Plus Blog

May 15, 2008
Thursday, May 15, 2008

From the complexity of the snowflake, to the London tube map and the spiralling Andromeda galaxy, imagery has always been a vitally important ingredient of science. Plus talks to John Barrow, professor of mathematics at Cambridge University and author of the new book Cosmic Imagery, about the images that have changed science, and how we have viewed science, over the centuries.

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This podcast is also available in an enhanced version, which shows all the images mentioned in this podcast as you listen. You can view the enhanced podcast in your browser, or download the MP4 file to to your computer and for playing on your MP4 player (for example iPod).

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posted by Plus @ 3:53 PM

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May 12, 2008
Monday, May 12, 2008

Gresham College: New Gresham Professor of Geometry

Professor John Barrow FRS, the Director of the Millennium Mathematics Project and Professor of Mathematical Sciences at Cambridge University, has been appointed the new Gresham Professor of Geometry at Gresham College in London for 2008-2011. Founded in 1596, this is the oldest mathematics professorship in the UK and previous holders include Isaac Barrow, Robert Hooke, and Roger Penrose. John Barrow was Gresham Professor of Astronomy from 2003-7 and is the only person other than Laurence Rooke, in 1657, to hold Gresham chairs in two different subjects.

Read John's Outer space column in Plus.

posted by westius @ 7:59 AM

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May 6, 2008
Tuesday, May 06, 2008

It is common belief among teachers and parents that when teaching mathematical concepts, the best way to illustrate them is with 'real-world' examples. However, researchers at Ohio State University's Center for Cognitive Science have found the exact opposite — that college students taught a new mathematical concept with real-world, concrete examples were less able to apply their knowledge to new situations than students taught with abstract symbols.

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posted by westius @ 4:40 PM

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May 1, 2008
Thursday, May 01, 2008

There are more grains of sand on Earth than there are stars in sky, or so the saying goes.

Mathematician Anne Fey, from Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, is using sand-pile models as a novel approach to calculate probabilities in fields as diverse as studies of the Earth's crust, stock market fluctuations and the formation of traffic jams.

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posted by Plus @ 9:53 AM

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April 30, 2008
Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Got what it takes?

The European Space Agency is looking for recruits, and it seems that good mathematical abilities can help you rise to the top of the heap. 50,000 applications are expected for the four positions on offer to be astronauts on the International Space Station.

BBC News Magazine has detailed all the boxes you need to tick to be in the running in their story So what is the right stuff? Apart from being young (between 27 and 37) and having life experience, you need patience, bravery, to work well in a team and in a strange environment, and be psychologically capable of dealing with the stresses (and the loneliness) of the job.

On top of this, you need to be at least degree qualified in engineering, science, medicine or maths. So, if you're a maths grad and this sounds like you, see the ESA careers page.

posted by westius @ 11:50 AM

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April 30, 2008
Wednesday, April 30, 2008

We're still safe

NASA mathematicians are maintaining that the world is still safe from asteroids for the time being, despite the calculations of a young German student.

The Near-Earth Object Program Office at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory has not changed its current estimates for the very low probability (1 in 45,000) of an Earth impact by the asteroid Apophis in 2036.

Contrary to recent press reports, NASA offices involved in near-Earth object research were not contacted and have had no correspondence with a young German student, who claims the Apophis impact probability is far higher than the current estimate.

This student's conclusion reportedly is based on the possibility of a collision with an artificial satellite during the asteroid's close approach in April 2029. However, the asteroid will not pass near the main belt of geosynchronous satellites in 2029, and the chance of a collision with a satellite is exceedingly remote.

Therefore, consideration of this satellite collision scenario does not affect the current impact probability estimate for Apophis, which remains at 1 in 45,000.

This information is adapted from a NASA press release.

posted by westius @ 2:44 PM

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