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OZinOH via Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

The Time Google Enticed Job Applicants With a Math Riddle

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OZinOH via Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

The hiring process at today's biggest tech companies can get pretty competitive. Some of the infamous, unanswerable questions asked at Google job interviews include “How much should you charge to wash all the windows in Seattle?” and “Why are manhole covers round?” Such questions have since been banned from the company’s hiring process, but back when they were allowed, Google was doing something even crazier to weed out job candidates.

In 2004, Google paid for billboards in Silicon Valley and Harvard Square that displayed a web address in the form of a math puzzle. The message read "{first 10-digit prime found in consecutive digits of e}.com”, with no sign of the company’s name on the ad. For onlookers who were tenacious enough to solve it, the answer (7427466391.com, of course) brought them to a website that presented an additional problem. It was only after cracking the second puzzle that the web page revealed it was all part of an unorthodox recruiting stunt from Google. From there, math whizzes were able to submit their resumes. The final web page read:

"One thing we learned while building Google is that it's easier to find what you're looking for if it comes looking for you. What we're looking for are the best engineers in the world. And here you are. As you can imagine, we get many, many resumes every day, so we developed this little process to increase the signal-to-noise ratio.”

Google receives more than 3 million applications each year, and only 0.2 percent of them lead to actual hires. Though it makes sense for the tech giant to want to narrow down the resume pool, they haven’t forced their applicants to complete scavenger hunt–esque puzzles since 2004. Today, Google says they make their hires based on qualities like leadership, cognitive ability, and “Googleyness.”

[h/t: NPR]

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History
When Math Discoveries Led to Banned Numbers
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iStock

The literature world has seen more than its share of controversy. The best stories tend to provoke the strongest reactions—both positive and negative—in readers, which is why so many classic books have been banned at one point or another. But even a more objective field like math isn’t immune to conflict. In its new video, TED-Ed rounds up the numbers that caused such a stir when they were introduced that they were banned in math circles.

One of the earliest examples comes from ancient Greece. A mathematician named Hippasus was having trouble solving certain equations with fractions and whole numbers alone, so he came up with irrational numbers to make these values easier to express. The ruling school of thought at the time dictated that everything in nature could be explained elegantly with the numbers that already existed. Threatened by Hippasus’s new notion, his fellow mathematicians rejected the irrational numbers and had him exiled.

Other numbers have been banned for legal reasons. When Arab traders brought their positional number system, which included zero, to Italy in the Middle Ages, Florence banned it from record-keeping fearing that they would be easier to forge than Roman numerals. The Arabic way of counting also led to the rise of negative numbers, which were regarded with disdain by many experts into the 19th century. For more banned numbers, including some that are prohibited today, check out the full story below.

[h/t TED-Ed]

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Euclid
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Live Smarter
An Ex-Google Engineer Just Reinvented the Measuring Cup
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Euclid

Recognizing a problem most people didn’t even know they had, former Google and Facebook software engineer Joshua Redstone has made a bold claim for his recent Kickstarter venture: He’s developed a better measuring cup.

According to the Boston Business Journal, Redstone spent four years tinkering with a solution to something that had long annoyed him as an amateur chef: Traditional measuring cups, which are stocky and not very well tapered, don’t do a great job of accurately measuring their own contents. Redstone believes the shape of a cup determines its success, particularly when a cook overfills a liquid or solid by a tiny amount. The smaller the volume, the more the problem is magnified.

Euclid

Redstone’s cup, Euclid, resolves the issue. According to the Kickstarter page: “With traditional measuring cups, the smaller the amount, the harder it is to measure accurately. The culprit? The shape. Straight sides magnify errors when measuring lower down in the cup. Some have tried to solve this problem with conical measuring cups, but their results fall short of Euclid’s by up to 60 percent. Euclid is the only measuring cup with a mathematically optimal, tapered design for consistent accuracy across amounts.”

Euclid is just about ready to overshoot its $30,000 Kickstarter goal. Backers can pay $24 for the cup now, or wait until it’s available at retail for a slightly higher price to be determined. The cup is scheduled for release in May 2018.

[h/t Boston Business Journal]

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