Plus Blog
November 23, 2007
Friday, November 23, 2007
TED Prize for Professor Neil TurokProfessor Neil Turok, Chair of Mathematical Physics at Cambridge University, has been named one of the three TED prize winners for 2008. Other 2008 prize winners were Dave Eggers (author) and Karen Armstrong (authority on comparative religions). Previous prizewinners have included Bill Clinton, E.O. Wilson and Bono. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design and started in 1984 as a conference bringing together these disciplines. Since then its scope has broadened and its activities centre on the annual conference in Monterey, California. Every year, TED names three new recipients for the TED Prize. Each TED prize winner chooses a project which they announce at the annual conference  the next conference will be held between February 27 and March 1 2008 in Monterey, California. Professor Turok was awarded the James Clerk Maxwell medal of the Institute of Physics for his contributions to theoretical physics in 1992 and has worked in a number of areas of mathematical and earlyuniverse physics. He developed the theory of open inflation and with Stephen Hawking developed the HawkingTurok instanton solutions, describing the birth of an inflationary universe. Most recently, with Paul Steinhardt at Princeton, he has developed a cyclic model for the universe, in which the big bang is explained as a collision between two "braneworlds" in Mtheory. Steinhardt and Turok cowrote the popular science book Endless Universe. In 2003, Turok founded the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences in Muizenberg, a postgraduate educational center supporting the development of mathematics and science across the African continent. You can read more about Professor Turok's work in the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology at Cambridge University in this Plus article Building Newton's nest. We await what Professor Turok will wish for in his acceptance speech. In 2005 Bono called for action in Africa, in 2007 Bill Clinton talked about building a health care system in Rwanda and also in 2007 E.O. Wilson shared his vision for the Encyclopedia of Life. posted by Plus @ 12:02 PM 1 Comments:

November 16, 2007
Friday, November 16, 2007
The cost of poor maths skillsThe poor maths skills of shoppers who fail to notice that they have been shortchanged at the supermarket costs UK shoppers over £800 million a year. Learndirect, an adult learning organisation, found that from a survey of 1000 people over half think that their basic maths skills let them down when shopping. Many report that they struggle when converting currency on holiday and fail to take notice of how much items cost. A lack of basic English skills also contributes to this. This lack of basic skills means that £823 million is lost each year. Learndirect operates a network of more than 800 online learning centres in England and Wales, providing access to a range of elearning opportunities. Their survey suggests that:
posted by Plus @ 3:04 PM 0 Comments: 
November 12, 2007
Monday, November 12, 2007
The next Beautiful Young Minds?In October BBC2 screened a critically acclaimed documentary called "Beautiful Young Minds" which charted the fortunes of the six UK teenagers taking part in the 2006 International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO) in Slovenia. (See our Plus article for more information.) On the 8th of November, a record number of sixth formers will sit a test which could lead to them becoming next year's Beautiful Young Minds. Over 87,000 students from over 2,000 schools and colleges will sit the Senior Maths Challenge which could lead to them being selected to represent the UK in the 2008 IMO in Spain. With over 60,000 students sitting mathematics Alevel last year, this demonstrates a massive proportion of Alevel candidates wishing to represent their country in mathematics. Mary Wimbury, Director of the UK Mathematics Trust (which sets the Challenge and also selects the Olympiad team) explained that 8% more students had entered the competition this year. She said, "We are delighted with the increase in entries to the Senior Maths Challenge which reflects a growing take up of mathematics amongst sixth formers. The Challenge involves answering 25 questions of increasing difficulty which aim to stimulate mathematical thinking beyond the school curriculum. We know that students find it both motivating and interesting." The Senior Maths Challenge is sponsored by the Actuarial Profession. It presupposes a knowledge of mathematics to GCSE higher level and involves answering 25 questions in an hour and a half. Gold, silver and bronze certificates are awarded to 40% of participants nationally and the top 1,000 competitors will be invited to enter the British Mathematical Olympiad (BMO) Round 1 paper which takes place on 30th November. The best 100 qualified to represent the UK will then be invited to sit BMO Round 2 in January 2008. They will then be whittled down to a squad of 20 and finally a team of six to represent the UK. posted by Plus @ 4:27 PM 0 Comments: 
November 12, 2007
Monday, November 12, 2007
Lotto confusionNegative numbers can confuse us all. Lottery company Camelot has withdrawn its Cool Cash scratchcard because players couldn't understand it and were confused by the negative temperatures on the card. To win, users had to scratch away a window to reveal a temperature lower than the figure displayed on each card. As the game had a winter theme, the temperature was usually below freezing. This is where the confusion comes in. Camelot received dozens of complaints from players who thought they had won, but were denied their prize money. They had scratched their windows to reveal numbers smaller in absolute value than the figure they needed to be lower than to win, but as both figures were negative, these numbers were actually bigger. 23yearold Tina Farrell memorably said: "On one of my cards it said I had to find temperatures lower than 8. The numbers I uncovered were 6 and 7 so I thought I had won, and so did the woman in the shop. But when she scanned the card the machine said I hadn't. I phoned Camelot and they fobbed me off with some story that 6 is higher  not lower  than 8 but I'm not having it. I think Camelot are giving people the wrong impression  the card doesn't say to look for a colder or warmer temperature, it says to look for a higher or lower number. Six is a lower number than 8. Imagine how many people have been misled." Almost three times as many UK adults (15.1m) have poor numeracy skills  the equivalent of a G or below at GCSE maths  compared to those with poor literacy skills, according to the government's Skills for Life survey. For more information, check out the Manchester Evening News posted by Plus @ 3:31 PM 0 Comments: 
November 2, 2007
Friday, November 02, 2007
As you probably know by know if you're a regular Plus reader, this year marks the 300th anniversary of Leonhard Euler's birth. In our fourth Plus podcast we meet Professor Chris Budd to look at Euler's most famous bits of work and also investigate Celtic and African maths, how maths saves lives, and the maths of Christmas. The following Plus articles give some background to the topics that come up in this podcast:
Labels: podcast posted by Plus @ 10:41 AM 0 Comments: 
October 31, 2007
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Plus in Nature NetworkPlus has teamed up with science journal giant Nature to bring maths to the Nature networking site. Nature Networks was set up quite recently to provide a global stage for science discussion, allowing scientists to meet, interact, comment on the latest news, debate current topics or exchange information. Members can create groups for their own labs or organisations, or for their own subject area. The mathematics forum is now brought to you by Plus. We're aiming to provide a platform for anyone who wants to discuss maths, whether it's actual maths, maths teaching, the portrayal of maths in the media, or good and bad maths content elsewhere on the internet. Please drop in and join the debate. posted by Plus @ 3:05 PM 0 Comments: 