Wild Unicorn Herd

A POC/non-white/mixie nerd scrapbook. Because we’re awesome.



NYT » Shakuntala Devi, “Human Computer” Who Bested the Machines, Dies at 83

From the obituary’s sidebar: “These are some of the problems that Mrs. Devi solved in 20 seconds or less:”

1. Add:  25,842,278
Multiply result by: 9,878

2. ∛188,132,517

3. On what days of the week did the 14th of each month occur in 1935?

As well as being a “mathematical wizard” who beat computers and set world records, “Ms. Devi was also a successful astrologer, cookbook author and novelist.”

Answers: 1. 5,559,369,456,432 2. 573 3. Beginning with January: Tues., Thurs., Thurs., Sun., Tues., Fri., Sun., Wed., Sat., Mon., Thurs., Sun.

Summer Engineering Experience for Kids (SEEK) »



The Summer Engineering Experience for Kids’ program, (SEEK), is the National Society of Black Engineers’ (NSBE) premiere solution to the horrible underrepresentation of African American students in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields. The free, three week program is a STEM pipeline designed to expose African American children to STEM fields as early as the third grade and through the twelfth grade. In addition, this exposure will be provided by utilizing NSBE members, who are young, Black, collegiate students, majoring in STEM fields. From its inception, NSBE’s SEEK program quickly established itself as the largest STEM program for African American children and mentors in the nation!

Spread the word to Bay Area parents with children currently in 3rd-5th grade. 

This is the website created for the West Oakland camp (hasn’t been update since the summer of 2011 though but the it will give you more of an understanding on the program) http://www.seekwestoakland.orgimage

oh hey this looks p cool, and the one in jackson mississippi is especially for girls




Our Holy Lady of Fractals and Spirographs

I finished it!! Second attempt, after the first glitched the (finished!!! >:/) file past the point of all return, with a more comprehensive approach to the color scheme, designs, and clothing. She’s a goddess in that thing I’ve been working on; the first goddess, but not the only one. Her domain is not life so much as it is the way life properly plays out—she is the wheel of time and of fate, the journey from birth to death, order in all forms possible. Light, enlightenment. Basically, pure badass. 

Might tweak a few more things later, but classes start again tomorrow morning so I’m outtie. 




Today’s Mayan calendar-themed Google doodle. I don’t think this was shown in the US because of the one week anniversary of the Sandy Hook school shooting.

Math, science and astronomy are matters that we have always been passionate about. So with our doodle today, we are celebrating the end of the 13th Baktun of the Mayan calendar Long Count System. But what does this mean?

Mayans were advanced mathematicians and astronomers who calculated the cycles of the moon and sun. They had very specific ways of measuring time, and one of these forms is the Long Count system, in which each year has 18 months with 20 days. The system also includes other units like the Katun, equivalent to 20 years in our calendar, and a Baktun, which  equals to 394 years.

The importance of reaching the 13th Baktun, is that, unlike as what happens in our calendar, a 14th Baktun does not follow. The count returns to zero.

Unlike all the disaster stories that you have probably heard, at the end of the 13th Baktun, as every time Sunday ends in our calendar, Monday comes again and thus begins a new week. Those who have studied the issue, explain that this is because the way their scheduling system works, and although it represents the end of a cycle, it doesn’t have a catastrophic meaning.

Today’s doodle represents the actual date, December 21 2012, as well as the 13th Baktun, forming the word * Google *.

We hope you enjoy this doodle as much as we do, and that the beginning of the next Baktun be very prosperous for everyone.

“Don’t be intimidated!… I have seen many people get discouraged because they see mathematics as full of deep incomprehensible theories. There is no reason to feel that way. In mathematics whatever you learn is yours and you build it up—one step at a time. It’s not like a real time game of winning and losing. You win if you are benefited from the power, rigor and beauty of mathematics. It is a big win if you discover a new principle or solve a tough problem.”

– Mathematician Fan Chung, profiled at the Geek Feminism Blog.






Astrolabe | Unsigned | 13th century; French | Gilt copper; 98 mm in diameter

This very small astrolabe is made up of the mater, which contains three latitude plates. Two of these correspond to latitudes of 41 and 42?, and 43 and 44? (Castille and Provence). The third plate has no graduations. The stars on the rete are represented by 22 silver studs.The instrument, which is undated, is from the 13th century, and originates from the legacy of scientific instruments collected in Florence by the Medici family.

Astrolabe = automatic reblog.

Astrolabes were nifty little gadgets that you could use for all kinds of things. As you can see, the edge is marked with degrees and the base has all kinds of lines and numbers on it too. The lacy-looking metalwork with those hooks and studs (which mark out key stars) is called the rete and can be rotated. Other parts you might find on an astrolabe include a rule, a pointer like a compass needle or clock hand that is above the rete, and an alidade, aka a sight.

Things you could do with an astrolabe: tell what time it is based on the position of the stars, tell what latitude you’re at, figure out what stars will be in the sky on a given date, when the sun will rise and set, how long the day will be, how high something is…and so on. Those lines on the very base would have to differ depending on altitude so some astrolabes came with plates you could swap in and out depending on your location.

The astrolabe was invented by the ancient Greeks, but medieval Muslim scientists were badass astronomers and improved on it, making spherical, mechanical, and ultra-portable versions as well. (They could also use it to calculate prayer times and the direction of Mecca.) Later on Europeans adopted the technology, the historical equivalent of your mom getting a Facebook account. Astrolabes were eventually phased out by better technology, but you have to admire their beauty and elegance. It’s not hard to believe that they cost a shit-ton of money and were status symbols of a sort. How things change, eh?

P. S. Here’s a TED Talk (I know, I know) of a guy explaining how astrolabes work and how to use one.

delux_vivens: non western science history »

On LJ, delux_vivens posts a list of works that may be of interest:

Encyclopaedia of the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine in Non-Western Cultures

Science and Technology in African History With Case Studies from Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe, and Zambia

African Fractals: modern computing and indigenous design

eta: Racism and Technology by Michelle Wright



Presented without comment.

(Photo shows an advertisement that says “We’re hiring hackers with people skills.” The graphic in the ad shows a simple top-view diagram of a human brain; a text box pointing to the left hemisphere says “Can you solve one of our puzzles?” and a text box pointing to the right hemisphere says “Can you explain it to your mom?” Next to the second text box, a passerby has stuck a post-it note which says in all-caps, “My mom has a PhD in math”.)

Caitlin Donohue at San Francisco Bay Guardian: "I guess I just want other people to solve the Rubik's cube" »

Round tables fill the Pauley Ballroom in UC Berkeley’s Martin Luther King, Jr. student union, at which are seated young students, math professionals, and various UC Berkeley faculty. They do not appear to be worried a whit by the prospect of the boxes and equations before them. Each table houses a few kinds of math challenges: here, kids are constructing a massive fractal cube made from folded bits of paper. There, scholars puzzle over math “magic” tricks and geometry formulas, aided by a female NASA scientist. There’s no clear stop and start time – participants circulate around the room at their own pace, parents in tow or mercifully mingling in the seating area at the room’s fringes.

The festival’s format is constructed to encourage kids to think about why we do math — and we’re not talking about that scholarship to Cal here but instead that little thing about how math helps us figure out the world around us (which I concede, if grudgingly). Accordingly, an instruction sheet written by Zucker greets table leaders at the event’s entrance cautioning them that “you’re welcome to encourage group work when you see good opportunities, or encourage individual work, but don’t encourage too strongly: mostly let the kids decide whether they want to work on their own or with their neighbors.” This looseness is a deliberate departure from the other form of extra-curricular activity for the numbers set (ha!): the math competition, and has much to do with the festival’s namesake, female math pioneer and UC Berkeley professor Julia Robinson, who tackled complex theories in the days before people were fully keen on the concept of female mathematicians.

Getting kids and youth interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math)—and encouraging them to teach their peers right away—makes me feel all warm and fuzzy and stuff. More on this later…