Plus Blog

December 12, 2012

Yesterday some of our heroes, Stephen Hawking and the team that found the Higgs boson at CERN, were awarded $3 million each by the Fundamental Physics Prize Foundation. Congratulations!

It's a prize for achievements in physics, but as we all know, physics is written in the language of maths. And this wasn't the only prize celebrating maths this year...

The Abel Prize 2012 — When did you first realise that you like numbers? Was it when you were first learning your times tables and saw all those number patterns and rhythms unfold in front of your eyes? If yes, then you'll be happy to hear that this year's Abel Prize, one of the highest honours in mathematics, has been awarded to a man whose most famous result answers a simple question related to those humble number sequences.

Prizes from the European Congress of Mathematics — At the beginning of July Plus went to the European Congress of Mathematics in Krakow! Around 1,000 mathematicians came together there for a week-long programme of talks and seminars. In this podcast we talked to Tom Sanders and Alessio Figalli, who were awarded prizes for their excellent contributions to maths, Arieh Iserles, a distinguished mathematician from the University of Cambridge, and a group of PhD students visiting their first big conference.

A Nobel Prize for quantum optics — The 2012 Nobel Prize for Physics has been awarded to Serge Haroche and David J. Wineland for ground-breaking work in quantum optics. By probing the world at the smallest scales they've shed light on some of the biggest mysteries of physics and paved the way for quantum computers and super accurate clocks.

How to make a marriage stable — How do you best allocate students to universities, doctors to hospitals, or kidneys to transplant patients? It's a tough problem that has earned this year's Memorial Prize in Economics.

String Theory, Duality and Art: how the Higgs boson and Turner Prize collide — On the face of it, an artist and a theoretical physicist might seem an unlikely pairing. But Turner Prize-winning sculptor Grenville Davey and string theorist David Berman's collaboration is producing beautiful, thought-provoking work inspired by the fundamental structure of the Universe. Julia Hawkins interviewed them to find out more about how the Higgs boson and T-duality are giving rise to art.

Back to the 2012 Plus Advent Calendar

December 11, 2012
Maths Jam map

First the UK! Next the world!

Our advent calendar is all about our favourite maths from 2012 and our good friend Alison Kiddle has nominated MathsJam as her favourite. Alison told us all about the recent MathsJam conference and the Cambridge pub meets – a winning combination of maths, puzzles, post-it notes, crochet and, of course, beer!

MathsJams have spread across the UK and around the world. You can find your local pubmeet from the MathsJam website and if there's not one near by, why not start one yourself! And in the meantime you can follow MathsJam on Twitter. Now, where's my crochet hook...

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December 10, 2012

Sharpen your pencils and get writing!

We're happy to announce a competition for short popular maths articles, of 500 to 1500 words, open to Plus readers of all ages and backgrounds. The winning article (and possibly runners up) will be published in a forthcoming book provisionally named fifty, which will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications in 2014. All Entries will be judged by the IMA50 editorial team: Chris Budd, Alan Champneys, Marianne Freiberger, Paul Glendinning, Steve Humble, Rachel Thomas and Ahmer Wadee. Entries that don't make it into the book may be published on Plus.

Your article should appeal to any fan of popular science books, or just to the mathematically curious, and be aimed at an international audience. But at the same time the article should avoid the over-simplification that can frustrate those with mathematical training. Winning articles will be edited by the editorial team.

Roughly speaking the articles should fall into one of five categories:

  • The best maths of the last 50 years: including strange or interesting biography
  • Popular maths: sport, arts (prose, poetry and visual media), social science
  • Maths at work: medicine, finance, the environment, government
  • Quirky maths, humour, spoof and magic
  • Philosophy/psychology of maths, maths in education

Entries can be accepted in any reasonable file format. For those that are familiar with Latex, this is our preferred format.

Before writing your article download our style guidelines and the Latex template (if you are going to use Latex). You may also want to have a look at some writing tips.

Articles should be submitted by email to by the 15th January 2013 with "competition entry" as the email subject.

Any questions concerning the competition should be emailed to

Happy writing!

December 10, 2012

This year we were lucky enough to see the Imaginary exhibition in Barcelona. It's an interactive mathematics exhibition that inspires the imagination with beautiful images. And what is more exciting it allows anyone to step into the world of maths! You can create and play with beautiful mathematical surfaces using the surfer software and explore the symmetry of tiling patterns with Ornamente.

We went along to the Imaginary Barcelona conference, which brought together the Imaginary team, from the Mathematical Research Institute Oberwolfach, and everyone from RSME who brought the exhibition to twelve cities throughout Spain.

You can read our postcard from Barcelona or enjoy our picture podcast on the right.

The photos in this podcast are by Rachel Thomas for Plus and by Sebastian Xambo for Imaginary and the images of mathematical surfaces are by Herwig Hauser and Rachel Thomas using Surfer. For more information on Imaginary visit and you can read more on maths and art on Plus.

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December 9, 2012

We love the Math/Maths podcast! It's a conversation about mathematics between the UK and USA from Peter Rowlett in Nottingham calls Samuel Hansen in Las Vegas to chat about the math and maths that has been in the news, that they've noticed and that has happened to them.

Listen to the Math/Maths podcast!

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December 8, 2012

Plus investigating the mathematics of sound waves.

Plus is edited entirely by women who are happily disregarding gender stereotypes, so we're always happy to highlight women's achievements in maths. We've got lots of content by or about women mathematicians on Plus and here are some of our favourites. (And we'd like to ask all remaining dinosaurs to stop sending us emails starting "Dear Sirs"...)

Some mathematical heroines from the past:

Some present-day mathematical heroines from our careers library:

Articles by and about mathematical heroines from the present:

You can listen to some conversations we've had with female mathematicians about their careers and roles in mathematics (these are podcasts):

And you can find out more about mathematical heroines past and present at the MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive and from Agnes Scott College.

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