Alles Gute zum Geburtstag! Joyeux Anniversaire! Suk San Wan Keut! Sun Yat Fai Lok! Hartelijk gefeliciteerd! Felichan Naskightagon! And Happy Birthday to Google in the other 93-plus languages it speaks!
As the web search engine Google celebrates its 10th birthday it is hard to imagine life online without it. It has become such an indispensable tool that we don't just search for something any more, we "google" it, as recognised by the Oxford English Dictionary in 2006. What many people don't realise is that Google's rise to become one of the most successful search engines on the web today is due to the mathematical algorithm PageRank, devised by Sergey Brin and Lawrence Page, the founders of Google. This
algorithm not only decides which webpages match your search criteria (which all search engines do), but also which are more important and returns these at the top of the results.
More evidence of the intrinsic beauty of maths, this time shown in a lovely slideshow from the BBC, narrated by mathematician Lasse Rempe from the University of Liverpool.
Rempe works in the area of dynamical systems: systems that change over time and can be found everywhere from the stockmarket to the weather. In the slideshow, he explains how dynamical systems can be generated from very simple polynomials yet produce extremely complex behaviour, and how these systems can be graphically represented by such beautiful images.
As John Barrow told us in our first image-enhanced Plus podcast Cosmic Imagery, mathematical images such as these have actually been responsible for changing science and how we see the world around us . So sit back with your coffee and enjoy the shows!
...and yesterday was brought to you by the number 54, thanks to the Mathematical Association of America's NumberADay blog. Every working day they post a number and a biography of its interesting properties.
Today's number 11,185,272 is the number of decimal digits in the 46th known Mersenne prime, discovered on Sept. 6, 2008 (you can read more in Prime record broken? on Plus).
54 might seems less significant, but in fact thanks to the MAA Plus now knows that it is the smallest number that can be written as the sum of 3 squares in 3 ways, the number of colored squares on a Rubik’s cube, and is a nonadecagonal (19-gonal) number!
It's lunchtime, and I'm waiting in the cafe queue to buy a sandwich along with everyone else. What a lot of sandwiches... Imagine if everyone piled their sandwiches one on top of another... I wonder how high the mighty tower of sandwiches might be? Let's see... 60 million people in the UK, say 1 in 8 is having a sandwich right now, each sandwich might be about 3cm thick including filing, so
that's... over 200km high!
You might say I'm thinking too much about sandwiches, but I'm actually exercising my number sense. Which, along with allowing me to make quick guesses about how big things are or how many there might be, also might be helping me get better at calculus and algebra. Researchers Michèle Mazzocco, Lisa Feigenson and Justin Halberda, from John Hopkins University, have shown that being good at
formal mathematics is linked to having a good innate number sense. See, I'm not waiting in the sandwich queue, I'm studying!
As sporting glories continue in Beijing with the Paralympics taking up where the Olympics left off, many of us have marvelled at the architecture almost as much as at the sporting achievements. One of the Olympic venues, the National Aquatic Centre or Water Cube, seems to be sliced from a giant foam of bubbles, and it turns out mathematics is responsible for this amazing structure.
Well it's official, the first beam in the Large Hadron Collider at CERN has safely made its way around the 27km tunnel at around 1030 this morning, local time. It was a historic moment, the culmination of over 20 years' work building the biggest experiment the world has seen, and one that many hope will give us a glimpse into the beginnings of
the universe and give experimental evidence to long-held theories fundamental to physics.
"It’s a fantastic moment,” said LHC project leader Lyn Evans, “we can now look forward to a new era of understanding about the origins and evolution of the universe.”
Starting up a major new particle accelarator takes much more than just flipping a switch. Thousands of individual elements have to work in harmony and timings have to be synchronized to under a billionth of a second. The second beam was fired at around 2pm local time, and is now making its way around in the opposite direction. Over the next few weeks, as the people at the LHC learn how to
drive their new toy, they will steer the two beams, finer than a human hair, into a head-on collision. It will be these collisions that will allow the research programme to begin properly.
Once colliding beams have been established, there will be a period of measurement and calibration for the LHC’s four major experiments, and new results could start to appear in about a year's time. Experiments at the LHC will allow physicists to complete a journey that started with Newton's description of gravity. Gravity acts on mass, but so far science is unable to explain the mechanism that
generates mass. Experiments at the LHC will provide the answer. LHC experiments will also try to probe the mysterious dark matter of the universe – visible matter seems to account for just 4% of what must exist, while about a quarter is believed to be dark matter. They will investigate the reason for nature's preference for matter over antimatter, and they will probe matter as it existed at the
very beginning of time.
“The LHC is a discovery machine,” said CERN Director General Robert Aymar, “its research programme has the potential to change our view of the Universe profoundly, continuing a tradition of human curiosity that’s as old as mankind itself.”
You can read more about the LHC and the science it is exploring on Plus