This is fun: New Scientist magazine ran a story on our little
Monthly article. You can find it here on the New Scientist website as
"The perfect way to slice a pizza" by Stephen Ornes,
Dec 12, 2009 (issue number 2738),
pp 48-50. (A tinyURL is here: http://preview.tinyurl.com/y8suvp7.)
There is a complete copy of the New Scientist article on Stephen Ornes' website. I enjoyed working with Stephen on that story, in no small part because he was determined to get all the math right. It's quite a challenge to write a popular article on math (which is why you don't see too many, I suppose). I was tickled to see that Stephen particularly enjoyed our work, as he says in this interview by MIT. (As he mentions, later we collaborated again, but that's another story.)
Stephen Ornes did not give it that ridiculous title — "The perfect way to slice a pizza" — and our article and results have absolutely nothing to do with that. It could be said that we analyze the sharing of pizzas that arrive at the table already sliced in a very specific, improper way. (It's a geometry problem, not a pizza problem.) On the other hand, without the inaccurate title, would there have been
this much interest? (Hmm, top 10 physics stories? Well, I suppose if the cheese falls off your slice and lands in your lap, then it is physics.)
Also, MathDL (below) picked it up and added a few more errors. (I sent corrections to the editor on 22 Jan 2010.) In particular, it should be noted that we didn't prove OUR conjecture, we proved the conjecture made by Stan Wagon, Larry Carter and John Duncan. Our article states that plainly. And there are other errors in the MathDL article, due, I guess, to their not-so-careful reading of the New Scientist article. Of course, in spite of this, I'm happy they gave it some attention. [The MathDL post was corrected Jan 26.]
Anyway, within hours of the posting of the article on the New Scientist website, various online news providers gave it some air on their blogs and elsewhere. Most of them get it completely wrong (perhaps misled by the title), but there's no such thing as bad publicity, so I have heard. I'll let you know. Meanwhile, I'll try to maintain a collection of some examples below.
(Oh, I learned a math joke while perusing these links: "The volume of a pizza of thickness a and radius z is pi z z a.")
- World News Australia
- Discover Magazine blog
- MathDL (Math in the News) (deprecated); MathDL (Math in the News) (corrected and updated)
- A maneira parfeita de cartar uma piza (Warning: 8Mb PDF) - a translation into Portuguese of the New Scientist article in Courrier Internacional. Nice looking pizza.
- The cover is here, showing our pizza results palling around with terrorists. A large version of the cover is here.
- "Connaissez-vous le théorème de la pizza?" Courrier International [A rewording of the New Scientist article. There's a lot of this quasi-plagiaristic stuff on the web and in newspapers, I have learned. I have no idea if it is legal. Perhaps it depends on the nation of the translators. But it does spread the word.] Reposted below.
- Théorème de la Pizza. Casa-pizza.com (French) (This is a site about pizza, not math. They summarize some of what appears elsewhere and they (unlike most others) get the main math points right.)
- Die Pizza Vermutung. An article by the German mathematician-turned-journalist, Wolfgang Blum, in the newspaper, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Seite 16, nr. 21, 27.01.2010.
- "Kuriositäten aus der mathematischen Welt", a set of slides (PDF) by
Markus Nieß, Kath. Universität Eichstätt-Ingolstadt
- "Pizzas, crusts and other tasty things", a set of slides (PDF) for a MUMS Talk, by
Tharatorn Supasiti, Dept of Maths and Stats, University of Melbourne, Australia
- A Wikipedia site popped up and someone added our pizza stuff(ings). Wikipedia. Although I can't read it,
zh.wikipedia.org/ seems better, with more detailed pizza goodness.
- MLA Handbook, 7th ed. We're an example of a periodical citation!
- Tsk. A completely incorrect characterization of the problem is here: Industrial Engineer and Operations Research Tools
- A serious reaction here: Matrix67 (blog in Chinese). (Translation from the Chinese by Google Translate)
- We're a trivia question! See Question #55 of this quiz. (Must be a trick question. None of the selections are correct answers, at least not yet.)
- Quem vai comer mais pizza? (Who will eat more pizza?) Info (abril.com, Portuguese) (The facts are correct but the comments seem derisive!)
- Institute of Physics, Mathematics and Computer Information Systems at the Cherkasy National University (in Ukrainian; statement of the problem only.)
- El teorema de la pizza. Cátedra de Cultura Científica, 11 Sep 2013, by Raúl Ibáñez
One of a kind? Franck Stevens followed the spectacle de fromage in France as an example of the difficulty of science-writing for the masses: "La conjecture de la pizza et la difficulté de vulgariser". (My loose translation: "The pizza conjecture and the popularization conundrum".) The author notes and laments some reactions on Le Huffington Post, including one that says (essentially) "Those who should not laugh are the taxpayers who paid those idiots for 11 years."
Mathematical curiosity #102.g (out of 103)? We're one of the last few bites here (Google eBook): 103 curiosità matematiche: Teoria dei numeri, delle cifre e delle relazioni nella matematica contemporanea.
"Math lovers unite to boycott Pizza Hut!" An amusing spat has broken out between math lovers and Pizza Hut. I'm tempted to be drawn into this fray.
Anti-math Pizza Hut commercial (youtube)
Speaking of actual pizza businesses, there is a pizza place called The Pizza Theorem in Ahmedabad, India! They have a
Facebook page. So unlike Pizza Hut (above), here are some pizza vendors who don't seem afraid of a little math.
Some people had thoughtful (if not correct) reactions to the New Scientist article.
There were some very humorous reactions. But browse these only at your own risk.
- "Mathematicians officially out of ideas." fark.com
- "You can use pizza to disguise it, but it's STILL math." [Guilty as charged.] "Now that these Aussie boffins are done with this problem, ..."
Dave Barry's blog - BOFFIN UPDATE [But we're not Aussies. Not that there's anything wrong with Aussies. Or boffins]
- "... British mathematicians ... are working on the most equitable way to slice a pizza. It is to laugh." trueslant.com [We're not working on that! And we're not British! Not that there's anything wrong with that, either.]
- "Conclusion: they have seriously bad pizza slicers in Shreveport." (Also see "two other boffins dealing with the same problem") Metafilter.com
[Actually, there was some relatively high-level math talk here amid some high-level snarking.]
- "The cutting edge of Mathematics." [Some posters on reddit.com try pretty hard to explain things accurately to those who comment without reading the articles. Now why does that resonate with me?]
- "This is known as the complete pizza theorem." [It is? I never heard of that.] Neatorama
- "the most crusty, saucy, cheesy goodness" Serious eats / Slice (from the Wayback machine)
- "Only if you're willing to cut the cheese." [and close to 300 more comments] Slashdot.com (Maybe the center of the pizza should be called the "slash dot".)
- "my pizza place square-cuts the pie. See you in another 20 years, guys!" boingboing.net
Interesting—this post by "apoxia" is what our problem is really about, even though the description here is a bit contradictory.
"My mother is perplexed by cake cutting. She bought a little cutter stencil that you stick in the centre of the cake. It has cut lines where you insert your knife and continue cutting to the edge for even sizes. She has several stencils for different numbers of slices, e.g. five, six, 8 etc.
Of course, the stencil has to go right in the middle or everything goes wrong."
Genau! Hier ist so ein Tortenteiler on amazon.de. Vielen Dank an meine Frau, Sibylle, für den Tip!
Such things also exist for pizzas. Check out "The Equalizer" series from Lloyd Pans.
- "Rick Mabry and Paul Deiermann have long asked themselves what is the perfect way to slice a pizza." [No, we didn't. But we're glad you liked the article.] Munch monster
- "Too much time on their hands" [Who, us? What about all you people tweeting about math and pizza? Oh yeah, and me reading them. And POSTING them. Okay, guilty as charged.] tweetmeme
- "I need to tear into the guts of this guy ... pretty sweet (and asinine) math." swantron.com
- "How to kill mathematicians" Swans on Tea
- "Ein Mal Pizza Algebra, bitte - und einen Mathematiker, der sie schneidet." Tagesschau.de (from the Wayback machine)
- "valgono per le pizze di tutto il mondo" (translation: "valid for pizzas around the world") Maddmaths! (Italian)
- From the New Scientist comments section:
- "this article is two pages long!" Page 2
- "Who's paying for this 'research'?" [Louisiana taxpayers. But they aint paying much.] Page 3
- "I wonder how much the government paid for this information?" [Yes, we get a lot of that. The question, that is, aber kein geld für die Arbeit.] bitsandpieces.com (from the Wayback machine)
- "nothing attracts the ladies like pizza and proofs" BuzzFeed
- "AHHHH. Enough with the stupid pizza slicing!!" MathFail.com
- "Wenn Dinge aus dem Zentrum geraten" (When things get off-center) SWR.de (and a translation by Google Translate)
- "The most unkindest cut..." (Roughly) Daily
- "this couple is voracious but pretty cheap" Adoinis Diaries
- "Difficile de couper une pizza?" cowblog.fr (and a translation from French by Google Translate) As the comments indicate, the French greatly appreciate our work.
- "Slicing Pizza Is A Science" GeekWeek
- Pizza Sankt Martin? Bella berät (auf Deutsch) (This is a reaction to an article by Wolfgang Blum in the Süddeutsche Zeitung. I have no idea what the author's point is, but he doesn't seem to like Blum's article. Probably too much math, as Blum is a mathematician.)
- "How many times has this happened to you?" La Cliosfera (en español)
- "I think it will feature perfectly in an episode." [I couldn't agree more.] Big Bang Theory community boards
- "Pizza offers the ultimate eating question" [I couldn't agree less.] Web Gangsta. As with many of these nice blogs, there are more mistakes here than you can shake a pizza-schtick at.
- "the worst thing to bust brain cells over" I Am Chiq.com
- "Den perfekte måte å dele opp pizzaen på" Dinside (Norwegian) A Norwegian rehash of Stephen's article, with a commercial every few lines.
- "Liquidated pizza? Sacrilege." menéame peta (en español)
- "This is how they slice pizza in Buffalo" (Interesting! I smell a new pizza problem cooking...) iElmira.com
- An Ig Nobel Prize for us? I wish. Science Backstage (Italian)
- "The author will study the theorem of quiche." Blog de l'inutile (Blog of the useless)
- "A couple of guys figured out the 'perfect way' to slice a pizza." [Ach, no we did not.] Digital Silence
- "the Universe loves Mathematical principals" [(sic!) Lovers of the English language should not click this one.] Flavored Delights
- "Allerdings ist die Formel so kompliziert, dass der Käse darüber austrocknet. (However, the formula is so complicated that it dries out the cheese.)" Bayerischer Rundfunk online
- "the Pizza Hut equivalent of code breaking" the San Diego Pizzicato blog (Click here if we've been moved off the main page.)
- "So delicious and healthy too. The information on slicing a pizza is very informative." [I can't imagine how.] Flavored Delights.com
- [Who the heck is Sheldon Cooper?] manan's posterous.
- "these last 2 paragraphs are awesome" [Who am I to argue the obvious?] Samwise.
- Tons more on Google.
(Note: the image above is a possibly-copyright-infringing image I've made from graphics at Google.com and NewScientist.com. Please don't sue me, folks.)
Click for Rick Mabry's LSUS homepage.