Until you understand the basics of functions and algebra, the thought that a number can be predicted is a surprising one. And of course `magic' and `being surprised' are often the same thing. Rob Eastaway shows us how mathemagicians trade off the fact that you can usually predict precisely the outcome of doing something in mathematics, but only if you know the secret beforehand.
Arguably, the exponential function crops up more than any other when using mathematics to describe the physical world. In the second of two articles on physical phenomena which obey exponential laws, Ian Garbett discusses radioactive decay.
Over the past one hundred years, mathematics has been used to understand and predict the spread of diseases, relating important public-health questions to basic infection parameters. Matthew Keeling describes some of the mathematical developments that have improved our understanding and predictive ability.
C. J. Budd and C. J. Sangwin show us how to create mazes, and explain why mazes and networks have much in common. In fact the study of mazes and labyrinths takes us into the dark territory of murder, suicide, adultery, passion, intrigue, religion and conquest...
The idea is this. To start with, you will choose an envelope at random, say by tossing a coin, and look at its contents, which is a cheque for some number - say n. (By randomising like this, you can be sure I haven't subconsciously induced you to prefer one envelope or the other.) You want to make sure that the bigger the number is, the more likely you are to keep it, in other words, the less likely you are to swap.