February 16, 2005

Classroom update

My new class on the chemical bond or the physics of molecules is now in its second week. It is always a lot of work to teach a course for the first time-- to write new lectures and come up with new problems. I've been doing a lot of reading. This week we are studying statistics and the statistical behaviour of molecules-- very interesting, if it happens to be your cup of tea. Today I ran across this piece of trivia while reading about how energy is distributed between molecules. If you are at a restaurant and 'n' people check their hats with the waiter, and the waiter loses the check stubs and redistributes the hats at random, the chance that no-one receives their own hat is 1/e or a little more than 1 in 3. The odds are the same, no matter how many people give their hats to the waiter. Just imagine that mathematicians have such fun jobs so they can spend their time thinking up results like that!


At February 17, 2005 6:54 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I always think it is some mystical thing when Pi or e or 2i are used in some real world example like this one.

At February 17, 2005 10:09 AM , Blogger Matt_J said...

Isn't it though?
Here is a fun combination of symbols:
-1 = e^(Pi*i)


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