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My Two Cents
by Stephen Scalf
Most of you have probably seen an episode or two of Sesame Street. The show was built around the concept that music and repetition can be powerful teaching tools. And it must be true because there are still some of those scenes – like when they’d “sing a song about three… How many is three?” – I still can’t get that song out of my head.
But the whole reason I mention Sesame Street is because they would always have a special letter and a special number that they would highlight during the show and at the end announce, “This show was brought to you by the letter ‘Q’ and the number ‘7’.”
Well, by way of warning, today’s little Geek-fest, my column, is brought to you by the number 30. (“30… 30… 30… 30… Let’s sing our song about 30… How many is 30?”)
Thirty is actually a pretty cool number, in a sort of nerdy way. But we’ll have to review some math to figure out why.
Do you remember how to factor numbers? 30 has three prime factors: 2, 3, and 5:
Any number that is the product of three distinct prime numbers is called a sphenic number, and 30 is the smallest of these.
At the same time as being the smallest sphenic number, 30 is the largest number where all of its coprimes (prime relative to each other) are prime numbers.
But here’s another something that’s really kind of cool about the number 30. Do you remember how to square a number? You multiply it by itself, right? But there is a reason they call them “square” numbers. Remember that the sides of a square have the same length, so if you arrange a “square” of a number in rows and columns, it actually looks like a square.
Forgive me for illustrating the concept of a square number with round objects, but these were the only pictures I could find on the internet to explain my point:
12 = 1x1 = 1
22 = 2x2 = 4
32 = 3x3 = 9
42 = 4x4 = 16
Stack these squares on top of each other, and it forms…
…A perfect pyramid! Note that 1+4+9+16=30.
More facts about
the number 30
• 30 is the minimum age for a U.S. Senator
• 30 is the age Jesus began his ministry
• 30 silver pieces is the price Judas Iscariot received to betray Jesus
• Major League Baseball, Basketball and the National Hockey League each have 30 teams
• The Beatles' White Album had 30 tracks
But what I really like about the number 30 is that on this coming Monday, Nov. 4 my wife and I will have been married 30 years.
And written in Roman numerals, 30 is "X X X," which also represents the three kisses Cindy gives me each night before we go to sleep.
Happy Anniversary, Cindy!
Thanks for still loving me.
And that’s my (thirty) two cents,
Sharing a Smile
by Tom Metcalfe
I came across this Irish folktale when I was researching the jack o’ lantern. I had either not heard it before or I had not stored in my personal memory bank. I liked it and I thought you might enjoy it too, especially at this time of the year. The following is taken from “History of the Jack O’ Lantern” from the web site history.com.
Every October, carved pumpkins peer out from porches and doorsteps in the United States and other parts of the world. Gourd-like orange fruits inscribed with ghoulish faces and illuminated by candles are a sure sign of the Halloween season. The practice of decorating “jack-o’-lanterns”—the name comes from an Irish folktale about a man named Stingy Jack—originated in Ireland, where large turnips and potatoes served as an early canvas. Irish immigrants brought the tradition to America, home of the pumpkin, and it became an integral part of Halloween festivities.
The Legend of "Stingy Jack"
People have been making jack-o'-lanterns at Halloween for centuries. The practice originated from an Irish myth about a man nicknamed "Stingy Jack." According to the story, Stingy Jack invited the Devil to have a drink with him.
True to his name, Stingy Jack didn't want to pay for his drink, so he convinced the Devil to turn himself into a coin that Jack could use to buy their drinks. Once the Devil did so, Jack decided to keep the money and put it into his pocket next to a silver cross, which prevented the Devil from changing back into his original form.
Jack eventually freed the Devil, under the condition that he would not bother Jack for one year and that, should Jack die, he would not claim his soul. The next year, Jack again tricked the Devil into climbing into a tree to pick a piece of fruit. While he was up in the tree, Jack carved a sign of the cross into the tree's bark so that the Devil could not come down until the Devil promised Jack not to bother him for ten more years.
Soon after, Jack died. As the legend goes, God would not allow such an unsavory figure into heaven. The Devil, upset by the trick Jack had played on him and keeping his word not to claim his soul, would not allow Jack into hell. He sent Jack off into the dark night with only a burning coal to light his way. Jack put the coal into a carved-out turnip and has been roaming the Earth with it ever since. The Irish began to refer to this ghostly figure as "Jack of the Lantern," and then, simply "Jack O' Lantern."
In Ireland and Scotland, people began to make their own versions of Jack's lanterns by carving scary faces into turnips or potatoes and placing them into windows or near doors to frighten away Stingy Jack and other wandering evil spirits. In England, large beets are used. Immigrants from these countries brought the jack o' lantern tradition with them when they came to the United States. They soon found that pumpkins, a fruit native to America, make perfect jack-o'-lanterns.
Last week’s question: This question is one we asked when I was a child. How do you turn a pumpkin into a squash? Throw the pumpkin into the air and when it hits the ground – “SQUASH!”
This week’s question: There is a squash that is used in pies that may be considered a substitute for pumpkin. What is it? ( Native Americans – both south and north of the border – have grown this large, squash-bug and vine-borer-resistant variety since prehistoric times – possibly as far back as 7000 BC.)
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