport, here are some tips how to become a master in wife carrying

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Evolution of My Cellular Phones

Living in the homeland of Nokia has meant to us adopting the use of mobile phones very early. Nowadays the coverage is about 110% of the population since many people have more than one mobile. Actually there are lots of households which don't have a landline any more. The phone cables are used for the internet connections like in our household.

The first network was NMT, Nordic Mobile Telephone, which was used in Finland 1982-2002. It's successor GSM (Global System for Mobile communications) started in 1991. It is a 2G network and both signalling and speech channels are digital.

I was not very convinced about the need of a mobile and at first I took in use the phones that were left over from my husband or my son, when they wanted new and better models. My first one Siemens NT 910 was really big, weighed 900 g and I could easily have used it as a weapon to defend myself. My husband had bought it used around 1994 and it had been a leasing phone in some company, because those days phones were too expensive for regular individuals.

The next one Bosch M-COM 214 was bought new in 1995 and I got it again after my husband deserted it. It had an extendible antenna and it worked on the GSM 900 network. The funny thing was that I could receive text messages with this one, but I was unable to send any.

My first Nokia was the popular 5110 (1998), which I bought from my son. This one still had the external antenna, but now I did not have to extend it any more.

The next one, Nokia 3210 from 1999, was a Dual-band phone working in both GSM 900 and GSM 1800 networks. It had a built-in antenna. I think this one I got from my daughter but I changed the covers.

Nokia 3510i (2002) was the first one I bought new to myself. This was also the first one with a colour screen. By this time the weight of the phone had dropped to 1/6 of the first Siemens. I think this is the only one of my phones which actually stopped working. All the others were replaced mainly because some family member had to get rid of the old one and my still older one would have needed a new battery.

When the phone stopped working I bought a new one and wanted just a basic phone with no extra features. I wanted it for talking, not listening to music or playing games. The previous had the possibility to use MMS services but I never did use them. I bought Nokia 1600 (2006), which according to Wikipedia was originally released for developing countries. I still use this one. My current mobile has a secret number and it is open all the time. This phone has a prepaid connection and I can choose whenever I am available.

Last year I decided that I need a MMS phone but since I am not very fond of text messaging, even though Nokia has a very good predictive text system, I wanted a Qwerty-keyboard and my choice was E90 communicator. It was expensive, but it is basically like a small laptop. It uses 3G connection when available and I can use my WLAN at home.

I have been faithful to Nokia but my husband hasn't. Here is part of his history, but he has changed phones so often that he has sold the old ones on Huutonetti, our equivalent of eBay. There is one old phone I never used, Nokia 1610 and his two current ones Siemens A50 and LG KG800, the "chocolate" phone.

Mobiles create a big environmental problem, but I still haven't got rid of my phones. Maybe I am just transferring the problem to my children, but also these may become collectible items someday.

Solving a Conceptis Color Pic-a-Pix Puzzle

I think I have spent too long blogging about other things but finally I got into recording a session about solving my favourite type of Conceptis puzzles, a color Pic-a-Pix. These I prefer solving on the computer because I always have trouble finding the right color pencils even though my house is basically filled with ones my children got from school and left behind when they moved away. The other problem is that color pencils are much more difficult to erase than regular pencils.

This particular puzzle can be found here along with other similar bigger puzzles. Because this is a very easy puzzle, I could solve each colour on its own. With harder puzzles that solving method is either impossible or at least makes solving the puzzle even harder.

Notice that you can watch the video on full screen. I made it with ScreenToaster which is an excellent tool for recording your screen. The video is stored on the website and you don't have to upload any software on your computer.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Arthur Benjamin about Math Education

I found this video on my usual bookmarking sites. It got Front Page on Digg and lots of Stumbles also. The video is very interesting from my point of view as a mathematics teacher. Arthur Benjamin, a mathematics professor and also the mathemagician offers a bold proposal on how to make math education relevant in the digital age.

I think he is a really good performer but he cuts some corners and speaks like a politician convincing people of something they know very little about.

Before I utter my criticism, I have to remind you that my perspective is Finnish and our mathematics education. I probably don't know enough of the conditions in USA. I have learned that there are schools where the students don't advance very well, but on the other hand the most of the best universities are located there. Anyway calculus and statistics are universal.

The biggest problem in my opinion is that statistics is not a science we can put under the main category mathematics. It belongs to social sciences (in the University of Turku for one) and the interpretations of statistic data and their relevance has very little to do with math. Probability is a part of applied mathematics and also the calculations regarding statistics use math, but something as vague as predicting the future can not be a part of a science which gives only absolute solutions or shows that there are not any! I have a master's degree and my major is mathematics, I have even had some predoctoral studies, but I never had a single course in real statistics.

In Finland we have two different levels of mathematics the students can choose from, the short and the long course. Both levels have one course containing probability and basic statistics. The courses are very similar on both stages and I have noticed a certain trend with these courses: there are always students who get fascinated by the common-sense-math and perform much better than on the other courses BUT also some of the top students are finding this course very hard.

Calculus (we actually use the word Analysis) is taught about 2 courses on the shorter course (no integrals) and 5 on the longer course but also extra courses for those who want to choose them.

I have heard the statement: "I don't remember anything about derivatives" or: "I have not used derivatives after I left school" numerous times. I also know that most people don't, not even those who choose their career in engineering. However the basic calculus is needed in order to understand the further studies in engineering, physics, chemistry, mathematics and even statistics! A tool for the continuous probability distributions is integrals.

Teaching basic mathematical statistics is not as simple as it may sound. When I teach mean values and standard deviations the examples are either too simple to show anything about real statistics or too complicated to be handled without the calculator's built-in statistical functions. Mental mathematics skills are not very good even now, they would be worse if we take more calculators or computers in use. Regardless of the methods we use the examples take time. Typing all the input data is not so simple.

Arthur Benjamin mentions the digital age. I have a better suggestion, let's add Number Theory. It is simple, it is fun and it is a very relevant field of mathematics regarding computers, coding, cryptography and sharing secrets which will be needed in internet voting. These fields of math are hot at the moment, but the basics have been there for ages. I teach one extra course in Number theory (+ Math Logic) but there are many students who don't choose it.

It was actually Gauss (more known from the Normal Distribution) who said: "Mathematics is the queen of the sciences and number theory is the queen of mathematics."

Image credits: Wikipedia and zazzle

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Inspirational Rubik's Cube

The Rubik's Cube was invented in 1974 by Hungarian sculptor and professor of architecture Ernő Rubik. The puzzle was licensed by Rubik to be sold by Ideal Toys in 1980. Nowadays there are lots of variations of the puzzle by size but also by shape, like this Pyraminx Crystal

I did not concentrate on the puzzle aspect but all the imagination people have been using creating everyday things using the magical cube. There are also some new variations of the puzzle at the end.

Ear rings
[via eCRATER]


[via CharcoalDesigns]


[via YesStyle]

[via The Retroist]

Salt and pepper mills
[via giftmonger]


[via Popgadget]


[via ON24 (Finnish)]

Art called Rubikubism


Car commercial

Watch the awesome video!
[via Maniac World]


[via Geekologie]

[via Eden Cakes]

Alarm clock

[via Bedzine]

mp3 - player
[via Yankodesign]


[via Project 'Cube 2007]


[via Megahouse]


[via übergizmo]

Photo Cube

[via Ann's Personalized Gifts]


[via Lankalauantai]

People who want more expensive looking cubes can choose form the one covered in swarovski stones

[via Etsy]

or try to get this full-size, fully working cube with 185 carats of precious gems, 1.5 pounds of pure sliver with eight coats of hand-painted enamel. Only 2,500 of limited edition Rubik's cube were produced worldwide distribution. The price of this toy is $10,000.00.

[via Gems Collection]

The colours are not necessary and the puzzle can be solved by touching the different sides. The next two examples show two different solutions.

Rubik Cube for Blind by Zhiliang Chen

There are six different basic materials involved. They are Metal, wood, textile, rubber, plastic and stone. Different materials give people different senses, which thus enabled the blind men to play.
[via Yankodesign]

[via Gearfuse]

Some additional twists are included in the next two cubes.

Sudoku and Rubik's Cube combined

[via Hilavitkutin via The Gadget Chest]

Mirror Cube

If you want to see this cube solved watch the video
[via Digital Gadgets Freak]

The next two are also games but not based on the Rubik cube's pieces and movement.

Rubik's Revolution

This cube has 6 different games. One of them is light rally where you have to push the hole in the cube on the side which has a matching colour. The cube mentions the colours in some order and this particular cube speaks Finnish

[via mulletoi where you can also see a guy playing light rally]
link to the English product's page

Magnetic Cube

[via Andrew Curtis]

One example of a futuristic puzzle

The world's first cubic touchscreen games platform. Featuring unique cubic ultra-bright full-colour multi-touch touchscreen technologies, the Fentix Cube has been programmed to implement various multi-dimensional games, puzzles, and lighting effects.


And for the end two funny cubes

For the lazy person

[via Geekologie]

For Engineers or Blondes or...

Depending on the source this has different target groups. The engineer joke was from a Finnish engineer-student-website which I am not linking here because of the very questionable content. Other suggestions were of course blondes, beginners, non-geeks etc. I am not sure who to credit for this picture. It seemed that various sources had watermarked it for themselves.