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Tag Archives: math

I keep seeing commercials for the Heart & Stroke Lottery on TV and it struck me a bit odd. I remember back when the hospitals and charities started putting on lotteries, their tickets were in the $100 range (and $100 was worth more 10 years ago!). Now I noticed that the H&S lottery only cost $25 for a ticket – but I also noticed that they weren’t advertising their material prizes; just cash ones.

I just did a quick check on their website, and it seems their prizes are different than what I saw on the commercial. It turns out that I saw the commercial for their calendar lottery where they were giving away 3x$5000/day, with special $10,000/week and $100,000/month draws over a year. So that works out to a payout of $7.195 million dollars. There’s also 2000x$25/mth winners which brings their grand total to $7.795 million dollars in prizes.

In order to break even, at $25/ticket, they have to sell at least 311,800 tickets. That’s a lot of tickets! That doesn’t account for all the marketing and overhead needed to run the operation; so there must be a lot of people in Canada playing this lottery in order for them to make money on it!


  • Manifest Destiny
    I was a fair ways through this article about the Poincaré Conjecture when I realized that I had read this article before! The part that tipped me off was reading about how a Chinese mathematician was greedy and wanted to grab the spotlight for “solving” the Poincaré Conjecture. Seems like a very Chinese thing to do.
  • The Making of Whitney Houston’s Debut Album
    An article from 1986 that’s poorly written, but adequate in conveying how Whitney was discovered in 1982 and what went into her highly successful debut. Even back then, there was a team manufacturing her success.
  • The Montauk Grifter
    A story about an individual who pretended they were in the food ownership and publishing industry. Always interested in reading about how con men pulled off their scams.

    On their next scheduled date, she proposed a test: Why don’t you go shopping and cook me dinner? Dan bought porterhouse steaks, Brussels sprouts, mushrooms. Leong paid for the groceries. They went back to his apartment. “It was like a frat boy cooking dinner,” she said. The former Rainbow Room chef and two-time James Beard nominee served her an oven-baked porterhouse steaks that he hadn’t bothered to sear and raw Brussels sprouts, thrown haphazardly on a plate. “He didn’t have any professional cooking gear, and his pantry was all canned food,” she says.

  • The Collector
    This story is about another coon man, but his cons are strictly to collect US presidents’ memorabilia!
  • The Arab world’s first ladies
    Discusses the duality between the controlled image of modern and pro-women first ladies and the actions of their husbands, especially during the Arab Spring.

I did some calculations on my previous impressions of whether I should claim my RRSPs this year, or save them to lower my tax bracket in the future. Now that I have some clear numbers, it seems worthwhile to save my contributions for the immediate future.

Based on 2007 figures tax rates, the federal tax bracket is ~$74k while the Ontario tax bracket is at ~$71k. For simplicity, let’s say that both tax brackets are at $73k. The federal tax rate moves from 22% to 26% while the Ontario rate moves from 9.15% to 11.16%. Overall, when you exceed the tax bracket, you pay an additional 6% more tax on the excess amount over the boundary. Let’s say I made $80k in 2007 and so had to pay an additional 6% on the extra $7k, or $420. To prevent this extra tax, I could use $7000 in RRSP contributions. So the question is, what would have been my opportunity cost for that $7k in RRSPs?

Regardless of when you claim the RRSP, you have to pay 22%+9.15% (let’s say 32%) tax on the $7k. If you claim the RRSP in the future, then you save the extra 6% ($420) tax you would have paid. However, if you claimed the RRSP in the past, you would end up with an extra 32% ($2240) to play with for a couple of years. Now, compound interest comes into play. If you delay a year, then you need to earn 18.75% interest in order to break even. A pretty unlikely goal, so delaying one year is worth it. The percentages work out to { 8.9%, 5.9%, 4.4%, 3.5% } for 2-5 years into the future.

From those numbers, it seems worth it to delay RRSP contributions by 2 years, 3 at the outset. Since the numbers are ratio based, it would work the same for $3000 or $15000 in contributions, although remember that it’s based on the assumption that you will exceed the (moving) tax bracket boundary by the equivalent of your saved contribution within 3 years. If your income is steady, then your rate of return on the open market will need to be much less in order to break even, so then it’s better than claim the RRSP benefit immediately (provided you’re not going to waste the money on candy).

Now I have to figure out how this works when you have a spouse.


I’m retiring from Brain Age 2 having only attained an age of 24 (although I’ve only taken the test like 3 times — hate the stupid memorization test). I’m quitting for a couple of reasons, namely that I’m dead tired of the stupid narrator patronizing me and because the training exercises just are not fun.

Sign Finder is not too bad (although I keep having my + signs recognized as x and my / recognized as -), and the hard level with multiple inputs is actually challenging. I can do mental math though, and there’s no urgency for me to be able to do multiple permutations at increased speed.

Piano Player is a joke, even on hard. The only thing holding me back is my inaccuracy with the stylus.

Word Blend is too hard even in a quiet environment with the volume on max. I’m not sure what this mode is supposed to train except to prove that you’re not deaf. Plus, the hard mode is not even that much harder (they just make one of the words even harder to pick out).

World Scramble used to be my favorite, but I quickly got bored of it. Half the time it’s too easy and I can spot the word right away, and the other half the time there are words that don’t follow normal patterns and I just give up (i.e., Admiral).

Calendar Count is dumb. It’s a simple math, counting game with numbers divisible by 7. I never played this one after I tried it out.

Change Maker is practical but too easy. Once you learn the tactic to approach these problems, it’s a matter of clicking fast enough.

Memory Sprint is also pretty dumb. The trick is to count and add/subtract when necessary. Once you’re used to those steps, it’s easy to get perfect each time.

Clock Spin is probably the hardest of the training programs, and it exercises spatial thinking (which males are supposedly better at). I’m not very good at this one, but haven’t played it much because: 1) I unlocked it near the end and was already tired of playing it, and 2) it’s not fun!

Math Recall is the one I play everyday because it’s so easy. Even the hard mode is too simplistic as you only need 2 buffers in your brain to store the hidden numbers.

Block Count was the last training program I unlocked and like Clock Spin, it wasn’t fun and I don’t play it.

Virus Buster is a rebranded Dr. Mario where you have to drag the pills to the proper location. I don’t like the control scheme, and if I wanted a game like this then I’d just play Tetris.

Sudoku is pretty useful but I wouldn’t want to carry around an extra cart just to play it.


The three people in the picture below are me, me and me.

Or at least, they would’ve been me if I were African/Caribbean, Caucasian or West-Asian. I found this neat face transforming applet which morphs your face so you can see what you would look like with a different heritage or at a different stage of life. It’s pretty neat and I spent some time saving all my different possibilities. Their site is a bogged down this morning, so maybe you will have better luck at a later time.

It’s kind of neat that you can do conversions from one facial type to another through mathematical equations. I feel like a Matrix.


A Brief History is a series of books that give a primer on various topics. This particular one is about Infinity, the Quest to Think the Unthinkable. it chronicles the struggle our civilization has had with the concept of infinity, from the early days of Greek philosophers, through the beginnings of calculus and to present day.

I thought it was risky buying this book because it could turn out to be exceedingly boring (hey it’s about math); but there is a lot of history intertwined within it and actually fairly little math. The math part, is of course pretty basic and accessible since I guess the target audience is not assumed to be Math major or anything. By the end of the book however, it did start to get a bit confusing and hair-splicing.

Infinity is also a bit of a misnomer, because it doesn’t just talk about really large numbers, it also talks about 0 — that is 1 over a Very Large Number. There are several interesting stories that stick out, such as how the Greeks had no concept of 0, or how there was a lot of politics involved for Newton to get the credit for Calculus (vs Leibowitz).

One thing that struck me when I read this book was how dumb* mathematicians of old were. Why couldn’t they believe in the existence of irrational numbers? Or that a continuous line from 0 to 1 can be broken down into infintesimal sections? Our understanding of this seems so basic, kindergarden really, yet esteemed mathematicians of centuries prior simply did not believe they could exist. This reminds me of the episode in Stargate SG-1 where the earthlings meet a more technologically advanced culture of other humans. They make a side remark that quantum physics was wrong and the earth scientist was all like: what?? how could that be? it’s the basis of our science. I guess the advanced research that we do now permeates down through the education system until the concepts are introduced early and ingrained in our minds.

* and by dumb, I mean misinformed