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7 December 1998 Vol. 3, No. 49 THE MATH FORUM INTERNET NEWS Glossary of Mathematical Mistakes | Classic Fallacies | The Why Files GLOSSARY OF MATHEMATICAL MISTAKES - Paul Cox http://www.psn.net/~xocxoc/math/glossary.htm Paul Cox's list of common mathematical mistakes committed by advertisers, the media, reporters, politicians, activists, and others. Cox analyzes everything from circular reasoning, graph errors, and spurious use of the law of averages to "factorectomy," gestalt geometry, and the "Kevin Bacon" game (six degrees of separation). Examples include: - Aftermath Counting (Dewdney) - what the press has a tendency to do after a major disaster - the counting of known casualties from the police, paramedics, hospitals, and morgues, without considering duplication... - Gambler's Ruin - if a gambler stays in a casino long enough he will eventually lose all of his money. This is why casinos can pay out millions in winnings and still stay in business... - The Object D'art Graph - A graph that lacks a standardized y-axis in order to hide what the graph is really saying. It can be a pretty graph suitable for framing but in fact is absolutely useless... - Logical Fallacies - if you want to deceive the majority of the people, use some of these in your arguments. (Note that these are used consistently by politicians, lawyers, and advertisers)... - "Looks Like" Geometry - the tendency to find significance in insignificant geometric patterns. The best example is the "Face on Mars"... Cox also accepts and discusses examples submitted by readers, which include the Monty Hall problem and Zohnerism (named for the student who petitioned to ban dihydrogen monoxide). See his Mistake of the Month with its archive, the Raw Data (the math behind the mistakes); Problems and Puzzles (in arithmetic, geometry, and algebra); and sources and links. http://www.mathmistakes.com -|-\-/-|-\-/-|-\-/-|-\-/-|-\-/-|-\-/-|-\-/-|-\-/-|-\-/-|-\-/-|- CLASSIC FALLACIES - Philip Spencer http://www.math.toronto.edu/mathnet/falseProofs/fallacies.html Mathematical "proofs" demonstrating that 1 = 2, that all people in Canada are the same age, that a ladder will fall infinitely fast when pulled, and that every natural number can be unambiguously described in fourteen words or less. Each proof consists of several steps that allow readers to look for the flaw, and then explain why it is or is not in that step. A printed version of this material, suitable for use as a classroom module, is available from the site. -|-\-/-|-\-/-|-\-/-|-\-/-|-\-/-|-\-/-|-\-/-|-\-/-|-\-/-|-\-/-|- THE WHY FILES - University of Wisconsin http://whyfiles.news.wisc.edu/ An electronic exploration of the issues of science, math, and technology that lurk behind the headlines of the day. Included are a bimonthly feature on the science of everyday life, archived files, discussion forums, sports science and puzzles, and science images. Search the site for math to find such pages as: - Coping with Multiples (massive multiple math quiz) http://whyfiles.news.wisc.edu/053multi_birth/4.html - Counting Bacteria http://whyfiles.news.wisc.edu/shorties/count_bact.html - Fantastic Fractals http://whyfiles.news.wisc.edu/046sci_project/fractal.html - Random Is as Random Does http://whyfiles.news.wisc.edu/009poll/random.html - Serious Statistical Secrets http://whyfiles.news.wisc.edu/009poll/math_primer.html -|-\-/-|-\-/-|-\-/-|-\-/-|-\-/-|-\-/-|-\-/-|-\-/-|-\-/-|-\-/-|- CHECK OUT OUR WEB SITE: The Math Forum http://mathforum.org/ Ask Dr. Math http://mathforum.org/dr.math/ Problems of the Week http://mathforum.org/pow/ Internet Resources http://mathforum.org/~steve/ Teacher2Teacher http://mathforum.org/t2t/ Discussion Groups http://mathforum.org/discussions/ Join the Math Forum http://mathforum.org/join.forum.html Send comments to the Math Forum Internet Newsletter editors _o \o_ __| \ / |__ o _ o/ \o/ __|- __/ \__/o \o | o/ o/__/ /\ /| | \ \ / \ / \ /o\ / \ / \ / | / \ / \ |

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