Skip to the Main Content

Note:These pages make extensive use of the latest XHTML and CSS Standards. They ought to look great in any standards-compliant modern browser. Unfortunately, they will probably look horrible in older browsers, like Netscape 4.x and IE 4.x. Moreover, many posts use MathML, which is, currently only supported in Mozilla. My best suggestion (and you will thank me when surfing an ever-increasing number of sites on the web which have been crafted to use the new standards) is to upgrade to the latest version of your browser. If that's not possible, consider moving to the Standards-compliant and open-source Mozilla browser.

October 1, 2009

Sex Advice From Mathematicians

Posted by John Baez

I’m desperately catching up on about a hundred emails I didn’t read while I was in Corfu — an island where, strangely, hotels on the beach lack wireless internet.

Here’s the most fun one so far:

Dear John,

Nerve.com is interviewing mathematicians for our very popular weekly feature, “Sex Advice From…,” in which we invite groups of people to be relationship-advice gurus for a day. I found your cool blog, and wondered if you or any mathematician friends might be interested in being interviewed and giving some advice?

The interview usually takes about 20 minutes, can be done over the phone, and is a lot of fun. Or, if you prefer, I can email you the questions to answer. We publish about six or seven of your answers, along with your first name and a photo. We would also be happy to link to your blog/website, if you like.

Here are some past “Sex Advice From…” columns, if you’d like to check them out:

http://advice.nerve.com/2009/08/21/sex-advice-from-pastors/

http://advice.nerve.com/2009/08/07/sex-advice-from-goths/

http://advice.nerve.com/2009/07/17/sex-advice-from-grandparents/

If you’re not familiar with us:

Nerve is the premier online magazine for love, sex and culture. We have a readership of close to one million highly educated twenty- and thirty-somethings. We interview several directors, musicians, authors and actors each month. Our award-winning in-depth interviews include, most recently, Ben Folds, Salman Rushdie, Maureen Dowd, Norman Mailer, John Malkovich, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Arianna Huffington, David Cronenberg, John Updike and Philip Roth.

Thanks for your time, and I hope to hear from you soon!

Kind regards,
Nelson Antonio Bermudez

And here’s my reply…

On Wed, Sep 30, 2009 at 1:44 PM, Nelson Bermudez wrote:

Dear John,

Nerve.com is interviewing mathematicians for our very popular weekly feature, “Sex Advice From…,” in which we invite groups of people to be relationship-advice gurus for a day. I found your cool blog, and wondered if you or any mathematician friends might be interested in being interviewed and giving some advice?

Thanks for your invitation. But what’s “sex”?

Whatever it is, I’m surely not qualified to give advice about it.

Sincerely,
jb

Posted at October 1, 2009 11:56 PM UTC

TrackBack URL for this Entry:   http://golem.ph.utexas.edu/cgi-bin/MT-3.0/dxy-tb.fcgi/2071

20 Comments & 0 Trackbacks

Re: Sex Advice From Mathematicians

John, you’re very funny!

Posted by: Tom Leinster on October 2, 2009 12:28 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Sex Advice From Mathematicians

Alas, I didn’t think it would be wise to accept this invitation. It’ll be interesting to see if they get some mathematicians to do the job.

Posted by: John Baez on October 2, 2009 1:04 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Sex Advice From Mathematicians

Thanks for your invitation. But what’s “sex”?

It’s the swedish word for the number ‘six’! And here I thought you, like, knew stuff!

Posted by: Mikael Vejdemo Johansson on October 2, 2009 1:05 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Sex Advice From Mathematicians

Gee, I could have told them all about this.

Posted by: John Baez on October 2, 2009 1:57 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Sex Advice From Mathematicians

Hey, I’m always up for a little shameless self-promotion. And it’s not like I’ve got a tenure bid or a good academic name to screw up. Send them my email and a link to my weblog!

Posted by: John Armstrong on October 2, 2009 1:19 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Sex Advice From Mathematicians

Perhaps you should take a look at the 2004 book, “Mathematics and Sex”, by Clio Creswell (an Australian mathematician). You probably are aware of her “Rule of 12 Bonks,” in another guise. Lots of advice contained therein!

The current issue (Sept., 2009) of the undergraduate magazine of the American Mathematical Association, Math Horizons, has a fascinating article entitled “A Delta for Your Epsilon: Finding Your Match Mathematically,” inspired by the annual Screw Your Roommate event at Swarthmore College.

Finally the song “Sex is Mathematics,” by Miss Kittin from her 2002 CD, On the Road, completely sums it up, although I didn’t understand a word on the sample track at Amazon.com.

Posted by: Bill Watson on October 2, 2009 2:11 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Sex Advice From Mathematicians

And the ever popular “Finite Simple Group (of Order Two)

Posted by: Mike Stay on October 2, 2009 3:56 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Sex Advice From Mathematicians

Thanks for the tips. I’ll try to figure this thing out.

Posted by: John Baez on October 2, 2009 4:16 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Sex Advice From Librarians

Mirrors and copulation are abominable,
for they multiply the number of mankind.

— J.L. Borges, Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius

Wow! – It’s almost like synchronicity …

Posted by: Jon Awbrey on October 2, 2009 5:33 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Sex Advice From Mathematicians

Look no further.

Posted by: David Corfield on October 2, 2009 9:02 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Sex Advice From Mathematicians

Sex and maths, eh? I seem to recall that Jurgen taught Queen Dolores of Philistia Praxagorean Mathematics in her tent. I do not suppose James Branch Cabell is too fashionable nowadays.

Posted by: Gavin Wraith on October 2, 2009 11:02 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Sex Advice From Mathematicians

Walter Ledermann’s textbook Introduction to Group Theory was banned entry into the US by US customs officials on the belief that it was about sex. So beware!

Posted by: Gavin Wraith on October 2, 2009 11:11 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Sex Advice From Mathematicians

Funny. But one book that got past them was Groupes stables, by the model theorist Bruno Poizat, in which there are photographs of nude models scattered throughout.

The review in Math. Reviews ends with a wink: “The book is nicely illustrated, which will doubtless attract many mathematicians, but unfortunately the illustrations do not reflect the contents of the book.”

Posted by: Todd Trimble on October 2, 2009 11:46 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Sex Advice From Mathematicians

Most lovers focus their energy on their relationships. But, really, they should be studying the relationships between their relationships. This is the central insight of n-romance theory…

Posted by: David Speyer on October 2, 2009 5:16 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Sex Advice From Mathematicians

Most lovers focus their energy on their relationships. But, really, they should be studying the relationships between their relationships. This is the central insight of n-romance theory

;-)

but seriously, as any of you with families know, they should be studying they should be studying the relationships and the relationships between their relationships and …

so maybe not n-romance theory but n-relaltionship theory
cf. recent Notices AMS article including ‘communities’.

Posted by: jim stasheff on October 5, 2009 2:48 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Sex Advice From Mathematicians

Ooh, one we missed.

Sex advice from mathematicians seems less useful than for them, but maybe they’ll put that into a co-column (lumn?).

Posted by: John Armstrong on October 2, 2009 10:34 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Sex Advice From Mathematicians

A friend of mine once described a book of mathematical porn he’d once seen. I’m kinda curious about one drawing in the book he described. Humans are arguably tori, with the mouth forming one end of a hole through the body. And you’ve heard of borromean rings…

Posted by: Dan Piponi on October 4, 2009 1:20 AM | Permalink | Reply to this

Happy Ballantine’s Day

It may be X 3X^3, but there’s nothing knotty about it.

s!\bot'\text{s}\:\uparrow!

Jon

Posted by: Jon Awbrey on October 4, 2009 5:48 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Happy Ballantine’s Day

This reminds me of a silly double entendre: some years ago there was apparently an advertising jingle for XXXX Beer, an Australian beer popular in Queensland, that went, “I think I feel a Four X coming on!” They didn’t know that Fourex is a natural skin condom sold in the US.

Posted by: Todd Trimble on October 4, 2009 7:26 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Re: Sex Advice From Mathematicians

Dan wrote:

Humans are arguably tori, with the mouth forming one end of a hole through the body.

If you mean a one-holed torus, this is just a rough approximation, since I can breath through either nostril as well as through my mouth.

Alveoli are pretty complicated… is the tissue of the lungs simply-connected, to some approximation?

And of course if we count the circulatory system and lymph system as places where there’s no tissue, the complexity of the body’s topology soars enormously.

Posted by: John Baez on October 4, 2009 6:02 PM | Permalink | Reply to this

Post a New Comment