Plus Blog
June 25, 2009
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Last week's BBC programme The price of life highlighted the plight of cancer sufferers awaiting a decision by NICE, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, on a new drug that could add years to their lives. If approved by NICE, the drug, called revlimid and used to treat a cancer called multiple myeloma, could be prescribed freely on the NHS. If rejected, the prohibitive cost would spell the end of the line for many patients. In the light of the suffering facing myeloma patients and their families, the main criterion for NICE's decisions — costeffectiveness — seems almost inhumane. But exactly what kind of mathematical considerations go into NICE's calculations? Labels: Health and medicine, Latest news posted by Plus @ 12:00 PM 0 Comments: 
June 17, 2009
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
What would you like to know about your Universe — The third online pollThis poll is now closed. The most popular question was: "What are dark energy and dark matter?" We will publish the answer in an article and podcast on Plus shortly. Thank you for taking part! This is our third online poll in our series to celebrate the International Year of Astronomy 2009. Choose your favourite question from the list on the right, and we'll put the one that proves most popular to worldleading astronomers and cosmologists, including Astronomer Royal Martin Rees and author and cosmologist John D. Barrow. The poll will remain open for a month and the answer will be published in a Plus article and podcast soon after. If your most burning question is not on this list, then leave a comment on this blog and we'll endeavour to include it in a future poll — there will be four more polls dotted throughout the year. The most popular questions in polls far were was What happened before the Big Bang? and Are the constants of nature really constant?. Read the answers by clicking on the links, and discuss them on our blog. Labels: IYA2009 posted by Plus @ 3:33 PM 1 Comments:

June 17, 2009
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
In our second online poll to find out what Plus readers would most like to know about the Universe, you told us that you'd like to know if the constants of nature really are constant. We took the question to cosmologist John D. Barrow, Professor of Mathematical Sciences at the University of Cambridge, and here is his answer. Please feel free to discuss the answer by leaving a comment on this blog. We'll periodically check back with the experts to try and answer interesting further questions. This article is part of a series to celebrate the International Year of Astronomy 2009. The third poll to find out what you'd like to know most about the Universe is open now, so get voting! Labels: IYA2009 posted by Plus @ 1:15 PM 6 Comments:

June 17, 2009
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
This special double issue of Plus is cause for celebration: both of the endeavours of physics to understand our Universe, and of the writers of tomorrow who may help explain it. We explore the frontiers of modern physics: searching for alien life in space and exotic particles in the LHC, looking through the Hubble Space Telescope, imagining a holographic Universe, and wrestling with one of the biggest problems in modern physics. And the winners of the Plus new writers award 2009 explore the most beautiful equation of them all, explain the credit crunch, and unveil the curse of good looks. We raise a toast to mathematics and physics — to all the explorers of the new frontiers and the new writers who can take us there! posted by Plus @ 1:26 PM 0 Comments: 
June 4, 2009
Thursday, June 04, 2009
Not so fantasy footballNext time you're off to the bookies to place your footie bets, you might be better off consulting a statistician than a football expert. On his Understanding Uncertainty website selfconfessed football unenthusiast David Spiegelhalter used a simple statistical model to predict the results of the last ten Premier League matches, which were played on the 24th of May 2009. In terms of predicting whether a game ended in a win, draw, or defeat for the home team, Spiegelhalter's model was right nine out of ten times, compared to the seven out of ten score achieved by the official BBC football expert Marc Lawrenson, and the model predicted two scores exactly. Spiegelhalter and his coauthors Mike Pearson and Ian Short quantified the individual teams' attack strength and defense weakness based on their past performance, and then, with a little help from probability theory, used these ratings to work out the most likely outcome of a particular match. (You can see the details of this model on his website.) "These types of models have been refined over the years and are now used by bookies and sports betting companies, who employ experienced statisticians and make use of the latest computational methods," says Spiegelhalter. But he concedes that his very basic model might have been a bit lucky this time: "One thing you can bet on is that simple models like this one will be very unlikely to outperform the odds being offered by bookies, so don't use them to spot good bets!" Spiegelhalter announced his prediction on the BBC Radio 4 programme More or Less, which was aired before the final match day, so you can be sure that no hindsight fraud was involved. David Spiegelhalter is Winton Professor for the Public Understanding of Risk at the University of Cambridge and regularly writes for Plus (see for example his article on the 20062007 Premier League season). His Understanding Uncertainty website is designed to inform the public about everything to do with risk and uncertainty, from health scares to predicting election results. posted by Plus @ 8:05 AM 1 Comments:

June 2, 2009
Tuesday, June 02, 2009
At the very heart of sport is a fierce battle in which the combatants strive to outwit and outplay each other. Each thrust is matched by a parry and in the end, there can only be one winner. The rules of each sport dictate how that winner is determined, and whether it is football, tennis, golf or chess, it is those who perform best on the day who take home the glory. This latest installment of the Plus sports page looks at two ranking systems that couldn't be any different from each other — those of sumo and chess. Labels: Latest news, sports posted by Plus @ 2:31 PM 1 Comments:
