Category Archives: Sideband

Sideband #69: Inside a Tesseract

Four years ago I started pondering the tesseract and four-dimensional space. I first learned about them back in grade school in a science fiction short story I’d read. (A large fraction of my very early science education came from SF books.)

Greg Egan touched on tesseracts in his novel Diaspora, which got me thinking about them and inspired the post Hunting Tesseracti. That led to a general exploration of multi-dimensional spaces and rotation within those spaces, but I continued to focus on trying to truly understand the tesseract.

Today we’re going to visit the 4D space inside a tesseract.

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Sideband #68: More Fraction Digits

The last Sideband discussed two algorithms for producing digit strings in any number base (or radix) for integer and fractional numeric values. There are some minor points I didn’t have room to explore in that post, hence this followup post. I’ll warn you now: I am going to get down in the mathematical weeds a bit.

If you had any interest in expressing numbers in different bases, or wondered how other bases do fractions, the first post covered that. This post discusses some details I want to document.

The big one concerns numeric precision and accuracy.

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Sideband #67: Fraction Digits in Any Base

Fractional base basis.

I suspect very few people care about expressing fractional digits in any base other than good old base ten. Truthfully, it’s likely not that many people care about expressing factional digits in good old base ten. But if you’re in the tiny handful of those with an interest in such things — and don’t already know all about it — read on.

Recently I needed to figure out how to express binary fractions of decimal numbers. For example, 3.14159 in binary. And I needed the real thing — true binary fractions — not a fake that uses integers and a virtual decimal point.

The funny thing is: I think I’ve done this before.

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Sideband #66: Abacus Multiplication

Today’s earlier post got into only the beginnings of abacus operation — mainly how to add numbers. To demonstrate how they have more utility than just adding and subtracting, this Sideband tackles a multiplication problem.

This also illustrates a property of abacus operation that doesn’t arise with addition. With pen and paper, we multiply right-to-left to make carrying easier. Because of the way an abacus works, multiplication has to work left-to-right.

The process is simple enough, but has lots of steps!

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Sideband #65: 4D Rotation

This is a Sideband to the previous post, The 4th Dimension. It’s for those who want to know more about the rotation discussed in that post, specifically with regard to axes involved with rotation versus axes about which rotation occurs.

The latter, rotation about (or around) an axis, is what we usually mean when we refer to a rotation axis. A key characteristic of such an axis is that coordinate values on that axis don’t change during rotation. Rotating about (or on or around) the Y axis means that the Y coordinate values never change.

In contrast, an axis involved with rotation changes its associated coordinate values according to the angle of rotation. The difference is starkly apparent when we look at rotation matrices.

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Sideband #64: Matrix Magic

In the last installment I introduced the idea of a transformation matrix — a square matrix that we view as a set of (vertically written) vectors describing a new basis for a transformed space. Points in the original space have the same relationship to the original basis as points in the transformed space have to the transformed basis.

When we left off, I had just introduced the idea of a rotation matrix. Two immediate questions were: How do we create a rotation matrix, and how do we use it. (By extension, how do we create and use any matrix?)

This is where our story resumes…

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Sideband #63: Matrix Rotation

For me, the star attraction of March Mathness is matrix rotation. It’s a new toy (um, tool) for me that’s exciting on two levels: Firstly, it answers key questions I’ve had about rotation, especially with regard to 4D (let alone 3D or easy peasy 2D). Secondly, I’ve never had a handle on matrix math, and thanks to an extraordinary YouTube channel, now I see it in a whole new light.

Literally (and I do mean “literally” literally), I will never look at a matrix the same way again. Knowing how to look at them changes everything. That they turned out to be exactly what I needed to understand rotation makes the whole thing kinda wondrous.

I’m going to try to provide an overview of what I learned and then point to a great set of YouTube videos if you want to learn, too. Continue reading


Sideband #62: Quaternions

Folded into the mixed baklava of my 2018, was a special mathematical bit of honey. With the help of some excellent YouTube videos, the light bulb finally went on for me, and I could see quaternions. Judging by online comments I’ve read, I wasn’t alone in the dark.

There does seem a conceptual stumbling block (I tripped, anyway), but once that’s cleared up, quaternions turn out to be pretty easy to use. Which is cool, because they are very useful if you want to rotate some points in 3D space (a need I’m sure many of have experienced over the years).

The stumbling block has to do with quaternions having not one, not two, but three distinct “imaginary” numbers.

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Sideband #61: Tock

relaysYou’ve been waiting for the other shoe to drop, right? The tick to finally tock? (My clock is — as usual — running a bit behind; this should be #62, but that’s another story.) Today’s tale involves electro-mechanical logic! Computing with relays rather than solid-state gates.

Rather than the tick-tock of a mechanical clock, the tock-tick of lots and lots of relays! Aisle after aisle of racks of relays, many thousands of them all clicking away like chattering insects. That’s what is (or was) inside some of those windowless buildings found in every neighborhood with local phone service.

However, today the focus is quite a bit smaller…

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Sideband #60: Tick

Sideband ElectrodeA different, more personal, anniversary… Looking back at the five years of this blog (or, for that matter, the many more years of this blogger), I can’t help but reflect on how man- and mice-plans go astray.

Case in point: Sidebands. Originally, as the name implies, meant as out-of-the-norm posts. True of the first few, but by #41 they’d become too inclusive, not much different from regular posts. The idea needed retooling; it was over a year before I posted #42. (And I added Brain Bubbles for minor-topic or very short posts.)

Since then, I’ve tried to restrict Sidebands to extremely technical topics. (For example, #59. I should have made that tesseract post #60, and today doubly wish I had.)

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