The Lake Woebegon Effect and Counting Numbers

Mathematician Jim Propp connects the counting numbers — the concept of them, not particular, specific numbers — to the seemingly unconnected Lake Woebegon Effect. Propp’s essay appears in his Mathematical Enchantments blog: Beneath and Beyond … The twentieth century weekly radio show “A Prairie Home Companion” had a recurring feature called “The news from Lake […]

Bird-feather counters exhibited pluck, tediously

Many humans have spent days, months or years counting feathers. Here are exciting highlights from some of their reports. In 1936 Alexander Wetmore, of the US National Museum in Washington, gathered all the published reports he could find about someone or other counting how many feathers were on particular birds. “The work of feather counting […]

“George Washington: He Liked to Count Things”

“Of all the presidents we have had, George Washington was the only who really counted.” That single sentence with its double meaning comes at the end of a four-page monograph published in 1978 in the Alabama Journal of Mathematics. The report’s title is, George Washington: He Liked to Count Things. The author Pete Casazza, a mathematician […]