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Celebrating Square Root Day

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Square Root Day is when the month and the day are the square root of the year. It only happens nine times in a century, and today (3-3-09) is one of those days.

The holiday is the brainchild of Sequoia High (Redwood City, California) driver education teacher Ron Gordon, who enjoys calendar quirks. He's tried to get schools to celebrate Square Root Day since 1981. Gordon also inspired a celebration of Odd Day on March 5, 2007 (3-5-7). He is giving away a prize of $339 to the person who has the best Square Root Day celebratory event. What can you do to celebrate Square Root Day? Math teachers expect students to calculate square roots. We should do something fun in addition.

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Robert X. Cringely at Infoworld has a plan for celebrating Square Root Day.

I don't know about you, but I'm planning to celebrate by watching a "SpongeBob SquarePants" marathon while playing with my slide rule.

That's only the beginning of the many ways you can celebrate Square Root Day.

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The established custom is to cut root vegetables (carrots, turnips, radishes) into squares. Actually eating them may be asking too much. But potatoes are roots, aren't they? Square (or cubic) potatoes can mean only one thing -home fries.

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For dessert you need to make a carrot cake. Square, of course. There are plenty of different recipes, all you have to do is find one that fits the ingredients you have. Enjoy it with some root beer. Oh yes, I'll have a slice, thank you very much!

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Buy yourself a square root puzzle. You won't receive it in time to play today, but you'll be ready for the next holiday in 2016.

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You can play Square Root Clock online. There are plenty of online games that challenge your math skills using square roots, but this is the most photogenic.

Then there's always a little square root poetry. This example is from Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay (contains spoiler, if you care).

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After all the food and math, grab seven of your friends and have a square dance. Some basic instructions are at Square Dancing 101. Allemande left, 2 by 2! Image by Wikimedia user Deirdre.

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If you are so inclined, you might go looking for a real square root in the world around you. They are kind of rare. Image by Flickr user arsheffield.

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And if that's not enough fun for you, we're only a couple of weeks away from Pi Day! But celebrate Square Root Day wisely. The next such holiday will be on April 4, 2016.

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Watch How Computers Perform Optical Character Recognition
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Optical Character Recognition (OCR) is the key technology in scanning books, signs, and all other real-world texts into digital form. OCR is all about identifying a picture of written language (or set of letters, numbers, glyphs, you name it) and sorting out what specific characters are in there.

OCR is a hard computer science problem, though you wouldn't know it from its current pervasive presence in consumer software. Today, you can point a smartphone at a document, or a sign in a national park, and instantly get a pretty accurate OCR read-out...and even a translation. It has taken decades of research to reach this point.

Beyond the obvious problems—telling a lowercase "L" apart from the number "1," for instance—there are deep problems associated with OCR. For one thing, the system needs to figure out what font is in use. For another, it needs to sort out what language the writing is in, as that will radically affect the set of characters it can expect to see together. This gets especially weird when a single photo contains multiple fonts and languages. Fortunately, computer scientists are awesome.

In this Computerphile video, Professor Steve Simske (University of Nottingham) walks us through some of the key computer science challenges involved with OCR, showing common solutions by drawing them out on paper. Tune in and learn how this impressive technology really works:

A somewhat related challenge, also featuring Simske, is "security printing" and "crazy text." Check out this Computerphile video examining those computer science problems, for another peek into how computers see (and generate) text and imagery.

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fun
Can You Solve This Fish Riddle?
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Transporting cargo by boat doesn’t usually require solving tricky brainteasers. That’s not the case with this fishy riddle from TED-Ed.

For this scenario, imagine you're a cargo boat director who’s charged with shipping several tanks of rare fish to an aquarium. The tanks are tossed overboard during a rough storm and it’s your job to retrieve them. There’s a mini-sub onboard that might be of assistance, but there’s a problem: You only have enough fuel for it to make one quick trip. Before launching your rescue mission, you need to figure out exactly how many tanks fell into the water and where they landed.

After referring to sonar data, thermal imaging, and your shipping notes, you come up with this list of information to help narrow down your search.

1. There are three sectors where the cargo landed.

2. There are 50 animals in the area, including the lost fish and deadly sharks.

3. Each sector contains between one and seven sharks and no two sectors have the same amount of sharks.

4. The tanks each have the same amount of fish.

5. There are 13 tanks at most.

6. The first sector has two sharks and four tanks in it.

7. The second sector has four sharks and two tanks.

So how many fish are there? If you came up with 39, you’re right. There can only be 39 fish spread out across 13 tanks, which means there are three fish in each.

In case you’re feeling more confused now than you were before, you can refer to TED-Ed’s full explanation in the video below.

SECTIONS

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