Plus Blog

December 1, 2008
Monday, December 01, 2008

The recent news of the great Indian batsman Sachin Tendulkar surpassing West Indian Brian Lara's record number of test runs has given maths-loving cricket geeks another opportunity to pull out their calculators and Excel spreadsheets. Marc West is openly one of these nuts and did just that.

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posted by Plus @ 3:05 PM

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November 25, 2008
Tuesday, November 25, 2008

It may come as a surprise that your average proof in an academic journal is riddled with holes. Authors gloss over details, appeal to pictures, even intuition, and take hidden leaps of logical faith that, philosophically speaking, aren't entirely justified. These days mathematics contains proofs so long and complex that few people are able to check and understand them in full, yet once a result has made it through the peer review process and into a journal, its truth is taken as read.

All this is a far cry from the mathematical dream which started with Euclid over 2000 years ago: that every mathematical statement should be derived from the very axioms of mathematics in a sequence of verifiable logical steps. Proofs which do this are known as formal proofs, and they are the focus of a special issue of the Notices of the American Mathematics Society, which is now freely available online.

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posted by Plus @ 11:30 AM

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November 25, 2008
Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Say cheese! First ever images of exoplanets.

Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have taken the first visible-light snapshot of a planet orbiting another star. Estimated to be no more than three times Jupiter's mass, the planet, called Fomalhaut b, orbits the bright southern star Fomalhaut, located 25 light-years away in the constellation Piscis Australis, or the "Southern Fish." An immense debris disc about 21.5 billion miles across surrounds the star. Fomalhaut b is orbiting 1.8 billion miles inside the disc's sharp inner edge, and is 1 billion times fainter than the star.

In a separate development, Canadian scientists have used ground-based telescopes in Hawaii and Chile to take infrared images of three giant planets they believe are orbiting a star about 130 light-years away in the Pegasus constellation.

These are not the first examples of exoplanets — planets orbiting stars outside our own solar system — but Formalhaut b is the first that can actually be observed in visible light wavelengths. All others have been detected indirectly, for example through the wobble their gravitational pull induces on their star.

To find out more about the new discovery, and see more images and videos, visit the Hubble Site. There is more information on exoplanets in general on physicsworld.com and in the Plus article Brave young worlds.

posted by Plus @ 11:25 AM

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November 18, 2008
Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Who is to blame for the credit crunch?

According to media reports there are two suspects in the dock: the rocket scientists' (a.k.a. the financial mathematicians) who provided the information behind the market's decisions, or the greedy bankers who only thought about quick profits and their end-of-year bonuses. In our latest podcast, we talk to David Hand, Chris Rogers and John Coates to find out who is guilty.

This podcast accompanies the article Is maths to blame?

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posted by Plus @ 4:26 PM

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November 13, 2008
Thursday, November 13, 2008

What does zero and infinity mean to you?

Zero, and infinity — more than just numbers, these two mathematical concepts have worried and inspired mathematicians for centuries. But they have also inspired philosophers and artists. What is zero? What is infinity? What do they look like: A black hole or a blank page? A spiral or the horizon? Mathematician Marcus du Sautoy, historian of mathematics Eleanor Robson, Science Museum curator Jane Wess and artist Paul Prudence will be discussing Zero to Infinity at the Dana Centre in London. You can hear their perspectives, take part in the discussion, and have a drink at the bar on Thursday 20 November at 7pm.

For further information visit the Dana Centre website. And while you're waiting, you can read more about infinity on Plus.

We'll see you there!

posted by Plus @ 11:11 AM

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November 12, 2008
Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Why are some people generous and others selfish? There's no doubt that both strategies pay off under certain circumstances, but research (as well as everyday experience) shows that we are not mere opportunists — some people simply are nicer than others. This raises a question which intrigues evolutionary psychologists: is there a selective force that works in favour of a wide range of personalities, preventing us from all evolving the same optimal character trait? A possible answer has recently been published by mathematicians from the universities of Bristol and Exeter.

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posted by Plus @ 11:44 AM

2 Comments:

At 8:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can the people who did this research be trusted? How can we be sure they are not motivated by selfish reasons?

 
At 5:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

this seems to be simply a re hash of robert axelrod's theory of co operation??
i dont see anything new

 
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