Archive for September, 2007

The YouTube Guide to Square One TV

September 19, 2007
Voila… nostalgia!

When I was about 8-10 years old, I came home from school, sat down on front of the TV with a jar of peanut butter in hand, and watched after-school programming. Sure there were cartoons, Sesame Street, and talk shows, but the show I really looked forward to watching was Square One TV.

Square One was aired on PBS from 1987-1992. It aimed to do for mathematics what GhostWriter did for linguistics and Bill Nye (and Beakman) did for science… make learning hip and cool by giving it the MTV makeover. It must have worked on me because it planted memes in my mind decades before we called them memes, ideas that stuck in my mind for 20 years, to this day. I’d say that it was Square One that turned math for me from a tediously repetitive subject spanning acres of looseleaf paper into a fun and intriguing academic pursuit.

A Square One program started with fun variety show stuff… music videos, comedy skits, animations, and quirky recurring characters. All-American good guy Dirk Niblick of the Math Brigade would teach his dear ol’ Mum about probability. Mathman would munch numbers in a Pacman-esque labyrinth, and run screaming from the cantankerous Mr. Glitch. A music video would drive home the concept of remainders. And each episode ended with the next installment of the recurring Mathnet plotline, where two hard-boiled mathematicians used math skills to solve crimes in a a Dragnet parody.

Thanks to the magic of YouTube (and those who posted these videos there), we can now step back twenty years and relive the fun of one of my favorite kids’ shows. If you were a little nerd back in the late Eighties or early Nineties, then you’ll surely enjoy the videos I’ve dug up and listed here. Be warned… these videos are sluggish on slow Internet connections, so those of you still on dial-up would do best to skip this one and check back later for my next update.

This list should be comprehensive of what’s on YouTube as of this post’s datestamp, but let me know if I missed anything.

Music Videos

Comedy Sketches

Game Shows

Mathman (recommended!)

Dirk Niblick

Other Stuff


Nifty Wikipedia Thing: Oklahoma City sonic boom tests

Movies I’ve Seen:

Some Like It Hot (1959) ~ cross-dressing comedy classic

Dr. Strangelove (1964) ~ Kubrick’s classic Cold War critique

The Dish (2000) ~ cute Australian space race film

A Sound of Thunder (2005) ~ they turned the eponymous Ray Bradbury short story into a Michael Critchton monster flick

Syriana (2005) ~ gritty realism and political fables are not substitutes for storytelling

Stardust (2007) ~ underrated fantasy tale from Neil Gaiman

What I’ve Been Reading:

"Lord Jim" by Joesph Conrad