Plus Blog

December 10, 2012
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Sharpen your pencils and get writing!

We're happy to announce a competition for short popular maths articles, of 500 to 1500 words, open to Plus readers of all ages and backgrounds. The winning article (and possibly runners up) will be published in a forthcoming book provisionally named fifty, which will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications in 2014. All Entries will be judged by the IMA50 editorial team: Chris Budd, Alan Champneys, Marianne Freiberger, Paul Glendinning, Steve Humble, Rachel Thomas and Ahmer Wadee. Entries that don't make it into the book may be published on Plus.

Your article should appeal to any fan of popular science books, or just to the mathematically curious, and be aimed at an international audience. But at the same time the article should avoid the over-simplification that can frustrate those with mathematical training. Winning articles will be edited by the editorial team.

Roughly speaking the articles should fall into one of five categories:

  • The best maths of the last 50 years: including strange or interesting biography
  • Popular maths: sport, arts (prose, poetry and visual media), social science
  • Maths at work: medicine, finance, the environment, government
  • Quirky maths, humour, spoof and magic
  • Philosophy/psychology of maths, maths in education

Entries can be accepted in any reasonable file format. For those that are familiar with Latex, this is our preferred format.

Before writing your article download our style guidelines and the Latex template (if you are going to use Latex). You may also want to have a look at some writing tips.

Articles should be submitted by email to IMA50@maths.cam.ac.uk by the 15th January 2013 with "competition entry" as the email subject.

Any questions concerning the competition should be emailed to 50book@ima.org.uk.

Happy writing!

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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 http://www.imaginary.org and you can read more on maths and art on Plus.


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December 9, 2012
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We love the Math/Maths podcast! It's a conversation about mathematics between the UK and USA from Pulse-Project.org. 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
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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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