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Who’s Hot, Who’s Not? Using Algebra To Analyze Viral Phenomena

Usually, by the time your grandmother starts doing the “Dougie”, you know things have gotten out of hand. Since YouTube’s launch a decade ago, it has made it all too easy to reach millions of people with a catchy video and become a viral sensation. Many videos become “viral” overnight, but few stand the test of time. Some grow organically, others are the clever, contrived work of advertising agencies and production companies. I’m always amazed by the “started from the bottom” dance crazes, where a music video that cost nothing to make becomes a global banger. Not counting cat videos, or Bat Dad (my favorite), who makes your list for the top viral videos of all time. Furthermore, who’s got the hottest dance right now flooding the interwebs? Join the discussion below…

tumblr_nd62u5zdW51rwjtr9o1_r1_500

Who’s Hot, Who’s Not? Using Algebra To Analyze Viral Phenomena

Usually, by the time your grandmother starts doing the “Dougie”, you know things have gotten out of hand. Since YouTube’s launch a decade ago, it has made it all too easy to reach millions of people with a catchy video and become a viral sensation. Many videos become “viral” overnight, but few stand the test of time. Some grow organically, others are the clever, contrived work of advertising agencies and production companies. I’m always amazed by the “started from the bottom” dance crazes, where a music video that cost nothing to make becomes a global banger. Not counting cat videos, or Bat Dad (my favorite), who makes your list for the top viral videos of all time. Furthermore, who’s got the hottest dance right now flooding the interwebs? Join the discussion below…

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March (Math)ness: Teach probability in math to create the perfect tournament bracket

March-Mathness

College basketball’s NCAA Tournament has long been called “March Madness” because of the unlikely outcomes in many of its games, improbable upsets by unknown teams, and the general craziness that surrounds the event.

In the week leading up to the Tournament, people all over the world fill out brackets predicting each of the 67 games that will be played. Filling out the bracket can be done in a variety of ways – from diehard basketball fans combining all their knowledge of the game to make their picks, to casual fans choosing winners based on the fearsomeness of team mascots. Who wouldn’t be scared of Sebastian the Ibis, official mascot of the Miami Hurricanes? That bird is straight-up dangerous!

Over the years, though, one thing has become clear: there’s no surefire way to predict exactly how the Tournament will turn out. There are always surprises, like when third-seeded Baylor lost to No. 14 Georgia State in the first round of the 2015 Tournament, or when No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast pulled off a shocking upset over second-seeded Georgetown in 2013.

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Because of the randomness of the games, experts calculate the chance of designing a perfect bracket at approximately one in 128 billion. Men’s Fitness compiled a list of other improbable events that are more likely to occur – becoming a professional basketball player, winning the Powerball lottery jackpot, dating a supermodel, getting struck by lightning, and making a hole-in-one in golf. In other words, even if you’ve watched hundreds of hours of college basketball this season, don’t bank on predicting all the Tournament games correctly.

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Billionaire Warren Buffet has offered $1 million per year for life to any of his employees who can pick even the first two rounds of the Tournament correctly, a slightly less impressive feat than predicting the whole Tournament. However, it’s safe to say that Buffet probably doesn’t have to worry about anyone winning his challenge.

The long odds of winning an NCAA Tournament bracket pool won’t stop millions of people from trying, though. You can fill out your own bracket here any time after “Selection Sunday” on March 13. Just don’t expect to pick all – or even most – of the games correctly.

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What are your odds of surviving a zombie apocalypse?

In the cliffhanger Season 6 finale of the Walking Dead, the group once again got themselves into a terrible situation that is definitely going to end with one of them dying. And this won’t be the last time. It seems like Rick can’t get it together. This got us wondering, “Could we do better?”

We built mathematical projections for zombie survival strategies and ran the numbers, and came up with the quiz below. Check it out and see how your personal zombie survival plan will work out.

Turns out that no, none of us would do better than Rick. By our count, of people who followed Rick’s lead, about 4% are still alive. 4% is almost double the maximum survival project in our model (1.9%).  Rick defied not just the odds, but also the basic realities of the U.S. food and ammo supplies and the extreme difficulty of just walking down a city street. He might have seemed like an idiot in Season 1 (and also Season 2, and arguably about half the episodes in Season 3), but you can’t argue with results.

In the lesson below, students will  learn how we arrived at our quiz’s model, and make a model of their own to predict additional zombie survival strategies.