Author Archives: Bob Welbaum

Where Did Algebra Come From, Anyway?

I should know better than to discuss mathematics, but I thought this was going to be easy. I have always thought that algebra originated in the Middle East, algebra being an Arabic-derived word (al-gabr).  Recently I was listening to a Science Friday podcast from July 2nd (http://www.podtrac.com/pts/redirect.mp3/traffic.libsyn.com/sciencefriday/scifri201507031p.mp3) that corroborated that viewpoint.  According to the podcast, the

The Little Things in History

Many times in history, it’s the little things that are critical.  You may know about how at the Battle of Gettysburg, Union General G. K. Warren found a critical spot in the Union line that was unoccupied and organized its defense on his own initiative.  Otherwise, the battle could’ve been lost.  Also in that battle,

The Psychology of “Inside Out”

I’ve seen the latest Pixar animated feature Inside Out twice now, and I thought it was a remarkable film.  As an adult, it gave me a lot to think about, yet if I was a kid, I would’ve enjoyed it just as much.  It’s a great starting point for explaining emotions and memories to children.

How to Protect Your Intellectual Property

Having been in the publishing business and now writing for myself, I know there are many people in the world who do not respect intellectual property.  You own your ideas just as much as you own your computer, yet some people don’t seem to be able to grasp this.  But there are ways to protect

Happy Birthday, Snoopy!

I don’t consider myself particularly creative, so I certainly admire creativity in others.  But I know the creative process can be long and evolutionary. I guess this is why a post entitled “Snoopy at 65” on Facebook caught my eye.  This beloved cartoon dog’s origin can be traced back to a sketch about a pup who

A Quick Math Trick

School is about to start, so — Here is a math trick I just learned about.  If you added up all the numbers from zero to 100, what would be their sum? Sounds daunting, doesn’t it?  Well, there’s an easy way to do this. Imagine a column of numbers from 0 to 100.  How many

The Logic of Logic

Is there anything in this world that’s completely logical? How about mathematics?  This is one area in which every problem has a precise, finite solution. Or so many people thought.  The seminal work Principia Mathematica by Alfred North Whitehead and Bertrand Russell  sought to describe a set of axioms and rules which, in principal at

Poem — Who Teaches You?

Who teaches you? I teach sometimes. That’s how I met a boy, actually a young man, but it’s easy to think of him as a boy because he wears diapers and he doesn’t talk even though he’s 18 years old. Oh, and he’s also blind. We’d take him to the gym and he would walk

Strangest Story of World War II

There are a lot of strange stories from World War II.  My favorite is the Dam Busters (http://www.dambusters.org.uk/) — the attempt to flood the Ruhr Valley by breeching upstream dams with bouncing bombs.  (Hey, it was a partial success!) Now a friend has told me of an even stranger story  —  The only time the

What Can You Believe on the Internet?

I’m not one to publically get into the culture wars, but recently I heard another reminder that what one finds on the Internet cannot be accepted without critical thought. For example, what happened to the dinosaurs?  Type that into a Google search and and one of the top websites (and I’ve been told at one time