Plus Blog

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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December 7, 2012

Mathematics and silliness is the speciality of James Grime, mathematician, juggler and comedy nerd (though not necessarily in that order). From zombie maths to post-it note dodecahedra: it's all on his YouTube channel. Here's one of his puzzles for a taster:

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December 6, 2012

Plus jetted across the Atlantic in February to attend the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Vancouver. Not only did we feast with (not on) jellyfish at the Vancouver Aquarium, we also found out how to lose weight, how to play Big Brother on the internet, and more...

Counting calories — Struggling with that new year's resolution to lose a few pounds? Weight not dropping off as fast as you'd expected? A new mathematical model has some good news and some bad news for you. Which would you like to hear first?

Rubber data — Data, data, data. 21st century life provides tons of it. It's paradise for researchers, or at least it would be if we knew how to make sense of it all. This year's AAAS annual meeting in Vancouver devoted plenty of time to the question of how to understand large amounts of data. And there's one method we particularly liked. It's based on the kind of idea that gave us the London tube map.

Counting deaths: war as a statistical problem — How many people died? It's one of the first questions asked in a war or violent conflict, but it's one of the hardest to answer. In the chaos of war many deaths go unrecorded and all sides have an interest in distorting the figures. The best we can do is come up with estimates, but the trouble is that different statistical methods for doing this can produce vastly different results . So how do we know how different methods compare?

The podcast: AAAS meeting day 1 — From flattening the Earth to dining with the jellyfish, Plus chats about the first day at the meeting.

The podcast: AAAS meeting day 2 — On the second day at the meeting we talked to Marcel Babin from the Université Laval. Babin uses satellite images to measure the amount of organisms, such as phytoplankton, in the Arctic ocean and studies how this changing biological diversity can both indicate, and impact on, climate change.

Probing the dark web: the podcast — Networks loomed large at the AAAS annual meeting in Vancouver, in particular the one you're looking at right now: the Internet. Plus went along to a session on web surveillance. It sounds sinister at first, but as we found out, it's not all about Big Brother breaching your privacy. Information on the web can help us catch terrorists and criminals and it can also identify a widespread practice called astroturfing.

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December 5, 2012

We love Science in School, the European journal for science teachers, featuring news about the latest scientific discoveries, teaching materials and many other useful resources for science teachers. The journal is freely available online, with articles translated into many European languages. The print version (in English) is free within Europe. Here are some of our favourite recent articles.

The mystery of altruism — If evolution is a process of survival of the fittest, then why do we find altruistic acts wherever we look in nature? Here on Plus we recently took a mathematical look at this question — Science in School takes the biological angle.

Accelerating the pace of science: interview with CERN's Rolf Heuer — CERN is not just the world's largest particle physics laboratory. As its director general, Rolf Heuer, explains, "CERN is a role model, demonstrating that science can bridge cultures and nations. Science is a universal language and this is what we speak at CERN."

The new definition of crystals, or how to win a Nobel Prize — Why is symmetry so central to the understanding of crystals? And why did 'forbidden' symmetry change the definition of crystals themselves?

Weighing up the evidence: what is a kilo? — We all know what a kilogram is. Or do we? Researchers worldwide are working to define precisely what this familiar unit is.

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