Almost everyone reading this article has no doubt encountered pictures from the Mandelbrot Set. Their appeal is not limited to the mathematician, and their breathtaking beauty has found its way onto posters, T-shirts and computers everywhere. Yet what is a fractal?
You might think that if you collected together a list of naturally-occurring numbers, then as many of them would start with a 1 as with any other digit, but you'd be quite wrong. Jon Walthoe explains why Benford's Law says otherwise, and why tax inspectors are taking an interest.
For millennia, puzzles and paradoxes have forced mathematicians to continually rethink their ideas of what proofs actually are. Jon Walthoe explains the tricks involved and how great thinkers like Pythagoras, Newton and Gödel tackled the problems.
You may have seen Foucault's pendulum. There's one in the Science Museum in London (part of the National Museum of Science and Industry), and there are many more in various locations around the UK (for instance, in Glasgow) and the world (including one at the United Nations Headquarters and a famous example at Le Panthéon in Paris).
In the 1950's, Ernst Straus asked a seemingly simple problem. Imagine a dark room with lots of turns and side-passages, where all the walls are covered in mirrors - just like the Hall of Mirrors in an old-fashioned fun-fair. Is it true that if someone lights a match somewhere in the room, then wherever you stand in the rest of the room (even down a side-passage) you can see a reflection of the match?