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The ransom model of publishing, pt. 2
One hazard of being an attractive starlet is that many people assume you’re not that smart. This, however, is no problem for Danica McKellar, a 30-year-old former star of The Wonder Years and regular on The West Wing, because she’s actually got documented proof of her brilliance: She’s the author of the mathematical proof “Percolation and Gibbs states multiplicity for ferromagnetic Ashkin-Teller models on Z-squared” (PDF), which she cowrote while doing a degree at the University of California.
There’s an excellent profile of her in the Science section of yesterday’s New York Times, which tells the life-imitates-art story of when McKellar auditioned for the lead role in a San Diego production of the play Proof, in which a young woman claims to have solved a complex mathematical proof:
At an audition, the casting director asked about what she knew of math. Ms. McKellar said she was co-author of a mathematics proof.
“She went into a five-minute explanation,” said Sam Woodhouse, the artistic director of the San Diego Repertory Theater. “Which was a stunning and mystifying five minutes.”
McKellar even managed to talk about math during a Q&A in the current issue of Stuff magazine, in which she also appears in the cover wearing black lingerie:
Q: After [The Wonder Years], you attended UCLA, became a genius and published a paper on Percolation and Gibbs states multiplicity for ferromagnetic Ashkin-Teller models on Z2. I really enjoyed the part on infinite occupied clusters.
A: It’s really complicated and not that interesting to most people.
Heh. Perhaps the coolest and weirdest thing about McKellar is that she actually gets fan mail about math. High-school kids email her complicated math questions; she walks them through the answers on her web site. Check it out and bone up on your probability theory, puzzles about rates, and the physics of tossing a baseball from the outfield to the catcher.
I'm Clive Thompson, a writer on science, technology, and culture. This blog collects bits of offbeat research I'm running into, and musings thereon.
Currently, I'm a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. I also write for Fast Company and Wired magazine's web site, among other places. Email or AOL IM me (pomeranian99) to say hi or send in something strange!
May 20, 2011 » 02:28 PM
From Christopher Kennedy’s very droll book “Neitzsche’s Horse”.
July 28, 2010 » 07:35 AM
“Wr” - S
July 06, 2010 » 10:05 AM
My Xbox broke, and I was trying to Google some possible technical solutions, when I noticed that Google appears to be encouraging me to make a typo. I suppose it’s possible that Google’s algorithms know that typing “wont” instead of “won’t” would produce better results.
June 29, 2010 » 05:00 PM
On the other hand, when I tried the test for multitasking, I was pretty abysmal. I performed worse than people who identify themselves as heavy multitaskers, and those who identify as low multitaskers.
June 29, 2010 » 04:58 PM
I finally got around to trying out the interactive “test your distractability and multitasking” page at the New York Times, which they put up alongside their story earlier this month about how computer distractions are eroding our lives.
According to the test, I guess I have good focus — I’m not very distractable!
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