News from the world of Maths

October 15, 2010

Well, it goes to no-one because there isn't a Nobel Prize for maths. Some have speculated that Alfred Nobel neglected maths because his wife ran off with a mathematician, but the rumour seems to be unfounded. But whatever the reason for its non-appearance in the Nobel list, it's maths that makes the science-based Nobel subjects possible and it usually plays a fundamental role in the some of the laureates' work. Here we'll have a look at two of the prizes awarded this year, in physics and economics.

October 5, 2010

The Maths Careers website has launched a poster competition for students aged 11 to 19. You're invited to pick a historical mathematician and design an A4 poster about them. Do a little digging and find out the things they don't teach in your maths lessons – who were these mathematicians? What were their lives like? How did they come up with their great mathematical ideas? The best three posters from readers aged 11-14, 14-16 and 16-19 will win an iPod shuffle and a £25 iTunes voucher, and your posters will also appear on the Maths Careers website for everyone to see.

October 4, 2010

The physicist Brian Cox, presenter of the BBC2 series Wonders of The Solar System has teamed up with the Big Bang science fair to launch the Big Bang Lesson. Brian will visit one school somewhere in the UK and deliver a lesson based around the solar system.

October 4, 2010

In May this year Martin Gardner, who has inspired generations of mathematicians with his recreational maths, sadly passed away. He wanted no memorials, but he expressed a desire for the Gatherings for Gardner to continue - these were events held every two years in his honour, exploring all kinds of topics that would interest him, mathematics, science, art, magic, puzzles and more.

September 10, 2010

London, September, 1853. A cholera outbreak has decimated Soho, killing 10% of the population and wiping out entire families in days. Current medical theories assert that the disease is spread by "bad air" emanating from the stinking open sewers. But one physician, John Snow, has a different theory: that cholera is spread through contaminated water. And he is just about to use mathematics to prove that he is right.

September 9, 2010

Statistics can mislead, and who'd know this better than mathematicians? It's ironic, then, that mathematics itself has fallen victim to the seductive lure of crude numbers. Mathematicians' work is being measured, ranked and judged on the basis of a single measurement: the
number of times research papers are cited by others. And mathematicians are not happy about it.

September 6, 2010

Many things in life are more than the sum of their parts. Whether its the behaviour of crowds of people, flocking birds or shoaling fish, the unpredictable patterns of the weather or the complex structure of the Internet, it's often the interaction between things, rather than the things themselves, that generates complexity. It's a challenge to science, whose traditional approach of taking things apart and looking at the individual bits doesn't work when faced with emergent complexity. But there are mathematical techniques to understand this phenomenon.