Episode 011: Learning How To Count – Let My Primates Go!

EDIT:  I want to make clear that the episode below includes some new musical interludes that are in the “rough draft” stage.  I put it up because I’d love to hear comments from you, our audience, on what you felt worked and didn’t work.  Our goal is to add in some extra “stylings”, but we don’t want these to drown out the content.

Please feel free to comment in the comments section about what you think worked and what you think didn’t.  Your opinions will help to make this an even better show!

In This Episode:

  • All about Combinatorics – the Mathematicians fancy way of “counting”.
  • The magical musical and production styling’s of Keith Schreiner make Tom and Nick seem “almost” respectable.
  • Tom invents the natural numbers in under 3 minutes.
  • 5 primates are standing in a line … can you come up with a punch line?
  • Is the factorial [5! = 5x4x3x2x1] just a way for mathematicians to justify yelling?
  • How many ways can you cage 2 primates out of 5?  And is this illegal?
  • The importance of watching Stargate SG1.
  • Why is your genome smarter than your computer?
  • If you went far enough on a space ship, would your toothpaste taste like rye bread?
  • Apparently Nick ‘Horton’ has an alter-eg0, Nick ‘Lion’.  It does sound more manly.

This program was produced by Keith Schreiner who’s other work you can find here.

Author: Nick Horton

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  1. Im not saying the audio backgrounds weren’t cool, but I was wondering am I listening to MfP, or an Ambient CD? the interruptions where it would blend into sounds and no talking in my opinion (not so humble) was kind of annoying. I liked the opening and the occasional background, but the soundtrack shouldn’t outdo the content. Again my opinion of course, but I like Math, and I like the music, but the mix here wasn’t complimentary. Don’t get rid of it, just find a complimentary balance. Content wise, liked the content, but then Factorials are some of my favorite parts of math.

    Post a Reply
    • Thanks Jay for the comment. Actually I am hoping to get a number of comments on the particulars to get feedback on what we’re doing. That is, what works, what doesn’t.

      I’ve written down your comments to take back to the drawing board. Particularly this one:

      “I like Math, and I like the music, but the mix here wasn’t complimentary. ”

      That’s a good way to look at it.

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  2. Yeah, I’m listening now and I’m finding the background audio to be kind of distracting. (Other than the intro which was cool.)

    Also the interlude at 5:30 is kind of random and breaks the train of thought.

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    • Thanks for the comment Josh,

      I noted the 5:30 section. Good catch.

      Post a Reply
  3. Liked the intro, by the first break I was like… “What have they done to their previously sweet format?”

    But by the end… I dunno… I think I’m digging it. I think it might actually work better if it was used sort of like commercial breaks. You know, like the you plan for where it will fall during preproduction, and just use them as cognative breathers.

    On a completely unrelated note… I’ve been thinking about side-splotched lizards ever since episode 3. I’m about 75% into alpha on the board game right now.

    Talk me out of using the phrase “Make with the humping” on the “Spring Time” card. Please.

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    • Haha! It’s hard not to laugh at “make with the humpin”. that’s just good wholesome fun.

      Oh, and thanks for the input. Our original idea with the music was what you suggested, using it for cognitive breaks. Of course, we’re experimenting with different stuff. But, I think that’s one thing that will certainly stay in.

      We figured that sometimes it’s good to give the audience a pause to absorb what we just said, rather than plow through like two gorilla’s in a china shop.

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  4. I love the podcast. Even though I do math for a living (CG effects artist) there’s the occasional simple grain of knowledge and understanding that you present that gives me that deliriously fresh ‘AH-HA’ moment.

    I was initially taken aback by the very plain format, but like eating plain yogurt I developed a taste for the bare essentials.

    This podcast caught me unawares with the music and grooves. Like the others I dug the intro, like someone had sprinkled shaved chocolate on my usual bowl of yogurt (local organic fair trade whole milk). Then, as the podcast continued I found that someone had slipped chunks of feta cheese and bits of jalapeno in my yogurt. Gluck!

    The production quality of the music is excellent, don’t get me wrong. But as an experiment in multimedia, no so great.

    Intros to podcasts get my brain salivating. I humbly suggest using the same 8-12 seconds over and over again (or sometimes different ones for holidays or such) for the beginning of the cast. And the same setup for the tail.
    http://thewordnerds.org/ (bless their dead cast) put whole songs in the middle of their cast. Really top notch work there, but that’s probably what killed ’em in the end, they were just doing too much to keep the monster afloat. But check’ out their archives for really “A+/A+, come to my office after school and we’ll talk about enrolling you in college level classes even though you’re only in 8th grade” programming.

    Those are my $0.02 and I wish you the best. I’m stayin’ subscribed and tellin’ my friends.


    Post a Reply
    • Great! Thanks, brother. This is a great quote btw, “Then, as the podcast continued I found that someone had slipped chunks of feta cheese and bits of jalapeno in my yogurt. Gluck! ”

      Ya I loved the intro myself. And we agree that sometimes the interludes became jarring, or the background music was a bit loud. We’re still playing with it, so stay tuned!

      Post a Reply
  5. I liked the intro and the whole first minute, but for me, when the music faded at 1:30, it should have stayed gone.

    Maybe a couple brief interludes somewhere in the middle would be ok (especially if they were planned as breaks instead of cutting into the content), but I think it would be better to just save the music for the beginning and the end.

    The music makes it feel more like I’m listening to something on NPR. Don’t get me wrong, I love NPR, but I rather liked the way that this show felt less produced and more like just a couple of guys talking (which is possibly my favorite quality in podcasts).

    Just my opinion, and I do like the added production, but the content stands on its own, and I don’t think it needs the background music.

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    • Ah, NPR. I see what you’re saying about the expectations. When you listen to the radio you automatically expect something quite different than with a podcast.

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  6. I found the new audio format to be a little jarring at first, considering I had been listening since episode 1. After I got into it, though, I started to really like it. In a way, the new audio reminds me a bit of NPR’s RadioLab.

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  7. One thing that I thought was very positive is that the slight background buzz from your previous shows was gone, I do not know if that was from the music or an equipment upgrade though. The bed music worked quite well but sometimes the music levels would spike during your conversations and drown out the words which was distracting. I agree with Mike C. that the use of it as a break between two divergent ideas works quite well and is a great addition to the show. Thanks for your work.

    Post a Reply
    • You know we’d be wanted to get rid of that background hum ourselves. The primary reason it’s gone is indeed an upgrade in equipment. But, the background music would drown out anything left over for sure.

      Audio bed in our new episode is more consistently leveled. But, listen to that one and tell me what you think. I like the background music, but we need to make sure that it is not so loud that it is distracting from the content. Having multiple ears helps.


      Post a Reply
  8. I agree with working on where the breaks are going to happen beforehand, so that the breaks are more natural. They seemed to be cutting you guys off mid-thought this time around, which actually made it harder to follow you. Also, they should be short, maybe 5-10 seconds. In my head, musical interludes act kind of like the extra spacing between paragraphs; they let you know that the topic is going to change slightly. (The Sporkful comes to mind as a podcast that does this well.) If I want more time to think about what you guys just said, I pause the podcast.

    I may be an n of 1 that likes podcasts when they’re rougher and less produced–more a conversation amongst friends and less Radio Lab–so I really liked your old format. But a bit of production is fine if it makes it more fun for you guys and helps get the word out. The one thing I have to put my foot down about, so to speak, is repeating a bit of what you just said in a whispery voice during the musical interludes. It’s distracting, and it makes you sound like some sort of New Age “gurus” rather than the guys who explain graph theory with bonobo humpin’.

    That said, I love Math for Primates. The first episode I listened to was the one on gauge theory and applying it to economics, which hooked me completely. I’ve been thinking about economics from the “softer” side of psychology and neurology, so finding out that there is a way to model people’s fuzzy preferences in math was great. Keep up the good work!

    Post a Reply
    • In our next episode (# 013), we did exactly that: we recorded in segments so that the breaks were well defined before hand. Great minds think alike!

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  9. kill the background audio.. downtempo is a poor choice.
    felt like i was on a newage website, prepping to mainline kambutcha…
    obviously, i need to keep in better touch, this awesomeness caught me off guard!

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  10. The music is great: Please post the artists and titles! John Done, Kingston, Ontario

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  11. All of the music sounds good, but it takes up a lot of time. The intro is great, and interludes make sense at some points in time, but are too long, and the background music is distracting. Keep the intro, do short transitions, and more precise transitions. Other wise I love it, love the podcast good luck on the math punx stuff too.

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  12. I listened through all episodes after a friend recommended them to me. I liked them all, though I must admit I liked the later – soundscaped – ones better in terms of production quality – and the earlier more in terms of intellectual content. I am also a big fan of RadioLab, so I might be biased :)

    Regarding combinatorials, I have a question I first thought of several years back, and I still haven’t figured it out, maybe you guys can help.

    The simplest way to explain it is: Assume an alarm system with a 4 digit code from a 10 digit alphabet. When pushing in digits to enter the code the keypad is satisfied with the correct 4-digit code, disregarding if something came before it. Thus, keying in 12345 the keypad “sees” the code 1234 and 2345.

    All 4^10 codes produce a 40000 string. Clearly entering that string would produce duplicates. (even after 2 tries, “0000 0001” you’ve entered “0000” three times).

    First question: What length is the shortest string that would produce all n-digit combinations from a k sized alphabet?

    Second question: What is that string?


    Post a Reply


  1. Combinatorics: Let My People Count – Math for Primates Episode 011 « Sapien Games - [...] format is more fun, there are musical interludes etc.  Check out the new episode here. In This [...]

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