Articles

Dan Brown in his book, The Da Vinci Code, talks about the "divine proportion" as having a "fundamental role in nature". Brown's ideas are not completely without foundation, as the proportion crops up in the mathematics used to describe the formation of natural structures like snail's shells and plants, and even in Alan Turing's work on animal coats. But Dan Brown does not talk about mathematics, he talks about a number. What is so special about this number?

Probabilities and statistics: they are everywhere, but they are hard to understand and can be counter-intuitive. So what's the best way of communicating them to an audience that doesn't have the time, desire, or background to get stuck into the numbers? This article explores modern visualisation techniques and finds that the right picture really can be worth a thousand words.

The only good thing about a wash-out summer is that you get to see lots of rainbows. Keats complained that a mathematical explanation of these marvels of nature robs them of their magic, conquering "all mysteries by rule and line". But rainbow geometry is just as elegant as the rainbows themselves.

What makes a perfect football? Anyone who plays or simply watches the game could quickly list the qualities. The ball must be round, retain its shape, be bouncy but not too lively and, most importantly, be capable of impressive speeds. We find out that this last point is all down to the ball's surface, the most prized research goal in ball design.

What do butterflies, ketchup, microcellular structures, and plastics have in common? It's a curious minimal surface called the gyroid.

If you manage a large organisation, then people will come and go. There are always decisions to make about promoting people, promising newcomers versus experienced middle managers, all of whom are aspiring to move up the corporate ladder. But is it better to promote the least competent rather than the most competent? Some new research suggests that it may be.