Arguably, the exponential function crops up more than any other when using mathematics to describe the physical world. In the second of two articles on physical phenomena which obey exponential laws, Ian Garbett discusses radioactive decay.
Over the past one hundred years, mathematics has been used to understand and predict the spread of diseases, relating important public-health questions to basic infection parameters. Matthew Keeling describes some of the mathematical developments that have improved our understanding and predictive ability.
Until you understand the basics of functions and algebra, the thought that a number can be predicted is a surprising one. And of course `magic' and `being surprised' are often the same thing. Rob Eastaway shows us how mathemagicians trade off the fact that you can usually predict precisely the outcome of doing something in mathematics, but only if you know the secret beforehand.
Adam Smith is often thought of as the father of modern economics. In his book "An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations" Smith decribed the "invisible hand" mechanism by which he felt economic society operated. Modern game theory has much to add to Smith's description.
Chomp is a simple two-dimensional game, played as follows.
Cookies are set out on a rectangular grid. The bottom left cookie is poisoned.
Two players take it in turn to "chomp" - that is, to eat one of the remaining cookies, plus all the cookies above and to the right of that cookie.