Physical demonstration of mathematical traffic model
Recently, Plusreported on work done by mathematicians from the Universities of Exeter, Bristol and Budapest into why traffic jams often occur for seemingly no reason.
Now, for the first time, researchers from several Japanese universities have recreated this effect by placing 22 vehicles on a 230-metre single-lane circuit. The drivers drove at a steady 30 kilometres per hour, and whilst initially the traffic flowed smoothly, eventually a backwards travelling shock-wave developed which forced some cars to almost stop and others to increase their speed to 40
kilometres per hour to catch the car in front.
The 2008 Templeton Prize has been awarded to Polish mathematical physicist Michael Heller. Heller has worked for more than 40 years in theology, philosophy, mathematics and cosmology, and intends to use the £820,000 prize to set up a cross-university and inter-disciplinary institute to
investigate questions in science, theology and philosophy.
16th century depiction of Genesis (Michelangelo, Sistine Chapel): God creates Adam. Like Galileo, Heller thinks that mathematics is the "language of
The Templeton Prize was founded in 1972 by philanthropist Sir John Templeton, and is awarded annually to a living person for "progress toward research or discoveries about spiritual realities". It is the world's largest annual monetary prize of any kind given to an individual (£820,000). Plus reported on John Barrow's success in 2006.
Heller has been rewarded for "developing sharply focused and strikingly original concepts on the origin and cause of the Universe, often under intense (communist Poland) governmental repression."
Heller's work these days is largely in non-commutative geometry, which he uses to attempt to remove the problem of a cosmological singularity at the origin of the Universe. "If on the fundamental level of physics there is no space and no time, as many physicists think," says Heller, "non-commutative geometry could be a suitable tool to deal with such a situation."
You can read more on non-commutative geometry in the Plus article Quantum Geometry.
March 14th, when written in the US format with the month before the day, is 3.14 — which makes last Friday Pi Day!
To belatedly celebrate this momentous day, here are some of the articles about Pi we have featured on Plus:
Mathematical mysteries: Transcendental meditation — We make rational numbers from integers by allowing division by integers other than zero. Rational numbers were all the Greeks allowed. This left them confused — and sometimes frightened — when geometric results such as Pythagoras' Theorem seemed to imply that rational numbers
weren't enough. And what to do with Pi?
Remembrance of numbers past — In March 2004, Daniel Tammet from Kent set a new European record when he recited Pi from memory to 22,511 decimal places. It took him five hours to complete the task, yet he had barely made it halfway to the world record of 42,195 digits set by Hiroyuki Goto of Japan in 1995.
Pi not a piece of cake — Ever since the Egyptians' first attempts to calculate Pi over two millennia ago, the number has been a constant in the minds of mathematicians.
Pushing back Pi — Numbers like Pi have no repeating pattern. So just how accurately do we know what it is?
Beyond Measure: Conversations across art and science is a new exhibition at Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge that explores how geometry is used by artists and astronomers, engineers, surgeons, architects, physicists and mathematicians — among many others — as a means to explain, understand and order the world around us.
Built around a series of workshops, talks and discussions, Beyond Measure will offer many different ways of engaging with geometry, and many different views of the world we live in. The exhibition draws parallels between the artist’s studio, the laboratory and the study as equivalent places for thinking, imagining and creating.
Since 1981 the RI Masterclasses in Mathematics have been enriching school maths for 12 to 14 year-olds. Now the RI is for the first time undertaking an independent evaluation of the programme. "This is a very exciting opportunity," says Sara Santos, Clothworkers' Fellow in Mathematics at the RI, "We are seeking to further improve
our already successful programme, even perhaps reshape it to challenge and enthuse our finest young minds."
If you have participated in any of the RI Mathematics Masterclasses for Young People (any time between 1981 and now), you can now record your memories and reflections in this on-line questionnaire. The questionnaire takes around 15 minutes to complete. "It might be a precious amount of time for you, but your feedback is invaluable
for us," says Sara. "We are also trying to keep in touch with the Masterclasses community." To keep in touch, please visit the RI website, email the RI on email@example.com, or join the group RI Mathematics Masterclasses for Young People on Facebook .
My personal favourite science song? She Blinded me with Science by Thomas Dolby — and you can find this song in the database. Another way of tracking down science songs is by doing a search for science at LastFM. What is your favourite science or mathematics song?