The two major events over the last couple of months have been the credit crunch and the US presidential election. We take a mathematical view of both of these, muse over the surprising effectiveness of maths when it comes to describing the world we live in, and scrutinise some mathematical philosophy. Plus the usual mix of news, reviews and podcasts.
If you are a regular Plus reader who enjoys the weird and wonderful world of mathematics, then you may be interested in helping Plus secure its future. We are launching a campaign to raise the funds we need for the continued development and production of Plus beyond 2009.
As you may know, Plus receives no statutory funding and is entirely supported by donations and grants. Our activities are made possible by the generosity of organisations and individuals committed to the future of mathematics education and to improving the public understanding of mathematics. However, our current core funding is due to end in March 2009, and we are therefore actively
seeking further funds to sustain the future of Plus.
Please consider making a donation to Plus via our parent organisation, the Millennium Mathematics Project, based at the University of Cambridge. Your money will go towards the salary costs of our editorial staff (who write articles and news items, edit contributions by external authors, and produce podcasts), and our technical staff who maintain the
website. Your contribution, no matter how big or small, will enable us to keep Plus as it is: interesting, intelligent, fun, and — very importantly — free of charge for all our readers.
There are three ways to give to Plus:
Online: You can donate by credit card online via the University of Cambridge Development Office's secure site. Giving in this way means, if you wish, your donation can benefit from Gift Aid, making your gift worth even more to us at no extra cost to you. Please choose the
option to support the Millennium Mathematics Project.
By cheque: You can send a cheque made payable to The Cambridge Foundation together with a completed donation form to:
University of Cambridge Development Office
Cambridge CB5 8AB
Giving via the Cambridge Foundation means that if you wish your donation can benefit from Gift Aid.
Cambridge in America: If you are a US taxpayer you may prefer to donate via Cambridge in America. You can give online or by check using the Cambridge in America gift form. Please state when making your gift that you would like your donation to support the Millennium Mathematics Project and particularly Plus.
The recent news of the great Indian batsman Sachin Tendulkar surpassing West Indian Brian Lara's record number of test runs has given maths-loving cricket geeks another opportunity to pull out their calculators and Excel spreadsheets. Marc West is openly one of these nuts and did just that.
What do the human brain, the Internet and climate change have in common? They're all hugely complex, and while they're very different, the tools used to grapple with this complexity are likely to be similar. We visited the Cambridge complex systems consortium, dedicated to building an over-arching science of complexity, and talked to neuroscientist Ed Bullmore, mathematician Frank Kelly
and climate scientist Hans Graf about their take on complexity. Listen to the podcast of the interviews.
Tonight sees a rare astronomical event: the Moon, Venus and Jupiter can all be seen close to each other in the same region of the night sky. In fact, Venus just passed behind the Moon! Over the next few nights, clouds permitting, you'll be able to see them slowly moving apart — get out your telescopes and look out for bright objects near the Moon!
Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have taken the first visible-light snapshot of a planet orbiting another star. Estimated to be no more than three times Jupiter's mass, the planet, called Fomalhaut b, orbits the bright southern star Fomalhaut, located 25 light-years away in the constellation Piscis Australis, or the "Southern Fish." An immense debris disc about
21.5 billion miles across surrounds the star. Fomalhaut b is orbiting 1.8 billion miles inside the disc's sharp inner edge, and is 1 billion times fainter than the star.
In a separate development, Canadian scientists have used ground-based telescopes in Hawaii and Chile to take infrared images of three giant planets they believe are orbiting a star about 130 light-years away in the Pegasus constellation.
These are not the first examples of exoplanets — planets orbiting stars outside our own solar system — but Formalhaut b is the first that can actually be observed in visible light wavelengths. All others have been detected indirectly, for example through the wobble their gravitational pull induces on their star.